February 15, 2010

On My Bookshelf III: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Remember Be Here Now

Colours, colours, colours. Words and words.

Informal tone commence now!

I read Remember Be Here Now very quickly. Eagerly. Because there were so many new truths in it. New. For real. No kidding. Old, of course, but new to me.

And I'm still skeptical ("Good." "Fine." "Zzzzzzzz"), but it was interesting. Like, the author really takes you somewhere. But the only way you can go with him is if you've almost thought about it before.

Sounds like crap, right? Yeah. I see what you mean. But I liked it. A lot.

True story. Part One is a book about a Harvard professor who takes a lot of drugs, but doesn't like having to come down from the high. Back to this reality where there's internet and cars and complex relationships. So he goes into his mind and gets all spiritual. Goes to India and finds something like answers.

Part Two (most of the book) is all these words and drawings that help guide you through a thought-process. That's the really interesting part. I read it twice.

Part Three is the religion part. I started reading it, but it veered into describing a path that doesn't ring true for me. The author, Baba Ram Dass, is Hindu -and sorta Buddhist in places. I'm not Hindu. Not really interested in going there.

Ram Dass once said (not in Remember Be Here Now, somewhere else), "He that teaches those that do not want to hear is performing an immoral act. And, besides, they can't hear it anyway..."

I like that. Or at least the spirit I perceive behind it. Certainly I'm not in a place to learn how to be a good Hindu. I can't believe in that stuff. The religion stuff. All the gods and goddesses and miracles. Nah. The truths Hindus have unlocked, on the other hand...

I dunno what else to write.


Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is New Journalism about Ken Kesey (the guy who wrote the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), and Neal Cassady (the guy On the Road is sorta about), and a bunch of other people who called themselves The Merry Pranksters. They took a lot of psychedelic drugs, and lived semi-communally in 1960s California, just before the counter-culture explosion of Haight-Ashbury and all that.

Ginsberg shows up. So does Larry McMurtry.

The 60s the 60s. Shut up about the 60s.

Alright, I will.

But I'm really interested lately in those pockets of humanity that always seem to exist pushing the edges, clearing the way for the future.

Dangerous dangerous.

Yeah, for real. Cautious cautious. I am.

Reason reason. Okay. I like reason. It's very helpful.


Joel wrote something dense and interesting here.

What have you been reading?


Jon Coutts said...

"He that teaches those that do not want to hear is performing an immoral act. And, besides, they can't hear it anyway..."

I think I agree with something being said here, I mean, to persist in berating someone with one's views, to teach someone who is not interested in being taught, can be an immoral act of force or manipulation. Zizek calls it violence. I get that. And, yeah, they can't hear it anyway.

But how is it that the teacher can be called immoral for something which the non-listener is doing? This sounds like something someone would say who no longer wants to hear from anyone who disagrees with them, and needs to find some moral high ground from which to shut out other voices.

joel said...

Where does the act of teaching take its responsibility; is it given to the teacher who speaks or the listener who listens?

If it is the teacher's responsibility, then can he be called immoral?

Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

You wrote, "This sounds like something someone would say who no longer wants to hear from anyone who disagrees with them, and needs to find some moral high ground from which to shut out other voices."

Absolutely. It raises those alarm bells in me too.

Throughout the Ram Dass book there were moments where the knowledge he was sharing was presented as a kind of "congratulations, now you're in the club with the people who know." I'm leary of that sort of thing. Very leary.

I like it when you get points for being wrong. When a truth is a truth is a truth, whether I want to hear it or not.

What I think Ram Dass is trying to get at though is, "don't cast your pearls before swine."

I find Zizek more compelling the more I hear about him.

I'd say that the responsibility of learning lies with both teacher and student. The student to listen and learn well, and the teacher to teach well. I dunno.

But I'm not sure I'm understanding you exactly. "Where does the act of teaching TAKE ITS RESPONSIBILITY?" Huh? Are you asking who is responsible for learning, teacher or student?

Joel, I love it when you post here.

joel said...

Yeah, I was trying to ask the question abstractly; but not 'who is responsible for learning'. Rather I was trying to get into the structure of responsibility and how it shifts with context.

If a guy is 'teaching' on the street and not in a classroom, he has the responsibility.

So teaching 'immorally' is going to have a contextual value of some kind; and your above quote leaves it out.

'He who does not want to hear' is also troubling because it is unclear why they do not want to hear. A student of a university who simply closes their mind may be guilty of choosing ignorance, whereas a street passer-byer might just want to get to work on time.

Each of these contexts greatly change who and what is immoral.

But I guess this statement is not really asking to be dissected in this way, is it?

We can just leave it as a 'potent quotable' and leave it alone.

What is interesting to me, is how versatile this statement's value and meaning can change, given the conceptual language and worldview it derives it's meaning from.

I agree with Jon:
"This sounds like something someone would say who no longer wants to hear from anyone who disagrees with them, and needs to find some moral high ground from which to shut out other voices."

It certainly can mean that, but then again it can very easily mean the exact opposite. Why it can mean what it means remains concealed; and this can prove very dangerous indeed.

Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

You're a wizard.

Jon Coutts said...


Jon Coutts said...

So if you are convinced that the world is going to end next year, and that most people will then face an afterlife of burning sulfur, is it immoral for you to shout warnings on the street corner, in urgent tones?

Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

I don't know about immoral. But impractical, yes. You lose all credibility on a streetcorner.

However, if you must be on the streetcorner you should be shouting, "Here's my evidence. Prove me wrong."

Jon Coutts said...

Not that I care to defend the streetcorner preacher or anything, but I do think content and not just context has a factor in what we consider fair play. I for one can't stand street preachers because of the unsubstantiated fear-mongering it involves. But is all street proclamation immoral just because it is public? If so, advertisements are, by definition, immoral.

I think, if you are going to say something in public, you should be prepared to defend it, and defend the legitimacy of saying it. And if your teaching or speaking shows no respect for the listener it becomes an immoral act. Truth and love are inseperable bedfellows.

What is a shame is if we're crying foul because of WHAT someone is saying and instead of discussing our disagreement head-on we hide behind some sort of new-world tolerant platitude about not being allowed to say anything at all unless we're sure everyone agrees with us first. Not that you'd say that. Just talking here.

All that I say without taking back the agreement I expressed above.

joel said...

I will think it moral, if I agree.

I will think it immoral, if I disagree.

But shouting what I think seems less productive than trying to communicate the way other people receive information. To accomplish communication, one has to talk in the others language unless they want to hear their own voices.

But such individuals get, give and receive their own rewards, don't they?

That, and I think the "new-world tolerant platitude" is trying to give voice more than it is trying to silence.