Have a Good Trip Demystifies Psychedelics – The New Republic

Posted: May 14, 2020 at 5:18 pm

Irony, of course, is the main line to Have A Good Trips target audience: nostalgic Gen Xers and elder millennials whose interest in high-power hallucinogens has likely been piqued by the so-called psychedelic renaissance. There is, I suspect, a certain level of knowing irony in other quarters of the psychedelic revival, be it in the popularity of neo-psychedelic rock bands like Tame Impala or King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (whose names alone suggest forked tongues firmly in cheek) or the elevation of pilled Grateful Dead tie-dye tour shirts to pricy, haute couture attire. Modern psychedelic explorers engage with the culture but avoid the effusions of earnestness that made the fizzled cultural revolutions of the boomer generation feel so embarrassing. The third eye is awakened and already rolling.

But can you really remove sincerity from the psychedelic experience, which has long been vaunted for its ability to facilitate beautiful insights about the power of capital-l Love; insights that may scan like mush when the drugs effects have faded but feel, in that exalted moment, absolutely real? And more to the point, should you want to? After all, one of the characteristics of the psychedelic trip is its capacity to obliterate what Pollan calls the pitiless glare of irony. Its that feeling of openness or a universal oneness that reoccurs in psychedelic literature, cinema, and even the woolly anecdotes of friends. Irony has become a de facto cultural defense mechanism and is rendered vulnerable by drugs renowned for opening (or totally shattering) our psychic defenses.

Irony is perhaps useful in tempering a bit of the cultural bitterness associated with the movements of psychedelias last major saturation period: the 1960s. Psychedelic drugs fueled the artistic and political upheavals of America in the Age of Aquarius, which collapsed under the bummer-trip heaviness of Altamont, the Manson murders, and the national trauma of the Vietnam War. As author Tom ONeill puts it in Chaos, his recent history that rethinks the era, The decades subversive spirit had come on with too much fervor. Some reckoning was bound to come, or so it seemed in retrospect; the latent violence couldnt contain itself forever. This cultural comedown is often framed, in distinctly druggy terms, as a form of punishment for the ecstasies that preceded itlike a long, blue Monday of the American spirit.

The psychedelic revivals ironic edge cuts some of this, allowing the curious-minded to savor the hallucinatory fruits of the era without getting swept up in its politics, which, as we all know, were tainted and stupid and hopelessly nave. (New reporting about the period, including ONeills book, strongly suggests that this sense of hopelessness and navet was a deliberate strategy by the powers-that-be to neutralize the energized leftist movements of the 1960s, but thats another discussion altogether.) A veil of wizened, weary cynicism permits engagement in psychedelia without having to feel all that engaged with its history or its deeper, metaphysical implications.

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Have a Good Trip Demystifies Psychedelics - The New Republic

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