Throwing Down Flowers

I’ve been enjoying the literature, photo, art and culture blog Throwing Down Flowers.

Of particular interest to the topics I tend to discuss was this post, taken from A Brief History of Anxiety.

“And let us say, further, that a person who is headstrong enough to open their eyes and their heart to the full depth and weight of the world is inviting in everything out there — both evil and good, both dark and light — and the sheer bravery of their openness enables them to gain profound insight into the human condition. It also fucks them up. It may even make them more prone to stick their head in an oven than to engage in self-promotional chitchat on Jay Leno.


It is difficult to return from harrowing experiences with the energy or inclination to formulate a catchy sales pitch for what one has seen. I am not saying that it’s impossible for authentically engaged artists to willingly go out afterward and discuss what they’ve discovered about the world. What I am saying is that most of them would rather crawl across broken glass (which in some ways they have) than to pull the kinds of narcissistic, attention-getting stunts at the level that is required in our present era to bring merit into alignment with acclaim. Imagine a man returning from the rough, dark mines of Madagascar with a gem. That is what he wishes you to see. Look at the treasure that his toiling has unearthed: look at that, not at him.” – Patricia Pearson, A Brief History of Anxiety

This description of the artists journey bears a striking resemblance to some of the more popular modern interpretations of the shamanic experience, a la McKenna and Harner, more or less. This is an interpretation in which the shaman goes outside the bounds of normal experience and reality for the purpose of bringing back new ideas, experiences and ways of being for the rest of the tribe. McKenna’s ideas on the relationship between schizophrenia and shamanism do justice to the experience of exiting consensus reality, but says comparatively little, as far as I’ve seen, on the stress resulting from what you tend to bring back in with you. This relates to a question I’ve often considered. How many people have spontaneous spiritual awakenings / transcendental experiences / shamanic initiations / alien visitations in which they receive the metaphorical gem from the dark mines, some insight, ability, task, mandate, enlightenment, and then spend the rest of their lives hiding from that experience, hoping against hope it will never find them again.


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