The Senses by Anonymous
The following is part of a much longer essay written by a writer-photographer who is now in her eighties. She prefers to remain anonymous. Her essay encompasses a truly broad and sensitive spirit, and the perspective of a long and observant life.
Knowledge gained through the senses seems the most superior because most intimately and vitally gained, closest to real truth. To be open to that kind of knowledge helps one to understand Miguel Cervantes’ statement, “Facts are the enemy of truth.”
The two sensual organs that provide me with the most pleasure when stoned are the eyes and ears. The enlarged awareness through them is fascinating and has changed my life. Hearing and seeing become activities in which one feels more of a participation than before. For me there is a new intimacy, new discoveries to be made through those senses, new dimensional qualities in both. Sometimes music seems to surround me and I feel almost a part of it. The stoned consciousness likes complexity of form in music, as well as sights, and often experiences both simultaneously, one enriching the other. This intensified awareness of forms while stoned is what makes me feel that some chemical like that in grass is a natural part of the brains of all artists and creative thinkers.
Sensual complexity is possible because the senses are intensified and the mind is in some way slowed to a rate of perception at which concentration and contemplation can take place. Then, complex sensual experiences become richly dimensional in time and space. Listening to complex music, watching leaves move in the wind with the light on them, birds flying, all natural movements and colors experienced at the same time can be a great pleasure.
As a student of Spanish for several years, through my grass experiences I have come to the conclusion that one comprehends a foreign language better when stoned for the same reason, that the stoned person can observe nature in a different way. It is because he is more aware of the parts making the whole, in addition to increased awareness of the whole; that is, a wider door to perception is opened. I think that one simple reason children learn foreign languages more easily is that they hear better and can repeat what they hear accurately. It is easier stoned to distinguish the nuances of a foreign language or anything else in a perceptual way. The words do not run together in a blur as they often do when not stoned; and part of the new openness and facility remains in regular consciousness. The foreign language, even an unfamiliar one, sounds more normal and natural when stoned, less foreign than before. This is true of the sound of sung lyrics also, in any language, even in opera. The foreign vocabulary is recalled more easily to the stoned mind, and this further convinces me that language study is less intellectual than many people think it is. Some type of relaxed openness is required in the approach to a foreign language and grass provides it for me.
Bird watching is also an increased pleasure when stoned. The eyes are sharpened and one can better distinguish details and at the same time the outline of the bird. The mind seems to perceive the bird differently in movement; it is not that the bird is slower, but when stoned, the bird just seems to give the eyes more time to see, to observe the beautiful flight patterns of its wings, and therefore to know the bird better.
The timber on far mountains and other fine detail not ordinarily noticed can be seen stoned, as well as, at the same time, the broad forms of the mountain in relationship to the sky and foreground. It is the same process of the mind that allows one to better comprehend a foreign language.
I believe that rock music is so popular at this time because its quality of complexity appeals to grass smokers. The poetic lyrics and string sounds combined with a steady organic rhythm makes it a more inwardly felt sound than jazz, which is more of an emotional statement that projects outward. Rock is not as social as jazz, despite rock festivals where large crowds gather. Because of its projection, jazz requires active spatial dancing, and expresses less complex feelings. Rock is contemplative music, the sound more intimately heard by the individual. It activates inward emotions in a different way from jazz. I believe that is the reason that rock stars are so idolized by young girls. The rock music helps them to grow emotionally, to find and define themselves, and they idolize those who bring it to them.
I feel that grass causes anyone to become more creatively orientated and that is why the Beatles became so much a part of the early era of marijuana use. The Beatles’ music, compared to the pop music that preceded it, was fresh, complex and unpredictable, all qualities of art. The influence of grass use is part of the change in modern popular movies also, which now have a more honest and artistic orientation.
Because of the nature of our society, our minds may to some extent have been conditioned to go too fast. Ordinarily my mind skims over things, but with grass, it becomes leisurely; can stop and examine an idea, develop it, allow the subconscious to open the door and let in surprises. To the stoned mind music seems to move through time at exactly the right speed and the music addresses the listener in an intimate way; the slowed mind can attend the music. When the stoned person is relating with the music, he is aware that each part of the music has its own definite spatial place and is aware of several spatial and timely dimensions. So one is both closely with the music and transcendentally away from it, a great pleasure.
In stoned consciousness, one feels more closely related to nature, conceiving nature in the process to be infinitely and constantly creating and renewing itself. One wonders if that concept of nature causes the person who uses grass respectfully and ritualistically to become more creative, or to allow his creative being to emerge in a fuller sense. One learns to accept nature and oneself as a part of it, feels a transference to nature, to feeling naturally directed; the experience of psychic relaxation allows one to know who he is as he becomes more inner-directed. He is able to recognize as false and to throw off images of identity that have been thrust upon him by the society – images that did not fit. The stoned consciousness permits one to throw off all the false ones and to recognize and accept the image that is right and true. He gets a perspective in psychological depth, and is able to recognize truly how things came about, how he reacted and was shaped by certain experiences of the past which gave him pain or pleasure. Also, of course he is able to analyze current experience in the same way. Because of this understanding, one experiences a feeling of triumph; that is, the triumph supposed to be achieved by psychoanalysis; I believe that it is the same kind of triumph enjoyed by the heroines of Henry James’ novels (i.e., Isobel Archer), who possess that pearl beyond price, that which makes up for all losses, makes even older women who have lost their looks fascinating to others and fulfilled: psychological understanding, also called wisdom, satori, religion, transcendentalism, peace.
The fairy story “Cinderella” is a metaphor for this kind of organic self-awareness, wisdom or grace. The glass slipper symbolizes the image that is truly Cinderella’s. She discovers her real self because she had the courage to believe in possibilities and thus she is able to discard the images that the stepmother and sisters were trying to put on her. She now knows who she is, so she can begin to acknowledge more faith in life; she is rewarded for this existentialist trust and courage by the appearance of the fairy godmother who symbolizes her new inner-directedness which will enable her to make correct organic choices, each of which will enable her to grow and develop at the proper rate for her as an organism in nature, not accelerated or slowed by any foreign forces, such as stepmothers or stepsisters trying to force false images on her. To find oneself seems magical.
It is difficult to describe the different visual and aural perceptions which one experiences through the stoned mind. The eye observes fineness and detail more sharply and the feeling of space around objects increases the awareness of the perfection and harmonious qualities of nature and a feeling of one’s self being a part of it, and brings about a feeling of serenity.
With the sharpened vision, one feels a great awareness and awe of the complexity of plants, trees and sky, a new appreciation of their qualities of infinity and eternity. So, inevitably, one feels a religious exhilaration. This awareness is the opposite of escapism; it is more of a coming together, a unity, and one feels that it is the way the mind should be. Grass enables one to differentiate between the subtlest colors, shadings and hues of light, of infinitesimal changes taking place. The intense effect of a sunset becomes spectacular in the mind, overwhelming the viewer with the knowledge that “I am a part of this!” Perhaps the stoned mind is nearer the pace of organic nature and for that reason more seems to happen in an observed landscape. One is able to see and feel the changes of light and a landscape contains so much movement that it can be compared to a movie. But that movement has never been captured in a film; light strangely shifts; particularly at twilight one observes the slow, quiet and magical changes of light and color.
An increased capacity for discrimination takes place aurally as well as visually and with the other senses, and remains with a person, whether stoned or not. I am able now to recognize bad recordings, trite renderings or trite music, as well as good artists; bad music is painful in a way that it was not before. After smoking grass for two years and returning to the oculist for a checkup, two different examiners told me that my glasses were too strong, and they were surprised that the vision of a person my age had improved.
I have tried to describe as honestly as I could my experiences with grass and my feelings about it, as a woman who began its use in middle age. I feel that with it I have gained philosophical freedom and self-actualization. I had been socially conditioned as a woman to dread that age at which women are often ridiculed through the pop media, put down and rejected in many ways. In an externally oriented consumer culture, when a woman “loses her looks” and superficial sexual attractiveness, she has socially lost much. I am grateful for grass in alleviating this terrible condition for me. The source of the myth of a fountain of youth may well be a patch of marijuana or some other mind-expanding drug. Marijuana rejuvenates the spirit. Something of the state of youthful openness induced by it stays in my psyche and helps me even when straight, for it makes me existentialist; the high teaches me to face not only the realities of the mirror but, more important, the realities of the soul, ethos, human courage and myself in time, almost like being both young and old at the same time.
From the bottom of a dark depression I have reached the existentialist position of feeling that each ending is part of a new beginning. I do not mean to imply that grass is a panacea which has solved all of my problems, only that it has helped me to develop a feeling of courage that enables me to live more satisfactorily and to face my death with more equanimity. To have learned to trust grass was an experience that enabled me to learn to trust life and to believe in my own life, to be an existentialist.
Until I had experienced it myself, I did not emotionally understand that state described by Henry Miller and others as hitting bottom, the very lowest depths of helplessness and defeat, and from that time on, perhaps as a result of that state, beginning to hang strangely loosely; one’s fortune changes. It is a concept that cannot be understood in an intellectual way, although people try to describe it. I had been in a deep depression for two years and for the previous several months had been going to a psychiatrist and taking the heavy antidepressants, which he prescribed. I was unable to read or cook; the height of my mental capacity was a crossword puzzle in TV Guide and TV itself. I felt miserable, but so dull that I could not make a fight against misery; I was incapacitated, defeated, hibernating. After we moved to El Paso I ran out of pills and stopped taking them. And after I stopped taking them, I believe they began to do their work. That is, I feel now that the pills had perhaps anesthetized parts of my brain, let them have a rest; perhaps even permanently deadened a part, who can say about the brain? Those pills, or hitting psychological bottom in time made a new person of me because from then on, I had the courage, which develops mysteriously in some who hit bottom, to let go and trust. This trust is vague and general, but part of it is trusting oneself, and another part, no doubt overlapping, is trusting life, always with a new awareness of life and the fleeting quality of it; it is a rebirth, Phoenix. And the trust, the letting go in deep water, enables one then to begin to grow in an organic way. From the time of letting go, I feel I was progressively rewarded and guarded as if by a fairy godmother, and this trust in the positive things that happened to me enabled me to trust grass, submit myself to its rewards, to begin freely and completely to let go in a progression that has culminated in my writing poems, which seems natural, since poetry opens one to further awareness and growth.
Following that mysterious initial letting go, it seemed that whatever I did courageously and generously led to new experience that, even though seeming to be a result of haphazard chance, led to further growth and courage. One courageous or spontaneous act seemed to lead mysteriously to another, and I felt alive and growing and trusting life and myself more and more, and I have been strangely rewarded in many different ways since experiencing the depths and am able to contrast the two states of being. To remember being dead gives one a new appreciation of life.
As I look back over the past few years I see growth and learning experiences leading mysteriously to others, until the past seems to be an interconnecting organic order, since one experience led to the next, like quest myths and fairy stories in which the hero is required to submit himself to various tests; it seems magical. One learns that the more one has the courage to experience, the more the imagination grows and is able to function, and this increased capacity of the imagination causes the next experience to be more meaningful and pleasurable, the imagination enlightening and enriching it. Fairy stories seem metaphors of the development of human levels of consciousness.
Marijuana probably has different effects on different personalities and psyches, as well as on people of different ages. For some, including myself, it seems to be a catalyst for creativity and for seeing “reality” in fresh new ways. I wonder what would have happened to me if I hadn’t discovered marijuana. It enabled me to realize my lifelong desire to write. For years, I experienced the creative process. Stoned, I would become an artist and begin to think about my work, and for that I am most grateful. Now that I’m old I feel that it’s hard enough trying to cope with life by myself without smoking marijuana.