“Life feels like a movie”. Here’s a line that intrigues me. People sometimes use it when they’re experiencing a lot of cool stuff. It’s funny, because movies are something that we invented to imitate life. Or to capture it. But the fact that we now use them as a reference point to describe our life feels strangely artificial. Life is much more than a movie, but I think reducing it to a something akin to a 90 minute narrative makes us feel safe. It’s a way to give it meaning. If our life is a movie it means that it has a point, a theme, a possible happy ending. In the meaningless mess of our existence we want to pretend it’s all meant to be, like the plots of stories are.
I realize this because I’ve used this line to describe my first experience on psilocybin mushrooms. My best friend who was on this adventure with me thought of it as more of a video game. In either case the whole trip felt extremely meaningful to us. At every corner there was a wink from the universe; symbols and inside jokes came out to greet us in the material world. It was a full moon. Strangers mysteriously talked to us. It was the summer after graduation. That night my own life was the perfect movie, and it felt exhilarating.
As I kept experiencing with ‘shrooms throughout the next two years, that exact feeling never came back. A trip was always beautiful, imbued with meaning and mystery, but never felt quite as “meant to be” or story-like. And the deeper I went into this psychedelic exploration, the more I started to understand something. I had been mistaken. The beautiful feeling I had first thought to be an abundance of meaning was actually a state of… how to explain? Reveling in meaninglessness. A sense of peace about the fact that truth would never be found. A love for the absurdity of life.
Now obviously this isn’t only about psychedelic drugs. I do think these substances really have value, that they could be nature’s way of showing us something that we could never understand through words. But as wise old trickster Alan Watts said, “Once you get the message, hang up the phone.” The human body seems to know this instinctively, and this is why I hesitate to call mushrooms a drug: they’re simply not addictive. A psychedelic experience is just so mentally “satiating” that one feels no need to ingest more for a while. And at some point not at all; the student eventually, naturally, outgrows the teacher.
I understand now why mystical experience, psychedelics, all that jazz produce ‘ego death’. It’s not just that you, an individual, gets to see the earth and nature in all the silent majesty that is usually ignored. It’s that by paying attention to it, you realize that whatever makes up universal consciousness is dividing itself into millions of individual things for fun. Putting yourself above anything else in this world would be like your right lung thinking it deserves more air than your left. There is no competition.