ID Musics 20211210 + 17 - Dass vs Michaux
A celebration of miserable miracles and radical dependence
One thing that my partner and I have learned from spending the 2020 and 2021 Winter Solstice Holidays at home avoiding the pandemic is that the reality shift that happens at midnight on December 31 is just as dependent on set and setting as the reality shifts we associate with meditation or the various experiences filed under "medicine journeys." Rather than resist the pressure of having a party-hearty time on New Year's Eve by completely opting out and heading to bed early – which is also fine and good! – we've made this a time for retreat and reflection, both together and alone.
I started this practice years ago when I lived in Los Angeles, passing on external celebrations in favor of sometimes reckless solo medicine journeys with the aid of fungi teachers. New Year’s Eve is literally about staying up late to hoot and holler, so I’d crank the stereo up so I could hear it while perched on my Atwater Village roof, intercut with a medley of fireworks and gunfire.
My casual experiments goofing around with cameras became an intentional creative practice during one of these experiences in 2008, when my inverted images of sod netting from an Indiana subdivision became animated aquariums in synch with the leaked rip of Merriweather Post Pavilion that suddenly appeared everywhere online on Christmas Day.
I called them Moss Miracles after Miserable Miracle – the artist Henri Michaux's 1956 account of solo mescaline experimentation, and the subsequent artworks he created. In the course of his solitary research, Michaux mistakenly gave himself a heroic dose, and the resulting trip report is as moving and terrifying as the title suggests. He also manages a few Zen-adjacent references to the folly of trying to control realities:
"The madman is a brave fellow who tries to cope with the destructive phenomenon himself, instead of letting his subaltern functions take over."
Michaux is good shid, but Ram Dass is the obvious and iconic reference point for people looking at the intersection of psychedelics and mindfulness practice. He died in December 2019, and so the 20211210 and 20211217 episodes of ID Music feature language from two of his talks about the places where these practices overlap, and the places where they don't. As one of my Zen teachers used to say, "Buddhism is the best religion … for Buddhists." I feel similarly about psychoactive practices, and my aim in writing about both is to relate my experiences rather than evangelize. Sitting meditation practice isn’t for everyone either.
Dass is wonderful at explaining how by "going in and out of different realities" we are able to "loosen the hold of one reality over the other."Letting go of control is one of the most useful things that I continue to learn from meditation. One of the endless delusions that keeps us in a cycle of suffering is the idea that money or power will give us the ability to force reality to produce happiness.
There's certainly a bit of that in the medicine journey experience. As Michaux warns us, to resist the flow – to be distracted by expectation, to try and control the experience, or to rely on your thinking mind – may only prolong the miserable parts of the miracle.
That's where another of Dass' teachings comes into the process for me: The practice of radical dependence. He talks about this in the 2017 documentary short Going Home: In 1985 he published How Can I Help? and at the end of his life, after a stroke, he better understood how that question is inseparable from "how can you help me.”
It’s helpful to experience these journeys knowing that "you are not alone.”To sit with another person who accompanies you on that journey is such a powerful demonstration of a dependency practice. I can do what I do – as an artist, as the host of the understandably unpopular experimental heavy mellow meditation program Inter-Dimensional Music, as someone curious about heroic doses – because I've mostly given up on the impossible idea of self-sufficiency, letting go of the myth of being self-made. As someone once wrote on Twitter in a post that I can’t find anymore, unless you’re a chaos god who emerged naked from the void to dwell forever in an impenetrable subterranean cave, you’re where you are because of your connections with other people. You’re not separate from the universe. You are the universe.
We all exist with the help of other people, and the more I let go of the idea that I can control things, that I can do it by myself, the more freedom I find. Whether it was sitting with my crotchety housemates after arguing over kitchen sanitation duties when I lived at the Indianapolis Zen Center, or in Dass’ words, when I’ve “dropped the last place to hold on to” as my ego dissolves on New Year's Eve, while Rachel helps me keep an eye on my blood sugar.
The music on these episodes is loosely based on the idea of cycling through auditory realities, which is something that you could say about most episodes of ID Music. I'm particularly enamored with the mixing here too. After a year of messing with the laptop version of Serato I'm starting to get . . . better? . . . at the highly marketable skill of beat-matching dissonant metal and beatless drone with cosmic jazz time signatures. I'm particularly happy with the way Drowner Yellow Swans rides the Iration Steppas riddim on the 20211210 episode.
As always, thank you for reading, listening, and being here.
20211210 PROGRAM NOTES
For this week's session, an hour of spiritual jazz "symbolizing the battle between the oppressed and the oppressors", arboreal Brazilian rhythm and sounds intended to dissolve lexical hierarchies, a blend of dub and “gonzo acid soundscapes”; and "slow, crushing dirges of doom metal combined with nauseatingly fast blackened death metal."
Our practice begins and ends with the "strange pull of oscillating waveforms that paint a bleak yet soothing landscape," from Katharina Schmidt.
artist - work
Katharina Schmidt - Tennis Courts in the Half Light (excerpt)
Herbcraft - Push Thru the Veil (stereo 45 version)
Strategy - Super Awareness is Fruit
LuFuki - Aaron's Dance
Kaatayra - Ãráiãsaiê
Arthur Verocai - Caboclo
Iration Steppas - What's Wrong (Spring Reverb Mix)
Drowner Yellow Swans - Sandwall
Civerous - Herodacy
Katharina Schmidt - Tennis Courts in the Half Light (excerpt)
Dharma: Ram Dass - from “Motives for Spiritual Practice”
20211217 PROGRAM NOTES
Join us as we cycle through multiple auditory realities including reverberant gamelan patterns, traditional Armenian music merged with "rough industrial electronics," and an encounter with "a malodorous putrescence at the crossroads of the excremental and the existential."
Our practice begins and ends with excerpts from Hoverkraft, the extremely good New Age project from Blood Incantation’s Paul Riedl.
artist – work
Hoverkraft - Kosmischer Tempomat Entlang Der Astralstraße (excerpt)
Forest Drive West - Lost Signal
margenrot - Odnogolosii 2.0
Cerebral Rot - Crowning the Disgustulent
Azu Tiwaline - Nissa
QOW - Bano
Đ.K. - Sequences
Emeka Ogboh - Palm Groove
UN - In Its Abscence
Hoverkraft - Innere Ozeane (excerpt)
Dharma: Ram Dass - from “Risks and Rewards of Psychedelics”
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Ram Dass – Here and Now – Ep. 147 – “Motives for Spiritual Practice”
Andrew Cooper, “The Authentic Life: A Conversation with Lewis Richmond” in Tricycle, Summer 2010
Alas, my T1 diabetes is a constant throughout all of the various realities I’ve experienced so far.
I found Katharina Schmidt’s music shortly after watching Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s separate but very complementary documentary Homo Sapiens (2016). This “ode to humanity” is a series of still footage of abandoned human spaces as they crumble, fade, and are overtaken by weather and vegetation. It left the Criterion Channel at the end of December, but is well worth seeking out if you share my love of movies where you’re not sure if you maybe accidentally hit pause but then there’s a dripping sound so you get back to vibing.