In 1992 while driving a rented Mustang down the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco toward Big Sur I heard Rush Limbaugh for the first time. He was broadcasting on California Talk Radio and was only at the beginning of his trajectory through hate mongering and drug addiction, toward becoming the only human turd in history to receive the ‘Medal Of Honor’ from a president who had decided to use the occasion to take a shit in the ‘People’s House,’ so that another Californian could tear up the honoring speech like the toilet paper that it was.
Back then I couldn’t know that Rush would create so successfully the template for the worst of us to follow, parading insults, sarcasm and conspiracy before the ears of the gullible, mostly waiting in cars backed up on freeways on the way to and from their work and aching for some form of entertainment. Rush was entertaining.
We were only a couple of years past Reagan in the first years of the Clinton administration and the widespread diseases of cynicism and despair had not yet entirely taken the place of America’s trust in the future. We were six years into the revolution in personal computing, and this was beginning to alter the cultural landscape in ways that the psychedelic revolution had not even anticipated. It would propel people like me into worlds I could have only dreamed were possible. In the middle of all of this expansion of possibilities it seemed that people like Rush were here to make sure that paranoia would prevail. Tooling along the edges of the Pacific, I listened to that voice largely because I’d never heard anything quite so outrageously ridiculous. It was fascinating and almost addictive in it’s sheer over-the-top novelty.
I’d been invited to attend a week long workshop at Esalen by a trio of authors that I’d worked with as the editor on a book just published based on their continuing conversations about the possibilities ahead four culture, the human brain and the psychedelic revolution.** It was an extraordinary week, as I stayed in the house of Michael Murphy (Golf In The Kingdom, The Future of the Body), explored the gardens, the beach and the cliff side hot tubs, and met with my three authors on a lawn above the Pacific to discuss future projects.
An alarming distortion effect was emerging, driven by fear and loathing boiling up in our reaction to blindingly rapid cultural changes brought about by technological and psychic revolutions, by victories in the civil rights movement and by the radical devastation of America’s self image after Vietnam and Watergate. All of this was still in the background for those of us exploring the leading edges of possibility. We had no more idea than anyone else where all of this was headed, but were compelled to keep pushing the boundaries until they either broke or proved true. At the same time we were ignorant of the shadows encouraged by the obsessions and arrogance birthed by our quest for knowledge and power. Although we couldn’t conceive that the forward movement of consciousness toward utterly novel forms could ever be stopped, we ignored the probabilities of a counter wave that was born out of the collective sense of fear in those we thought we’d left behind.
And now we are in the thick of it. All of our civilization’s compressed apprehensions have spread like viral monsters of demonic energy that rage across the cultural landscape. We are like a nation of refugees, huddled beneath a constant bombardment of negativity, the effect of which is a sense of numb despair that turns many of us into zombies, willing to flock toward any promise given by anyone proclaiming that they know the path forward, even when they lead us away from the truth. Ironically, every act of resistance and every wall or barrier thrown up to stop the flood of change only serves to accelerate the inevitable breakup of aging structures of prejudice and pride that stand in the path of human evolution.
The universe is much bigger than the American Dream.
*Timothy Leary, Chaos and Cyber Culture, Ronin Publishing, 1994
**The book is Trialogues At The Edge Of The West, by Ralph Abraham, Terence McKenna and Rupert Sheldrake, Bear & Company, 1992.