Fifty-five years ago this week, a Vietnamese nun poured gasoline and set fire to herself in Hue. Twenty-five years ago today, Timothy Leary died in his sleep.
After all these years, I honestly don’t know whether Dr. Leary’s work helped us understand why the monk’s death was important to us, or whether he helped mask us from the true meaning by taking us elsewhere. Many saw no conflict in actively protesting and actively tripping. In fact, many claimed then that the “enlightenment” received through herbal and chemical stimulation was an important component of our political activism. These days, I wonder more often whether we were just bullshitting ourselves and simply following the pleasure principle.
In the end, of course, both the revered Buddhist martyr and the revered western materialist trod the same path into being and nothingness.
was it the jitterbug perfume
she poured on my soul
— the fragrance of an everlasting kiss —
that keeps me staring
into the dark?
my neglected work
— lying angry like an abandoned maiden
scattered across my desk —
shivers with jealousy
as I part the curtains once more
and stare into that scented slice