Tim Di.


On page 73 of the Electric Koolaid Acid Test we recieve an interesting insight into group harmony, where harmony is dependent on respecting the action of each individual. While the rules that Kesey lays out seem to be the rules for the physical cross country bus trip that they are about to take part-in, one must remember that much of the physical trip will involve pschedelic trips and it is apparent that it is this psychedelic element which the rules are intended for. Because pschedelic trips involve the altering of the conciosness and mind, it becomes easy to question ones thoughts and subsequently question why one is questioning these thoughts and a complex chain reaction which can easily send one into an extremely self-conciouse cacoon. Negative interference, and questioning of ones actions by friends further exasterbates these emotions leaving one in what is known as a bad trip where everyone and everything seems to be against you, and where it seems as though nothing can be done to regain sanity except for the unforeseable end of the drug wearing off.

That being said, Kesey’s rules should make more sense as he says, “All of us are begining to do our thing, and were going to keep doing it, right out front, and none of us are going to deny what other people are doing.” Jane then solidifies what he is getting at by saying “Bullshit” to which Kesey replys “bullshit is her thing and she’s doing it.” Kesey then progresses on to clarify the fine line of what is and what isn’t acceptable so as to allow everyone to best enjoy their trip when he says :

“If somebody is an ass-kicker than that’s what he’s gona go on doing on this trip, kick asses. He’s going to do it right out front and nobody is going to have anything to get pissed about. He can just say, “I’m sorry I kicked you in the ass, but I’m not sorry I’m an ass-kicker: That’s what I do, I kick people in the ass.”73

Accepting people for who they are is esential on a psychedelic trip, and interestinly enough, once one realizes that each persons’ ultimate happiness rests on the ability to be free to act, and to be free from criticism for those actions when tripping, then why shouldn’t this ethos apply to life outside of psychedelics.

1955 was a period of great change, a time where mass conumption of consumer products led to a mentality that the more things you have the happier you are. The idea that people were merley working just consume more things that they didn’t need is the backbone to the the discourse of this rucksack revolution that Snyder and Smith are taking part in. If you look back in history it appears as though that the materialistic desires that society was now made up of was never as prevelent as it was now, and that in the past people found happiness in simplicity, and one can’t help to feel that such happiness was much purer. This purer sense of happiness is exactally what Smith and Ryder are after, and in their search to do so they are looked down upon by greater society as hobo’s or lesser people, bums that are wasting their potential. The question arises of who is better off in the long run throughout the book but the definitive passage that questions such a notion is found when Smith hitches a ride back with the trucker and makes him the steak. The trucker confides to Smith that:

“Here I am killin myself drivin this rig back and forth from Ohio to L.A. and I make more money than you ever had in your whole life as a hobo, but you’re the only one who enjoys life and not only that but you do it without workin or a whole lot of money. Now who’s smart you or me?”129

Freedom is the key to happines because without it we are prevented from doing that which makes us happy. Smith is able to be happier because he has given up any obligations that aren’t essential to happines. Work is something that constraines everyone of us from doing something that we would rather be doing and therefore ultimatly we are not free to act and therfore not ultimatly happy. So it is a funny dichotomy that we see here where most of society is working hard to obtain that which will make them happy, all the while the hobo has found a simpler path to happiness by not being constrained by working.

The debate between beat zen and square zen that Watts puts forth in this article is exactally the free spirited type of discusion that is needed to understand zen, because zen is not one thing, it is everything yet at the same time comprised of nothing. While Square Zen tends to look more like organized religion, while beat zen looks more like non-conformist critique of society through inaction both are still zen because they are all aimed at the liberation of the mind and finding enlightenment through the interrelatedness of the world. The two extremes, while important to recognize for boundries sake, tend to cloud the objective of true Zen Buddism because they have justification of self as an objective.
The quote that embodies zen to me is that which is put forth in the text by the great T’ang master Lin-chi:

“In Buddhism there is no place for using effort. Just be ordinary and nothing special. Eat your food, move your bowls, pass water, and when your tired go and lie down. The ignorant will laugh at me, but the wise will understand.”

Zen is living life, following your impulses. Zen is overly simplistic, yet at the same time the complicity of our world makes those who attempt to obtain it looking for more than is there. Zen in its pure form unlike other religions does not try to guide or justify ones actions. Westerners feel as though the path to enlightenment need guidance due to their religous upbringings, they feel a need to say why they did something, they feel a need to have their actions be recognized by others. Contradicly, Zen is about discovering the path for ones self, which is why no one has the same exact path. In Zen, your path is made of everything you do and think, because your path to enlightenment is created from your actions you have no need to justify them, and because your path to enlightenment is different than everyone elses you have no competitive need to have your actions recognized by others. Zen is about living your own life, the next action is your justification for your being.
The final element that most appeals to me about zen, is it requires that you be yourself. Because your actions speak no louder than your thoughts, Zen works with any lifestyle, and therefore a new role does not need to be adopted to become zen. As Watts sites, “you can see that your ego is your persona, your social role, molded from arbitrary experiances with which he has been taught to identify himself, having seen this he continues to play his social role without being taken in by it.”(PBR,610). Zen is compatible with everyones life, it does not ask you to change, just to recognize what is going on around you, and the effect that has on you and others.

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