The Hamilton (Ontario Canada) Spectator ran an "anniversary" feature on LSD Wednesday,
April 15, 2003, so Robert Merkin decided he would "drop 'em a line."
Letters to the Editor The Hamilton Spectator To the Editor:
Re "The LSD Colours: Mostly Shades of Grey" (16 April): It's sort of sweet and childlike to hear
retired Hamilton narc John Gruhl sum up thirty-five years of LSD this way: "... it's a verydangerous narcotic. And there's nothing good about it -- it's only evil."
If forced to reduce a profoundly rich, vast and complicated phenomenon to an eight-year-old boy's
comic-book battle between good and evil, my experiences and those of most people I know who
used LSD were mostly good.
As the decades roll by since our LSD summers, I notice that my
richest friendships and deepest admirations linger with those who
indeed chose to spend a season in their young adulthood taking
trips to destinations where LSD sent them. We all came back. But
we returned with a deeper understanding of ourselves, a deeper appreciation of what should be important in life, and a deeper sense of realities beyond just (in the words of a rock song) "birth, school, work, death."
None of us became drug detectives, though it wouldn't at all surprise me if some became
"protect and serve"-style community police officers. Some have suggested LSD destroyed peoples' ambitions. I found quite a different phenomenon. Those who took LSD seemed to
make conscious choices to lead less aggressive, less rapacious, less material, less shallow lives.
Beauty, nature, love, friendship, creation and celebration were raised to much higher priorities in their subsequent lives. They sought to understand the moral and ethical dimensions of life more clearly.
I would not insult or patronize them
by justifying their post-LSD lives by
their financial achievements --
"I took a lot of acid and now I run a
Fortune 500 company." But they did
okay, they kept themselves as afloat
as or higher and drier than most people; I never saw one of those
mythical burnout acidheads in my years managing a winter homeless
Though I've heard all the "Dragnet" horror stories about people who used LSD, the only real
horror stories I ever personally encountered were the things that happened to people when the copsarrested them. And LSD didn't cause those horrors; legislators, prosecutors and judges
did. That people went to prison for wanting to take LSD is far more surreal than anything I experienced on an acid trip If the music seemed strangely repetitive or unstructured,
it wasn't banal, mechanical, predictable and manipulative like most pop music; the most
beloved of the LSD musicians were adored because they were trying to take us on original
and unexpected adventures.
In the entire body of acid music, there are no glorifications of gang violence,violence toward
and abuse of women, no gay-bashing, no racism, no encomiums to material possessions
and superwealth.Nobody took acid and suddenly lusted to become super-rich and menace
their neighbors. Nobody took acid and suddenly wanted to bomb Vietnamese or Iraqis.
In some unspecified academic and intellectual communities, your Nobel prize in literature and
the sciences is inextricably intertwined with your youthful acid trips -- it was a drug of particular
appeal to big IQs, the creative crowd, and the voraciously curious and adventurous. It was a
drug for romantics, in most senses of that word.
I do not mean to extol LSD's virtues or make magical, paradisical
claims for it. Rather, I would contrast it with the rigid, simplistic, puritanical, aggressive, hypercompetitive and often warlike culture
of LSD's lifelong bitterest enemies. LSD's promise of inner discovery was always attractive to those who had read Socrates:
"The unexamined life is not worth living."
To write LSD off as "only evil" -- this isn't just a cop,
this is a dumb cop. In his retirement, he's probably
keeping his health afloat on medicines discovered
by old Berkeley acidheads.