Best Of The Web
“Soon after I set out to write a book about psychedelics, it became obvious what I would have to do: Trip, and then write about what it was like. True, I could have relied on the testimony of others, but that seemed less than satisfying. Ever since the 11-year-old me read George Plimpton’s account of playing football in “Paper Lion” (1966), I’ve believed that the most absorbing way to convey an experience is to have it yourself and then try to describe it from the inside. Best of all is to have it yourself for the first time, which is the only time the comprehensive wonder of any experience is available to us.
But while it may have been obvious that I would have to trip in order to write “How to Change Your Mind,” it wasn’t at all obvious how I would write about that experience, one often described as, well, indescribable. William James famously wrote that mystical experience — perhaps the closest analogue we have of a psychedelic trip — is “ineffable”: beyond the reach of language. I couldn’t count on a common frame of reference, since not all of my readers would be familiar with the exotic psychic terrain onto which I wanted to take them. Boring readers was another worry. Perhaps the second closest analogue of a psychedelic journey is the dream, and there is no surer way to drive people off — even your loved ones! — than to tell them your dreams. I’d also read enough “trip reports” online and in books to be acutely aware of the literary risks — what Arthur Koestler, a skeptic after his own psychedelic experiments, described as “pressure-cooker mysticism” and “cosmic schmaltz.”
As I began to write my book, the accounts of my trips loomed up ahead like a range of tall, possibly insurmountable peaks. And matters only got worse when I began having the trips I intended to recount, a series of guided psychedelic journeys on a variety of different chemicals, including LSD, psilocybin, ayahuasca and a substance called 5-MeO-DMT. This last one, which is ingested by smoking the venom of the Sonoran Desert toad, was, I’d been told by a friend, “the Everest of psychedelics,” a trip she promised would obliterate not only all sense of self (as many psychedelics can do) but also all reference points of time and space. How do you possibly construct a narrative without the essential ingredients of person, time and place? What’s left?”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"The likely successor to British Prime Minister Theresa May, Boris Johnson, has plans to subsume the government department overseeing development aid into the foreign office, effectively eliminating it. That will destroy a post-Brexit United..."
"Gerard Baker, editor-at-large at the Wall Street Journal (no reflexively anti-Trump publication) recently wrote a piece decrying Donald Trump and his foreign policy as a fount of erratic unpredictability. This essay will give the counter view...."
"On Wednesday, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar announced that she will be visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories in the coming weeks. Omar will be accompanied by Rep. Rashida Tlaib. The two freshman congresswomen have become a focal point of..."
"Netflix may have lost US subscribers for the first time since it began making its own shows, but that didn't stop the streaming giant from dropping new figures about how many people are sucked into its Adam Sandler vortex. (Spoiler: More than..."
"A few years ago, Amy Balliett, CEO of a Seattle-based design and marketing firm, noticed that as the work week slogged on, her employees’ energy and productivity wilted. “That would slump to such an extent that the same task on Monday would..."
"Over the last few days the #faceappchallenge has taken over social media. This “challenge” involves downloading a selfie-editing tool called FaceApp and using one of its filters to digitally age your face. You then post the photo of your wizened..."
"Although there are plenty of irrational aspects to life in modern America, few rival the odd fixation on lawns. Fertilizing, mowing, watering — these are all-American activities that, on their face, seem reasonable enough. But to spend hundreds..."
"Can a book change the way we think? I don’t mean that in the sense of a reader’s opinion or ideology shifting—of course the right literary work can do that. But can a book rewire the brain itself, literally changing the way one particular mind..."
"It’s our job to let kids know we see and hear them, but we’re not necessarily going to solve siblings’ conflicts for them (or else they never get the practice). When squabbles start, imagine you’re a sportscaster and describe what you see in..."
"Magali Trejo-Martinez, a 22-year-old living in Salem, Oregon, recently went on a date that was rather uninspiring. “I had dinner, had a couple margaritas, and then went home,” is how she recapped the evening. This outcome wasn’t entirely..."
"The first lunar landing was many things — a D-Day-like feat of planning and logistics, a testament to the power of man's will, an ostensible propaganda coup for NATO. It was also, I think, one of the most misunderstood events in the history of..."
"THE FIRST TIME Bernie Sanders ran for president, he didn’t talk much about being Jewish. In fact, he didn’t talk much about himself at all. His 2016 primary campaign, like his whole political career, was relentlessly focused on one topic: income..."