The stories we read and tell one another compose us collectively into an intersubjective multiverse linked by each consciousness holding up to the Other its mirror. Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly is a hard novel to end a course on, hard because it contains so many prior horizons of psychedelic-utopian possibility in the uncertainty and despair of its narrative universe. I worry that the book inspires in its readers an excess of aversion to chemical modification of consciousness. The book is too unqualified in its denunciation of drug use; the book’s fictional Substance-D operates allegorically (most vividly via its street name “slow death”) as an emblem, a universal shorthand for every drug — drugs in general. Dick leaves readers without a positive alternative to the “straight” world’s miserly, hypocritical relationship to mental health, where “sanity” equals mind-numbing adherence to pre-established norms, and all are expected to board what Margo Guryan called “The 8:17 Northbound Success Merry-Go-Round.”
I prefer to focus instead on collecting recipes for a cookbook. The cookbook was a great utopian art form of the late 1960s and 1970s, from The Grub Bag and The Tassajara Bread Book to Ant Farm’s INFLATOCOOKBOOK of 1971. To my cookbook I add a recipe for “Vegan Cream of Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup” from the Food 52 website.
I hope to reset my emotional matrix in the days ahead away from anger and depression. It helps to sit and talk with Sarah, the two of us true, loving life companions, helping each other pass the time as one and then the other of us endures another run-in with the flu. We rewire our brains by submitting to the oscillating tone progressions of Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and Alfred Bruneau’s “Requiem: Dies Irae & Tuba Mirum.” We laugh at the thought of the residents of utopia waking and greeting one another in the streets each morning through choral performance of Handel’s “Hallelujah.” They prep themselves, though, with Margo Guryan’s “Someone I Know.” One ought to keep one’s eye out, I tell myself, for The Eye in the Triangle, a book about Aleister Crowley by Crowley’s secretary Israel Regardie. Christmas trees topped with stars resemble the emblem of Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis. Robert Anton Wilson, talking ’til blue in the face, introduces me to a synchronistic phenomenon known as the “23” enigma. In pursuit of “deliberately induced brain change,” I turn to Sarah, lying beside me reading in bed, and ask her, “What page are you up to?” gesturing with my hand toward her copy of Aldous Huxley’s Island. “223,” she replies. When I explain to her the story of the enigma, she adds, “It’s also my birthday: April 23rd!” There is magic in the woods, if you know where to find it. So sayeth the Robert Redford character in Pete’s Dragon. Smoke rises from a votive dedicated to Lady Columbia, appearing before me in the form of a giant wall of light.