Yesterday felt like a day of strangeness and magic. First came a great deluge that threatened to wash away the parked cars and the occasional cyclist in an almost biblical-style flood. I stood under cover, caught between my local store and home after returning from work. I was listening to some sublime electronica at the time, a unique soundtrack to the cascades of water splashing and bouncing off roads and pavements. For a few minutes I just stood and watched, mesmerised by the experience. I found I was smiling broadly and felt an easing of the hangover headache that had dogged me all day. It was just a moment of subtle, indefinable magic.
Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the downpour ceased and I broke cover and headed the few hundred metres home, trying to avoid lake-Ontario-sized puddles. A rainbow appeared briefly above our block of flats, a fitting appearance at the end of Copenhagen’s Gay Pride week.
I will backtrack slightly to me leaving the cafe where I work, about an hour beforehand. I ran into a lady of mature years, standing outside. She wanted to know more about the place. It turned out she was a fellow Brit and after basic pleasantries were exchanged, I told her all about our lovely little non-profit cafe and the many activities we host within. The lady seemed most pleased at my invitation to come and sample our food and perhaps make some new friends. “You are my angel of the day” she announced, in a warm northern accent, and I was perfectly happy with this description. I have been called lots of things, but don’t often get called an angel.
Back home, later in the evening, the rain returned. Gazing out into the darkness, I noticed a number of slugs beating a path to our door. Actually not to our door so much as to the large, oddly shaped fungi that had recently appeared in the gravel next to where I park my bicycle. Soon they were resting / feasting upon it (the fungi, not my bicycle), and I briefly wondered if even simple fungi have hallucinogenic properties for slugs. What would a slug hallucination be like? Would they also see brightly-coloured geometric patterns and other trippy visuals? Would they feel a oneness with all of nature? We will most likely never know the answer to these important questions. This morning I found two of the slugs close-by, curled up together in what I took to be post-coital (post trip?) bliss. I left them to it.
What scene did I witness last night? A rain soaked orgy of wild slug-sex and and shamanic substance abuse? Would this type of behaviour one day lead the slugs and their fellow molluscs to evolve complex language, sophisticated social networks and daytime TV? Who can say. By the time any of that might occur we humans will either be long extinct or busy colonising space, boldly going and fucking-up strange new worlds that no one has fucked-up before.
Before turning in for the night, I sipped the last of the brandy and turned to Alan Watts, the British thinker and populariser of eastern philosophical traditions. Being a bit of a skeptic and science fan, I always struggle with terms like spirituality, mysticism or anything that smacks of woo woo. Still, in the interests of keeping a reasonably open mind, I pushed on. This is Watts on our experience as human beings:
We suffer from a hallucination, from a false and distorted sensation of our own existence as living organisms. Most of us have the sensation that “I myself” is a separate center of feeling and action, living inside and bounded by the physical body — a center which “confronts” an “external” world of people and things, making contact through the senses with a universe both alien and strange. Everyday figures of speech reflect this illusion. “I came into this world.” “You must face reality.” “The conquest of nature.”
This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences. We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean “waves,” the universe “peoples.” Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated “egos” inside bags of skin.”
It is a lovely thought to imagine we are all connected and part of the natural expression of the universe, the product of an unimaginable creative force or consciousness that seeds the trillions of star systems with a myriad of life. But maybe that’s a bit too pantheistic for me right now.
Maybe if I ever do try out Ayahuasca, I might find out if everything is as groovy as Alan Watts suggested. Perhaps I will achieve oneness with the universe, instead of being at sixes and sevens.
On a day to day basis, I struggle to escape the notion that we are just an absurd accident. A race of semi-evolved apes who accidentally fast-tracked themselves to bigger, more complex brains, perhaps in part by consuming magical fungi. Ultimately, unable to escape the primitive drives that helped shaped us, we may destroy ourselves in some act of folly, or just by continuing down the current path of suicidal uber-capitalism and vicious tribalism. And that’s assuming a large meteor or super-volcano doesn’t do us in first.
Still, even if we are doomed, perhaps philosopher Timothy Morton has the right idea. I read this quote in a splendid Guardian interview he gave. Somehow it seemed a fitting way to end this post.
“Let’s put some house music on,” Morton said at the end of one of our longest conversations. “Even if it’s true that we really are screwed, let’s not spend the rest of our lives on this planet telling ourselves how screwed we are.”
What should we do instead?
“Shake hands with a hedgehog and disco.”
© Copyright Jason Lennick 2017
© Pic Copyright Alamy
*With apologies to the band Wild Cherry