Italicization Of Experience

For the last month I’ve been inching my way through this book, The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan. It’s an interesting read with a unique perspective on the plant kingdom. He tells the story of four plants (and their fruits) and how humanities story has become intermingled with the story of these plants (and vice versa) for hundreds and thousands of years.

Sometime last week I arrived at the chapter on marijuana. It has been a fascinating chapter, to say the least, which has helped to put words to an experience that many people have had over the centuries. The awareness of existing in the Now is one that eludes most of us for all of our waking lives, save perhaps for those transcendental bubbles that float in front of us allowing a brief examination of the shape, size and color of the sphere just before it disintegrates back into ether from whence it sprang.

These moments of perceived clarity, when the curtain is lifted (or dropped) and you see that it’s only one small man shouting into a giant megaphone, come without warning. The Emperor stands naked for a split second and then in the same moment is clothed again with the projections and manifestations of the current culture and the stories it’s telling itself about existence.

Pollan quotes Carl Sagans thoughts on “being high” and what the real struggle might be after coming down from the experience:

“There is a myth about such highs, the user has an illusion of great insight, but it does not survive scrutiny in the morning. I am convinced that this is an error, and that the devastating insights achieved while high are real insights; the main problem is putting these insights in a form acceptable to the quite different self that we are when we’re down the next day…If I find in the morning a message from myself the night before informing me that there is a world around us which we barely sense, or that we can become one with the universe, or even that certain politicians are desperately frightened men, I may tend to disbelieve; but when I'm high I know about this disbelief. And so I have a tape in which I exhort myself to take such remarks seriously. I say, “Listen closely, you sonofabitch of the morning! This stuff is real!”

But this entry isn’t about “being high”. It’s about being in the moment and how much of a struggle it seems to be for most of us to achieve that being. Our thoughts are constantly pulled to some future bliss (filled with pastures unimaginably greener than any you may happen to inhabit in this current time and space) or past horror.

I spoke with a good friend yesterday about how I seem to be perpetually haunted by a deep sense of discontent with the “here and now” of wherever I happen to find myself. It seems to me that in order to live a simpler, saner and more content life I must learn to focus much more on the beauty of whatever moment I happen to find myself in than on how this moment could be better if only...

Really honing in on the now is more about turning off that constantly churning motor of past and future and allowing your mind to sit quietly in the present as it is.
For those magical moments in which I have been able to examine the ether with a clarity like never before I am often rewarded with the sensation of novelty about things which I have seen or heard a million times before. There are many varied and intricate layers to any moment we happen to find ourselves within.

Just this morning Pollan gave an example of novelty that made the Deadhead in me smile from ear to ear. The significance of this particular example is exactly what I was envisioning:

“You know how it goes, this italicization of experience, this seemingly virginal noticing of the sensate world. You’ve heard that song a thousand times before, but now you suddenly hear it in all its soul-piercing beauty, the sweet bottomless poignancy of the guitar line like a revelation, and for the first time you can understand, really understand, just what Jerry Garcia meant by every note, his unhurried cheerful-baleful improvisation piping something very near the meaning of life directly into your mind.”

The grass beneath my feet couldn’t be any greener.


Blogger Everywhere said...

I started the "Live in the now" journey about 15 years ago. It's only in the past few months that I have found myself actually doing it effortlessly and almost continually. But wow, those first few years were like drudgery and hopelessness. I thought for sure I wasn't ever going to get it. Then I'd get it for moments, then I'd get it longer and longer and lose it. But you know, the years are gonna go by anyway. Why not just keep on working it? I finally feel free. I live in the moment now and am pulled out of it momentarily. 15 years and worth every bit of it.
But geeze, what does that say about us as humans? It's so sad that we've fallen so far from our true selves, from the natural inborn survival and happiness tool that is our birthright. So far, that it took me 15 years to undo the bad programming. Let's hope we will do better with each generation after us.

6:34 AM  

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