Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Dying to Know With Timothy Leary and Ram Dass



 
The other night on Netflix I watched a documentary, directed by Gay Dillingham (2016), titled Dying to Know. It’s about the death of Timothy Leary, and focuses on Leary’s long friendship with Ram Dass.  The film serves as witness to a great friendship between two extraordinary Americans, academics turned icons of the 1960s counter-culture.

We get an overview of their careers, the arc of their personal transformations. The director counters the popular view that Leary promoted the promiscuous use of LSD when in fact he was persecuted by the state and spent four years of his life in jail, one in solitary confinement for possession of half an ounce of weed.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Near-Death Experience: A Metaphor of Transformation


One of the more surprising phenomena to emerge in the 20th century was the so-called “near-death experience.”  Apart from its claims as pointer to the possibility of life after death, its great value may also lie in its fertility as a metaphor.  You can see this in various ways.  The first thing that occurs to me, it plays a subtle role in all things dramatic.  Every drama entails a conflict where one risks death of one sort or another.  The closer the hero comes to death or being vanquished, the greater dramatic value of the final triumph.

I may complain about the inconvenience of being bedridden with flu; but if my heart stops, there is a chance that I confront a being of light that puts all my previous assumptions about reality in the shade.  Quantum leaps of consciousness are not free lunches.  This old idea is enshrined in the ancient Greek dictum:pathei mathos “by suffering, learn.”  Surely, the important lessons of life don’t come cheaply.  But with apps nowadays for everything under the sun, one might easily forget that wisdom cannot be shipped overnight from Amazon. 

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