“I DON’T WANT TO DIE!!!!!” – REVIEW OF “THE HUMAN ENCOUNTER WITH DEATH” by STANISLAV GROF & JOAN HALIFAX (1977)

In a 1967 interview on the right-wing TV chat-show “Firing Line,” the host William F. Buckley Jr. flashed his crocodile half-smile and asked Dr. Timothy Leary: “Why is it that uh it is the common impression that poorly-adjusted people tend in greater numbers to the world of LSD than normally-adjusted people?” A year previously, all flights to the world of LSD had been cancelled: in America the drug was placed in Schedule 1, as having “high potential for abuse,” being without “accepted medical use,” meaning maximum penalties for trippers. All tripping was therefore illicit by definition, and normally-adjusted people do not engage in the illicit.

But Leary had heard of LSD long before Buckley and long before the law: as a pre-Prohibition psychologist studying the effects of psychedelics first at Harvard then – when booted from that esteemed place of Learning – in a mansion donated to him by rich pals, he knew exactly which class of person tends towards the world of the Transcendental.

Answer: we all do. When LSD was freely available everyone wanted to try it, from philosopher-novelists such as Aldous Huxley to Pentagon war-planners like Herman Kahn, members of the House of Lords and the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, scientist Carl Sagan and sports legend Dock Ellis, magazine magnates from the Underground Paul Krassner to the Establishment Henry Luce, actors ranging from Jack Nicholson to Groucho Marx to Cary Grant, clinical psychologists and guitar heroes, businessmen and theologians, CIA men loved it and so did university students, including those at Harvard which was the beginning of Leary’s problems…

When LSD was freely available its users were free to admit to such use, but after 1966 such an admission could ruin one’s life, could have one locked in a cage, fired from a job, stripped of assets and separated from the kids; the only people stupid enough to risk this were wild rock-stars and fuck-you hippies, while more “normally-adjusted” voices shut the hell up. Thus did Hypocrisy score one more victory over Humanity: among other casualties of this disaster was the wealth of now-lost psychological/psychiatric studies involving psychedelics, in which they were administered to e.g. convicts to slash the rate of recidivism, and church-goers to induce religious experiences. LSD and psilocybin were used to treat a vast range of disorders from autism to frigidity. They were also administered, in a controlled setting, to the terminally-ill.

“There is little that our contemporary social structure, or our philosophy, religion, and medical science, has to offer at present to ease the psychological suffering of the dying. Many persons in this situation are thus facing a profound crisis that is basic and total, since it affects simultaneously biological, emotional, philosophical, and spiritual aspects of the human being.” But new drugs brought new energies and potentials to our contemporary social structure: “By 1974 more than one hundred persons dying of cancer were part of the Spring Grove program of psychedelic therapy.” Using first LSD and then, after 1966, the less effective DPT, this study took as its starting-point the idea that people “not only know intellectually that they will die, they also possess subliminal [“…almost cellular…”] knowledge of what it feels like to experience death.” It doesn’t matter whether this assertion is true or not: the tripping imagination, focussed on death, will trip to the theme of death, and even if the insights and experiences are only in the mind and not “cellular” they’re no less experienced for that.

Grof and Halifax wrote up their studies and speculations in a dry and scholarly manner and let the real story be told by the patients themselves: here’s Joan, a forty-year-old mother of four, dying and in pain and coming to terms with it: “…some are chosen to feel the sadness inherent in the universe.” LSD was not presented as any sort of cure for cancer, it was offered as a remedy to the poisonous mood and lethargy that went with the disease and it worked: “During the weeks following the session Joan felt so much overflowing energy that it baffled her attending physicians.” That’s what happens when you’re allowed to transcend the cancerous condition and witness “the incredible cosmic wit and humour built into the scheme of existence.”

And there’s Ted, a father of three and only twenty-six with an inoperable cancer of the colon: not unreasonably he was “severely depressed, irritable, and anxious,” with “considerable difficulties in his interpersonal relationships, particularly his marriage.” After the drug-therapy his wife said: “I can’t understand it… It is as if he has settled something and accepted the situation.” Ted agreed: “Something has changed…”

And Matthew, fifty-two with a suicidal pancreas, about whom Grof and Halifax write: “[His] block against intimacy seemed to have been lifted permanently through his LSD session, and he enjoyed physical closeness enormously. Matthew and Deborah both told us independently that this was the most meaningful period in their marriage.”

And more. Case-studies are given and avenues for future research are hinted at: “A single psychedelic session has often been followed by considerable alleviation or even disappearance of excruciating pain, on occasion even in individuals who did not respond to high dosages of powerful narcotics.” And: “There was a definite tendency among both alcoholics and heroin addicts to discontinue their habit following a single high-dose LSD session.” If it weren’t for the Inquisition! Modern-day dying remains, as Huxley put it in his last and best novel, “Island,” a matter of “increasing pain, increasing anxiety, increasing morphine, increasing demandingness, with the ultimate disintegration of personality and a loss of the opportunity to die with dignity.” But the human mind, the site of all pain and the seat of all joy, can inoculate itself against the grimmest of futures: “On several occasions patients who had psychedelic sessions later experienced brief episodes of deep agony and coma, or even clinical death, and were resuscitated. They not only described definite parallels between the experience of actual dying and their LSD sessions, but reported that the lesson in letting go and leaving their bodies, which they had learned under the influence of LSD, proved invaluable in this situation and made the experience much more tolerable.”

Sylvia, seventy-one, breast-cancer with multiple metastases, tripping: “It was such a beautiful life; no-one would believe what a beautiful life I have had.”

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GAZA YOUTH BREAK OUT!

Fuck Israel. Fuck Hamas. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community! We want to scream and break this wall of silence, injustice and indifference like the Israeli F16’s breaking the wall of sound; scream with all the power in our souls in order to release this immense frustration that consumes us because of this fucking situation we live in; we are like lice between two nails living a nightmare inside a nightmare, no room for hope, no space for freedom. We are sick of being caught in this political struggle; sick of coal dark nights with airplanes circling above our homes; sick of innocent farmers getting shot in the buffer zone because they are taking care of their lands; sick of bearded guys walking around with their guns abusing their power, beating up or incarcerating young people demonstrating for what they believe in; sick of the wall of shame that separates us from the rest of our country and keeps us imprisoned in a stamp-sized piece of land; sick of being portrayed as terrorists, homemade fanatics with explosives in our pockets and evil in our eyes; sick of the indifference we meet from the international community, the so-called experts in expressing concerns and drafting resolutions but cowards in enforcing anything they agree on; we are sick and tired of living a shitty life, being kept in jail by Israel, beaten up by Hamas and completely ignored by the rest of the world.

There is a revolution growing inside of us, an immense dissatisfaction and frustration that will destroy us unless we find a way of canalizing this energy into something that can challenge the status quo and give us some kind of hope. The final drop that made our hearts tremble with frustration and hopelessness happened 30th November, when Hamas’ officers came to Sharek Youth Forum, a leading youth organization (www.sharek.ps) with their guns, lies and aggressiveness, throwing everybody outside, incarcerating some and prohibiting Sharek from working. A few days later, demonstrators in front of Sharek were beaten and some incarcerated. We are really living a nightmare inside a nightmare. It is difficult to find words for the pressure we are under. We barely survived the Operation Cast Lead, where Israel very effectively bombed the shit out of us, destroying thousands of homes and even more lives and dreams. They did not get rid of Hamas, as they intended, but they sure scared us forever and distributed post traumatic stress syndrome to everybody, as there was nowhere to run.

We are youth with heavy hearts. We carry in ourselves a heaviness so immense that it makes it difficult to us to enjoy the sunset. How to enjoy it when dark clouds paint the horizon and bleak memories run past our eyes every time we close them? We smile in order to hide the pain. We laugh in order to forget the war. We hope in order not to commit suicide here and now. During the war we got the unmistakable feeling that Israel wanted to erase us from the face of the earth. During the last years Hamas has been doing all they can to control our thoughts, behaviour and aspirations. We are a generation of young people used to face missiles, carrying what seems to be a impossible mission of living a normal and healthy life, and only barely tolerated by a massive organization that has spread in our society as a malicious cancer disease, causing mayhem and effectively killing all living cells, thoughts and dreams on its way as well as paralyzing people with its terror regime. Not to mention the prison we live in, a prison sustained by a so-called democratic country.

History is repeating itself in its most cruel way and nobody seems to care. We are scared. Here in Gaza we are scared of being incarcerated, interrogated, hit, tortured, bombed, killed. We are afraid of living, because every single step we take has to be considered and well-thought, there are limitations everywhere, we cannot move as we want, say what we want, do what we want, sometimes we even can’t think what we want because the occupation has occupied our brains and hearts so terrible that it hurts and it makes us want to shed endless tears of frustration and rage!

We do not want to hate, we do not want to feel all of these feelings, we do not want to be victims anymore. ENOUGH! Enough pain, enough tears, enough suffering, enough control, limitations, unjust justifications, terror, torture, excuses, bombings, sleepless nights, dead civilians, black memories, bleak future, heart-aching present, disturbed politics, fanatic politicians, religious bullshit, enough incarceration! WE SAY STOP! This is not the future we want!

We want three things. We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace. Is that too much to ask? We are a peace movement consisting of young people in Gaza and supporters elsewhere that will not rest until the truth about Gaza is known by everybody in this whole world and in such a degree that no more silent consent or loud indifference will be accepted.

This is the Gazan youth’s manifesto for change!

We will start by destroying the occupation that surrounds ourselves, we will break free from this mental incarceration and regain our dignity and self-respect. We will carry our heads high even though we will face resistance. We will work day and night in order to change these miserable conditions we are living under. We will build dreams where we meet walls.

We only hope that you – yes, you reading this statement right now! – can support us. In order to find out how, please write on our wall or contact us directly: freegazayouth@hotmail.com

We want to be free, we want to live, we want peace.

FREE GAZA YOUTH!

THE STROKE

A life
has been stomped upon.
And all our pleasant certainties are sunk,
And all the things you thought you owned
– legs
– arms
– words
are confiscated.
Dad: why didn’t you listen when I told you any pleasure that sits easily after the word “guilty” is no pleasure, it’s a predator in camouflage.
Why didn’t you listen when I told you demons are real and you pay to drink bottles of their piss every night, every night glug glug glug it away, why didn’t you listen
When you told yourself sitting watching endless TV quizshows glug glug glug chomp chomp chomp is no life, is a death in life, an injury to the brain.
Or maybe it had nothing to do with these little addictions,
The booze, the fast-food and the factoids –
Anyway we are built to break
Anyway white bones turn grey
Anyway we are meat turning black in Time’s oven
Anyway

Generous in a mean world
– Prisoner of inertia.
Bombastic in a small world
– Prisoner of inertia.
Romantic in a cold town
– Prisoner of inertia.
Couldn’t you have found a better way to quit that fucking job?
Clogged up and starved of life in that job:
This month’s wages is a hole in the head, is lying for God-knows-how-many hours on your floor by your radiator now off now on calling my name in a voice diminished.
The retirement you lived for is here.
The bright future is now and dark.
A mumbling monstrosity on a hospital-bed:
Today, my friend, is the first day of the rest of your death.