intro’d to Michael via Maria here (how to change your mind):
Michael Pollan on How the Science of Psychedelics Illuminates Consciousness, Mortality, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence
book on hold at library.. (54 copies.. 148 on wait list.. dang) – thanks library
And then — much thanks to Timothy Leary’s reckless handling of his Harvard psilocybin studies that landed him in prison, where Carl Sagan sent him cosmic poetry — a landslide of moral panic and political backlash outlawed psychedelics, shut down clinical studies of their medical and psychiatric uses, and drove them into the underground. For decades, academic research into their potential for human flourishing languished and nearly perished. But a small subset of scientists, psychiatrists, and amateur explorers refused to relinquish their curiosity about that potential.
The 1990s brought a quiet groundswell of second-wave interest in psychedelics
What is striking about this whole line of clinical research is the premise that it is not the pharmacological effect of the drug itself but the kind of mental experience it occasions — involving the temporary dissolution of one’s ego — that may be the key to changing one’s mind.
The root of this unnamed dimension of existence, Pollan suggests, is the inevitable narrowing of perspective that takes place as we grow up and learn to navigate the world by cataloguing its elements into mental categories that often fail to hold the complexity and richness of the experiences they name ..Psychedelics break down these artificial categories and swing open the doors of perception..In consequence, we view the world — the inner world and the outer world — *with a child’s eyes.
Over time, we tend to optimize and conventionalize our responses to whatever life brings. Each of us develops our shorthand ways of slotting and processing everyday experiences and solving problems, and while this is no doubt adaptive — it helps us get the job done with a minimum of fuss — eventually it becomes rote. It dulls us. The muscles of attention atrophy.
A century after William James examined how habit gives shape and structure to our lives, Pollan considers the other edge of the sword — how habit can constrict us in a prison of excessive structure, blinding us to the full view of reality:
Habits are undeniably useful tools, relieving us of the need to run a complex mental operation every time we’re confronted with a new task or situation. Yet they also relieve us of the need to stay awake to the world: to attend, feel, think, and then act in a deliberate manner. (That is, from freedom rather than compulsion.)
The efficiencies of the adult mind, useful as they are, blind us to the present moment.We’re constantly jumping ahead to the next thing. We approach experience much as an artificial intelligence (AI) program does, with our brains continually translating the data of the present into the terms of the past, reaching back in time for the relevant experience, and then using that to make its best guess as to how to predict and navigate the future.
..wonder being the by-product of precisely the kind of unencumbered first sight, or virginal noticing, to which the adult brain has closed itself. (It’s so inefficient!)
..whatever it is that keeps us from feeling our full implication in nature had been temporarily in abeyance. There had also been, I felt, an opening of the heart, toward my parents, yes, and toward Judith, but also, weirdly, toward some of the plants and trees and birds and even the damn bugs on our property.
It embarrasses me to write these words; they sound so thin, so banal. This is a failure of my language, no doubt, but perhaps it is not only that. Psychedelic experiences are notoriously hard to render in words; to try is necessarily to do violence to what has been seen and felt, which is in some fundamental way pre- or post-linguistic or, as students of mysticism say, ineffable. Emotions arrive in all their newborn nakedness, unprotected from the harsh light of scrutiny and, especially, the pitiless glare of irony. Platitudes that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Hallmark card glow with the force of revealed truth.
Love is everything.
beyond words ness.. (esp thinking of ab convo day before..dead concert et al)
Psychedelics can make even the most cynical of us into fervent evangelists of the obvious… For what after all is the sense of banality, or the ironic perspective, if not two of the sturdier defenses the adult ego deploys to keep from being overwhelmed — by our emotions, certainly, but perhaps also by our senses, which are liable at any time to astonish us with news of the sheer wonder of the world.If we are ever to get through the day, we need to put most of what we perceive into boxes neatly labeled “Known,” to be quickly shelved with little thought to the marvels therein, and “Novel,” to which, understandably, we pay more attention, at least until it isn’t that anymore. A psychedelic is liable to take all the boxes off the shelf, open and remove even the most familiar items, turning them over and imaginatively scrubbing them until they shine once again with the light of first sight. Is this reclassification of the familiar a waste of time? If it is, then so is a lot of art. It seems to me there is great value in such renovation, the more so as we grow older and come to think we’ve seen and felt it all before.
For me it felt less like a drug experience… than a novel mode of cognition, falling somewhere between intellection and feeling.
Now I understood how a psychedelic could help us to make precisely that move, from the first-person singular to the plural and beyond. Under its influence, a sense of our interconnectedness — that platitude — is felt, becomes flesh. Though this perspective is not something a chemical can sustain for more than a few hours, those hours can give us an opportunity to see how it might go. And perhaps to practice being there.
so.. not only ubi as temp placebo.. psychedelic as temp placebo.. to help us all detox in sync
The journeys have shown me what the Buddhists try to tell us but I have never really understood: that there is much more to consciousness than the ego, as we would see if it would just shut up.
quiet enough ness
..the ego, that inner neurotic who insists on running the mental show, is wily and doesn’t relinquish its power without a struggle. Deeming itself indispensable, it will battle against its diminishment, whether in advance or in the middle of the journey. I suspect that’s exactly what mine was up to all through the sleepless nights that preceded each of my trips, striving to convince me that I was risking everything, when really all I was putting at risk was its sovereignty… That stingy, vigilant security guard admits only the narrowest bandwidth of reality… It’s really good at performing all those activities that natural selection values: getting ahead, getting liked and loved, getting fed, getting laid. Keeping us on task, it is a ferocious editor of anything that might distract us from the work at hand, whether that means regulating our access to memories and strong emotions from within or news of the world without.
One of the gifts of psychedelics is the way they reanimate the world,
looking into his book – found this 4 min video:
if you compare mental health care w any other disease.. there have been very few achievements.. we need some new thinking/ideas.. and psychedelics may well be that new idea..
the feeling among the scientists is that these chemicals allow us to reboot the brain.. all those thought patterns are temporarily suspended.. allows us to break those patterns..
we’re now in a different world.. the adults now.. man of them have experienced psychedelics.. they’re not going to react in such a panicky way
Author of How to Change Your Mind; Cooked; Food Rules; In Defense of Food; The Omnivore’s Dilemma; The Botany of Desire and Second Nature.
Michael Pollan /ˈpɒlən/ is an American author, journalist, activist, and professor of journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan describes four basic ways that human societies have obtained food: the current industrial system, the big organic operation, the local self-sufficient farm, and the hunter-gatherer. Pollan follows each of these processes—from a group of plants photosynthesizing calories through a series of intermediate stages, ultimately into a meal. Along the way, he suggests that there is a fundamental tension between the logic of nature and the logic of human industry, that the way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world, and that industrial eating obscures crucially important ecological relationships and connections. On December 10, 2006, The New York Times named The Omnivore’s Dilemma one of the five best nonfiction books of the year. On May 8, 2007, the James Beard Foundation named The Omnivore’s Dilemma its 2007 winner for the best food writing. It was the book of focus for the University of Pennsylvania’s Reading Project in 2007, and the book of choice for Washington State University’s Common Reading Program in 2009–10.
Pollan’s discussion of the industrial food chain is in large part a critique of modern agribusiness. According to the book, agribusiness has lost touch with the natural cycles of farming, wherein livestock and crops intertwine in mutually beneficial circles. Pollan’s critique of modern agribusiness focuses on what he describes as the overuse of corn for purposes ranging from fattening cattle to massive production of corn oil, high-fructose corn syrup, and other corn derivatives. He describes what he sees as the inefficiencies and other drawbacks of factory farming and gives his assessment of organic food production and what it’s like to hunt and gather food. He blames those who set the rules (e.g., politicians in Washington, D.C., bureaucrats at the United States Department of Agriculture, Wall Streetcapitalists, and agricultural conglomerates like Archer Daniels Midland) of what he calls a destructive and precarious agricultural system that has wrought havoc upon the diet, nutrition, and well-being of Americans. Pollan finds hope in Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm in Virginia, which he sees as a model of sustainability in commercial farming. Pollan appears in the documentary film King Corn (2007).
agri surplus and affluence w/o abundance ness
In The Botany of Desire, Pollan explores the concept of co-evolution, specifically of humankind’s evolutionary relationship with four plants — apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes — from the dual perspectives of humans and the plants. He uses case examples that fit the archetype of four basic human desires, demonstrating how each of these botanical species are selectively grown, bred, and genetically engineered. The apple reflects the desire for sweetness, the tulip beauty, the marijuana intoxication, and the potato control. Pollan then unravels the narrative of his own experience with each of the plants, which he intertwines with a well-researched exploration into their social history. Each section presents a unique element of human domestication, or the “human bumblebee” as Pollan calls it. These range from the true story of Johnny Appleseed to Pollan’s first-hand research with sophisticated marijuana hybrids in Amsterdam, to the alarming and paradigm-shifting possibilities of genetically engineered potatoes.
Pollan’s book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, released on January 1, 2008, explores the relationship with what he terms nutritionism and the Western diet, with a focus on late 20th century food advice given by the science community. Pollan holds that consumption of fat and dietary cholesterol does not lead to a higher rate of coronary disease, and that the reductive analysis of food into nutrient components is a mistake. He questions the view that the point of eating is to promote health, pointing out that this attitude is not universal and that cultures that perceive food as having purposes of pleasure, identity, and sociality may end up with better health. He explains this seeming paradox by vetting, and then validating, the notion that nutritionism and, therefore, the whole Western framework through which we intellectualize the value of food is more a religious and faddish devotion to the mythology of simple solutions than a convincing and reliable conclusion of incontrovertible scientific research. Pollan spends the rest of his book explicating his first three phrases: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He contends that most of what Americans now buy in supermarkets, fast food stores, and restaurants is not in fact food, and that a practical tip is to eat only those things that people of his grandmother’s generation would have recognized as food.
In 2009, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual was published. This short work is a condensed version of his previous efforts, intended to provide a simple framework for a healthy and sustainable diet. It is divided into three sections, further explicating Pollan’s principles of “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” It includes his rules (i.e., “let others sample your food” and “the whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead”).
In Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, published in 2013, Pollan explores the methods by which cooks mediate “between nature and culture.” The book is organized into four sections corresponding to the classical elements of Fire (cooking with heat), Water (braising and boiling with pots), Air (breadmaking), and Earth (fermenting).
Pollan has contributed to Greater Good, a social psychology magazine published by the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. His article “Edible Ethics” discusses the intersection of ethical eating and social psychology.
In his 1998 book A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder, Pollan methodically traced the design and construction of the out-building where he writes. The 2008 re-release of this book was re-titled A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams.
In 2014, Pollan wrote the foreword in the healthy eating cookbook The Pollan Family Table. The book is co-authored by his mother, Corky Pollan, and sisters, Lori Pollan, Dana Pollan, and Tracy Pollan.
In 2018, Pollan wrote “How to Change Your Mind” a book about the history and future of mind-altering substances. He argues that Psilocybin and LSD are not drugs that make you crazy, which he calls the biggest misconception people have about psychedelics.
Engber likened Pollan’s “anti-scientific method” to the rhetoric used by health gurus who peddle diet scams.
Pollan has been accused by Jon Entine, who supports GMOs (genetically modified organisms), of using his influence to promote “anti-GMO junk science”. A number of scientists and journalists have similarly characterized Pollan’s work as biased against GMOs. For example, after Pollan posted a tweet that was critical of a New York Times article on GMOs, U.C. Berkeley biologist Michael Eisen posted a tweet calling Pollan’s comment “a new low even in Pollan’s ‘anti-GMO crusade'”. In response to Pollan’s statement that GMOs have been one “tremendous disappointment,” food writer James Cooper criticized Pollan’s tendency to cite poor or selected scientific sources.
brother in law – michael j fox.. sister – tracy pollan
6 min video clip w colbert on change your mind:
outside mental health.. et al
Fascinating magazine @52_Insights Michael Pollan | Can We All Benefit From Psychedelics? https://t.co/9Z690lLSqL
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/JasonSilva/status/1082012818491158528
I think something similar happened in the 60s where kids who had taken LSD started questioning the right of the government to send them to Vietnam.
It obviously has some value. It’s helped us to build a complex civilization. But it also torments us in various ways. You know, rumination. I don’t know if animals ruminate. These may be uniquely human capabilities and the ability to shut them off is only valuable because we have them. If you don’t have them you don’t need to shut them off. Kids don’t have it either. Before you’re five or so you’re tripping all of the time..t.. You’re taking in information in that way, and processing it or not processing it in that way. So yeah the fact that these drugs work at all and are attractive to us is very much a product of the very special way in which the human mind works.
So we need a revolution in mental health care and if this is it, wouldn’t that be great? But with depression, for example, we still need to test it on larger populations. We don’t have to understand the mechanism in order to treat it.
let’s try 7 bn..
I’m a much more cautious man than he was. And I have something that he didn’t have which is the example of Timothy Leary.