I’m sitting in the driver’s seat of an empty bus. ‘C’ crew has disembarked for their shift at the busy mine and in about fifteen minutes ‘A’ crew will start straggling out from the showers and dry locker rooms for their bus ride home. We’re halfway up a mountain and surrounded by more towering peaks, but the landscape is blackened with coal dust and coal mud and the roads are black coal gravel. It’s just one of many excavations in what I’ve read is one of the richest steel making coal seams on the planet.
And I’m reading a seminal book from the crazy day-glo psychedelic sixties. Ever listened to anything by the quintessential sixties psycho-orgiastic band The Doors? Jim Morrison took the band’s name from Aldous Huxley’s mescalin fuelled ride The Doors Of Perception.
We don’t pursue that route anymore, though I have met a young man who travelled to the Amazon in an attempt to exorcise the demons of his upbringing with ayahuasca. No, we do yoga and meditation and pay for expensive retreats down in the deserts of Arizona and California.
It’s all the same. All an attempt to transcend the rigorous indoctrination into a hyper-rationalistic conception of the world imposed upon us by our education.
Anyway, seventy to a hundred years ago there were people experimenting with other alternatives:
“…I realized that I was deliberately avoiding the eyes of those who were with me in the room, deliberately refraining from being too much aware of them. One was my wife, the other a man I respected and greatly liked; but both belonged to the world from which, for the moment, mescalin had delivered me—the world of selves, of time, of moral judgements and utilitarian considerations, the world (and it was this aspect of human life which I wished, above all else, to forget) of self-assertion, of cocksureness, of overvalued words and idolatrously worshiped notions.
At this stage of the proceedings I was handed a large colored reproduction of the well-known self-portrait by Cézanne—the head and shoulders of a man in a large straw hat, red-cheeked, red-lipped, with rich black whiskers and a dark unfriendly eye. It is a magnificent painting; but it was not as a painting that I now saw it. For the head promptly took on a third dimension and came to life as a small goblin-like man looking out through a window in the page before me. I started to laugh. And when they asked me why, “What pretensions!” I kept repeating. “Who on earth does he think he is?” The question was not addressed to Cézanne in particular, but to the human species at large. Who did they all think they were?”—Aldous Huxley, The Doors Of Perception