Thu 27 Apr 2006
“The Trips Festival” has a surreal moment which draws comparison to “Beat Zen, Square Zen, and Zen.” Norman’s personal satori strikes him square in the eyes when he is cracked out on LSD. “There was never a spiritual movement without its excesses and distortions. The experience of awakening which truly constitutes Zen is too timeless and universal to be injured. The extremes of beat Zen need alarm no one since, as Blake said, ‘the fool who persists in his folly will become wise’” (PBR, 613). When Norman believes he is God, he essentially climbs up the scaffold in order to become the “highest” person on stage. This process is like Norman’s quest to heaven – as he climbs higher, he believes more of his personal satori and claims that he is a supreme being and “I” (Wolfe, 261).
Although Norman is riding his high of “God,” he suddenly realizes that Kesey is trying to ruin his enlightenment. “ANYBODY WHO KNOWS HE IS GOD GO UP ON STAGE” (Wolfe, 262) was inscribed on the walls of the huge wild carnival. This very moment is the end of Norman’s realization, but the beginning of another man’s authoritative spiritual experience. Kesey begins to have a literal “God complex” of transforming into a particularly arrogant, educated, powerful person. Perhaps Kesey does not believe he is God, but he surely acts so bigheaded that he might as well believe he is God or some other heavenly figure.
This distinct transfer of power leaves Norman stunned. “What the hell” (Wolfe, 262), said Norman while he gazed into the crowd of Zenned-out peoples. With his last attempt to use God-like powers, Norman put forth the effort to control the crowd with a simple gesture towards the festival below him. While nothing happened, Norman “sinks to the floor” with “eyes glooming up in the acid stare” (Wolfe, 262). The downfall of Norman in this scene is the end of his personal satori, and while he sees his own image of God fade away, he begins to realize that Kesey is the real man of power.