Perhaps some of you may have noticed that I am an idealist. While most Americans appear to be devoting their lives to plotting how they can buy the most stuff at the mall on their credit cards, I devote most of my free time to plotting about how we can save the world.
"No one can save the world," said my friend Rick. "Mankind's nature is intrinsically violent and self-serving. As much as you would like it to be otherwise, the world is just not going to get saved." Ha! I'm sorry but I just can't accept the idea that human beings will never get bored of napalming babies for profit. Sooner or later, surely our "good" genes will kick in.
"But I'm thinking that if I was only wiser or smarter or kinder," I replied, "maybe I COULD save the world. For 66 years now, I've been struggling with how to make my brain work better so that I can make the world a better place. You are an expert on hallucinogenic drugs. Which ones could I take that might help me see more clearly what else I can do to save the world?"
Back in the 1960s I took mescaline, a derivative of peyote, while up on a hilltop in Big Sur. And what I realized then is that nothing we can do or own is of any importance if it doesn't get us directly in touch with nature -- the earth, the plants, the stars, water and even the dirt under our feet. Everything else is just useless set-decoration. But then, after having been blessed with that terribly illuminating insight, I immediately popped into my car, drove back down to Carmel and ate a huge stack of pancakes at IHOP.
Then Rick began to give me a tour of his nursery. "Tell me what that plant is -- and what does it do?" I asked him, pointing to a nearby vine.
"That's ayahuasca, a hallucinogen from Brazil. It is used for medicinal and spiritual purposes by the tribal shamans of the Amazon basin."
"If I chewed on one of its leaves, would I have hallucinations?"
"No, it's the bark that is effective. Plus you need to drink it in combination with the leaves of the chalipanga plant, that one over there."
"And what is this plant here like?" I asked, pointing to my left.
"That's iboga, from central Africa. Its alkaloid root bark is used during tribal initiation rites for young men and is a very strong hallucinogen. The tribal elders claim that it turns their young boys into men -- if they survive the ceremony. It also is used as a treatment for alcohol abuse both here in Mexico and back in the States."
"What does that one over in the corner do?"
"That's a Chinese herb that has medicinal uses similar to Ginseng. It's supposed to give you long life. And the one next to it is Guarana, used in American energy drinks. It's a stimulant."