Lessons I Wish I Could Teach, #4

This began as an improv piece during the slam at Java Hut, Sept. 17, 2006. It’s evolved in the last few hours in my head, and bears only minimal resemblance to the original; I’ve discovered it’s very hard to get ideas to paper while others are reciting pieces which may or may not have a bearing on your final score and position in the evening’s competition.

I’m setting this piece as friends-only, due to its content. If you feel I should make it open, or leave it shut, strongly enough, please let me know why or why not.

That’s a great question, Billy. The only trouble is,
answering it truthfully would land me in jail,
and my soul would convict me for a false answer.

Let me divert you with a tale of the late, great
Doctor Timothy Leary,
who said all drug experiences
are a combination of set,
setting, and dosage.

SET is who you are, what you know,
and how you know it.
It’s what you bring to the table,
that no one can take away from you.
Can you play the guitar?
Do you know the tarot?
Can you tell a hawk from a handsaw
or write a screenplay?

SETTING is who you know, and where you are,
who you hang with, your posse, your gang,
your buddies, your tribe.
It’s the forest, and the trees.
it’s the full moon rising in coyote’s eyes,
it’s the song your friend just wrote,
it’s the laughter of a shared joke.

DOSAGE is the complicated one:
it’s the drug you take, and how much you need
to reach the mountain top.
It’s the rush in the blood,
the heaving in the lungs,
the fire in the belly,
whether you smoke or snort,
jab, heat or eat.
It’s the Tower, or Chapel Perilous,
it’s the Labyrinth where Minotaur
waits for the Theseus of you.
Tremendous risk for tremendous profit.
It’s the light — or the lightning—
that starts the forest fire.

And these three — Set, Setting, Dosage—
form the legs to the table
which is EXPERIENCE.

The drug merchants will tell you
of the divinity in the plant,
the chemical transcendence
concocted in the laboratory,
the entheogen enshrined
in a psychedelic of dubious repute.

But no plant in the world
will carry you up the mountain
if you haven’t got the strength
to build yourself up,
and recognize your inherent divinity,
if you can’t rely on your friends
to help carry you up the hill.

I can see, Billy, that you’re already bowing down
to a divinity in a certain leaf,
but when was the last time you saw your own divinity,
or saw the holiness in your amigo’s eyes?
What you’re taking can’t compare with what you
absorb from you friends, what you take into your heart—
and that line of energy, between you and where you are,
between your head, your heart and your circle of friends,
is all you need to enter the house of God.

The experience is the grail you’re after,
not the rush of wearing chemical armor.
A drug can get you to the grail — once,
but after that, you’ll be like Lancelot,
forever coming into empty rooms,
seeking a presence that once was here,
but has moved on, sought nobler chambers,
and vanished in a cloud of smoke.

There’s nothing in the plant
you can’t find in yourself,
nothing in the drug
you can’t find in your friends,
and the inherent divinity
of SET and SETTING
means your DOSAGE can be little,
or מ.

To say more would convict me
one way or the other,
but perhaps a word to the wise
is sufficient.

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