Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Image in the mirror © by adrian

It's early morning, Linda and I are at the table, reacquainting ourselves with each other and the new day. For the past six months or so, since we bought a decent nineteen hundred dollar bed we mostly chat about the dreadful sleep we each had last night. During the two years before that, we mostly chatted about how, as soon as we got a decent bed, we would finally be able to get a good sleep. Prior to that, we slept comfortably on a seventy five dollar waterbed which I put together in 1967 and brought to Linda's house as part of my dowry when we were married. Apart from the occasional bag change over the years, it had never cost me any loss of sleep. Inexplicably one day, we both decided it was time to change to a regular bed, and neither of us has slept properly since.

I am drinking my first of two cups of instant coffee which will glide me through the day until late afternoon when I will begin to consider whether I am ready to ingest some food. I occasionally graze in the daytime, but for most of my life, my first food of any day starts at dinnertime. Linda, on the other hand, is busy doing things that she and other devotees of breakfast often do. Cooking oats, sometimes eggs, cutting apples, squeezing oranges, making coffee using complicated filter systems, and general preparations for her morning feast. With luck, whatever she does now will get her as far as noon before she challenges her stomach to once again get into action. For myself, and I assume many others that don't eat in the morning, it is a sight full of mystery.

In our current conversation, I mention that I have not heard back from the naked pregnant lady I photographed last week, nor have I heard back from the older Chinese lady that was interested in some sexy photos of herself before, as she put it "she fell apart anymore". I wonder aloud that I may have offended each of them in some of last week's emails. Linda looks up from the orange she is squeezing and smiles that delicious wry smile she displays when she has another insight into who I am and says, "So you think you offended another two people. I guess you would say last week was a pretty good week for you then."

It wasn't always like that for me. From adolescence to my thirties, I was extremely conservative in thought, dress, manner and deportment. I always saw to it that I was impeccably dressed whenever I went out. I always wore a suit and tie or ascot. The most casual I could accept of myself was if I was in the darkroom developing prints, I would occasionally take my suit jacket off, but never my tie. If I felt like really slumming, I would roll my sleeves up. I was, as they say, a tight ass. I was over thirty before I put on my first pair of jeans.

I was also in turmoil. I considered myself an intellectual, but I was filled with never ending lust. I could not accept that someone as intelligent as I could be so base and animalistic in my desires. I can't explain why I thought the two could not co-exist, I just did. I felt someone as smart as me should be able to control their instincts. I believed that life could only be appreciated fully as an intellectual experience, to be reasoned with, and not felt. I lived in dreadful fear of my inner self. I was convinced I harbored a monster that was determined to escape and overpower my intellect. I continually waged a war against my instincts to prevent this from happening.

Near the end of the sixties, when I was about to turn thirty, the rest of the world was busy going crazy on drugs and many people were trying to "find themselves". I decided it was time for me to try to face my monster. In those days, the road most easily traveled for insight was the drug LSD. So I took it. Without a doubt, that became one of the pivotal experiences of my life.

What LSD essentially does is temporarily modify the way one can process information. At the same time, you are given conscious access to immensely more information than you normally have. The information you get when under the influence of LSD is not reliably true information, but it is far more than we normally perceive. It overwhelms the senses and produces a very dreamlike state, but you are generally aware that you are the conductor of your own dreams and perceptions. Anyway, in a hallucinogenic state, filled with fear, literally trembling, I stared into a mirror and demanded that I should see my true self. I prepared myself as best I could for the most hideous vision possible, I braced myself, expecting to see the horrible monster I had hidden inside me come forth. Instead, I roared with laughter and ended up with me.

In that hallucination, I appeared to age very quickly, and among other things, my short dark hair grew out very long and white. I liked what I saw. I realized my internal engine was calm, and I was full of humour. I also realized that the animal I had been so afraid of was definitely harmless, and I decided at that moment if that was who I was, I better stop trying not to be that. Thirty eight years ago, in a mirror, I saw the guy that's in this picture here. I immediately decided that I would not do anything to create what I saw, I would simply stop doing things that might prevent me from being what I now realized was far more honest. So, for example, I didn't decide to grow my hair long, I simply decided to stop cutting it. I became determined to stop getting in the way of my own life's experience. I had "gone clear" without the need of Scientology. I was stunned that I had previously been so fearful of such a delightful and comfortable human.

I don't suggest that we should all march over to Wal-Mart, buy a tab of LSD from the drug counter and drop it. I know there is much urban myth about the dreadful things that drugs do, and I have no doubt that some of it is true. For me though, it was a life giver. Over time, I became free of my own self imposed shackles and realized that I could be sane and at the same time truly enjoy my insanity as much as I wanted. I no longer needed to care what the world thought about me. I understood that my fulfillment was completely my responsibility, no one else's. I was no longer dependent on what others wanted me to be or do. Finally free to experience life on it's own terms, beholden to no preconceived notions.