Wed 10 May 2006
For Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, what begins as a new movement full of promise and dreams, ends up crashing and burning at their feet. In The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, the Merry Pranksters become an influential group on the psychedelic drug scene. They hold acid tests, in which hundreds of people take psychedelic drugs and find meaning in life. “Hundreds were swept up in an experience, which built up like a dream typhoon, peace on the smooth liquid centrifugal whirling edge. In short, everybody in The Movie, on the bus, and it was beautiful…They were like…on! The Pranksters – now primed to draw the hundreds, the thousands, the millions into the new experience, and in the days ahead they came rushing in” (Wolfe, pg. 270). The crowd the Merry Pranksters drew was content in their drugs, lights, and music, experiencing satori and for them, making life meaningful.
However this great movement, this bus full of psychedelic drugs and people, eventually runs out of gas. At the final acid test, the “graduation”, there is no longer music or lights. Kesey, the leader of the Merry Pranksters, now needs silence in order to have an experience. Also, in the early acid tests everyone was welcomed, anyone who was there to enjoy. During the graduation, the Pranksters start to turn people away, claiming they aren’t “in sync” with what’s going on. The Pranksters are even called squares by other people; the tests become boring, ultimately failing. “We blew it”, are the Pranksters final thoughts, with a new generation forming after them, poised to take over. Yet the Kesey shouldn’t have been surprised, for just as the Pranksters took over after the beat generation, there time also ran short, and failure must ultimately be accepted.