The surrender moment

It became my routine for the next 3 weeks to get home from work after midnight – wired from the bright lights, noise and activity of the depot – and read the book. Sometimes I’d toke up first, sometimes I’d eat, but always I’d spend at least an hour trying to decipher the strange jargon of this Stephen dude.

His was an almost poetic mix of Western cowboy slang, drug-inspired invention, scientific techno-speak and religious scripture. The book consisted of questions from the audience – always brief – and answers from the teacher – almost always extended, but often tinged with humor. Apparently these “classes” took place on Monday nights, and many of the attendees were curious about the nature of their weekend experiences on psychedelics. But somehow Stephen was always able to make a link between the vision or hallucination and either ethics, science or both.

My first two readings left me more far confused than enlightened, but obviously something was getting through because, aside from the The Bedside Mad reader, I’d never read a book more than once.

I spent New Year’s Eve reading the book for the third time and suddenly it clicked. More than any priest in my church growing up, or any politician – even the ones they’d shot – this Stephen guy was able to explain to me the connection between my emotions and my inner compass. At least, in my own desperate way, I was able to accept his explanations as making more sense than any others I’d heard. And there was no doubt that in the world’s condition, a better working explanation was needed.

The next morning the phone rang. It was Anita, calling from Colorado. “This is really cool,” she said. “You should come out and join us. But only if you’re ready.”

I was ready. Two days later three of my closest friends drove me and my two duffle bags to the Trailways bus station.