The sister to everybody's favourite stoner holiday, 420; Bicycle Day celebrates the first intentional LSD experience undertaken by Dr. Albert Hoffman back on April 19th, 1943. The day takes its name from the bicycle ride that took Albert Hoffman home after the first recorded bad trip. Shortly thereafter, he would discover the beauty of the experience, and the transformative potential of the compound. LSD would go on to become the poster child of 1960's counter-culture and consciousness
It inspired artists, musicians, writers and society at large to think both critically and emotionally, to test boundaries, and create a space for creativity and freedom from the status quo. One of the best known examples you probably know of involves the significant impact that LSD had on the music of the Beatles.
I think LSD changes everybody. It certainly makes you look at things differently. It makes you look at yourself and your feelings and emotions. And it brought me closer to nature, in a way – the force of nature and its beauty. You realize it’s not just a tree; it’s a living thing. My outlook certainly changed – and you dress differently, too!
As Ringo points out, LSD is a powerful agent for internal change. It opens up a door to enlightenment, and pushes you into the deepest recesses of your mind. While popular media would have you believe that LSD is all about tripping balls and seeing pink elephants and rainbow coloured unicorns, it's really the opposite.
Sure, you get a bit of visual change, but it's fairly minor. This is called the breathing effect, and as you can see in the video above, it causes your vision to become a bit wavy and distorted. Over time your brain adjusts to all the waviness, and you stop paying attention to it. Instead, you begin to pick up the tiniest of details, like the specs of colour in a person's eye, or the shape of a leaf and how it contributes to the whole of the tree. Seeing the world on LSD is like living life with 8k definition, and sound is also taken to a whole other level. When you can distinctly hear each layer of a song at the same time, and the individual notes within each layer, then synergize them all to hear how those unique pieces come together to form a song...well it's music like you've never heard it before. All in all, it's interesting to see how big of a role your brain plays in the interpretation of sensory input, and what is possible when you open the floodgates of experience.
So the sensory aspect can be pretty amazing, but what makes LSD truly noteworthy is the impact it has on your consciousness and awareness. Just like mediation, your mind leads you to places of inquiry. You think about your life, your relationships with others, your past actions, where you are, where you're going, and how you feel about various issues. It takes a bit of time to gain your bearings, but after the initial adjustment period you'll feel the most sober you've ever been in your life. Imagine unlocking a door labelled "potential" in your brain, and thinking at an amazingly deep level. Wonder if you're a good friend? LSD will allow you to trace every interaction you've had with another person with extreme clarity, and show how the relationship has changed over time. Want to connect with your community? Roam your neighbourhood and you will comprehend your relationship with the people and the places that contribute to your day to day activities. Want to unite with life? Go out into the woods and you will feel the life buzzing all around you, and you will reflect on the relationship you have with the whole ecosystem. Wherever you go, you'll discover deep understanding. My friend Jeff describes it as walking through the library of knowledge, and all the bookshelves are completely illuminated. I like that metaphor. Here's what it all comes back to. If you prepare yourself ahead of time with the intention of gaining understanding, you will find that LSD liberates the mind from entrenched cycles of thought.
In life, it's common to forge a concrete view of what the world is, and who we are within it, but LSD opens us up to see reality from all perspectives, not just that of our own. It's like seeing the world for the first time, being separated from your attachments and being able to analyze them all without bias. This holds great potential to help those suffering from substance abuse issues, anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions; and is being explored by scientists across North American universities. Their work is highlighted and distributed by organizations like MAPS, to improve public awareness and acceptance of this new area of research. But on a personal level we can all benefit from the experience. Once you realize the role of symbolism in our society, you can then understand all of the complex relationships that exists between various ideas and their manifestations. Once you understand this truth you can no longer be controlled, because you will always be able to trace back to the roots of an idea. That is powerful.
Throughout human history, as our species has faced the frightening, terrorizing fact that we do not know who we are, or where we are going in this ocean of chaos, it has been the authorities — the political, the religious, the educational authorities — who attempted to comfort us by giving us order, rules, regulations, informing — forming in our minds — their view of reality. To think for yourself you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable open-mindedness, chaotic, confused vulnerability to inform yourself.
And this is really important! In Canada today, most of us live in relative comfort and luxury, but we're disconnected from many of the world's problems, both present and future. We may hear about water shortages, or global poverty, but do we truly connect on a emotional level with these issues, enough so to do something about them? It may seem insane to question a life that appears so good, but once you do you will realize how insane we already are; how we've subsidized our lifestyles with the pain of others, our own spiritual health, and the integrity of the environment and it's ecological services. We need catalysts like LSD that have the potential to transform our minds in a way that will allow us empathize on a greater level with one another, and to tackle problems in an appropriate way that ensures the long term sustainability of proposed solutions. And obviously, LSD is not the sole catalyst for this kind of change. There are many practices that can help us address the areas in which we lack competency or understanding; like yoga, meditation, cuddle parties, hiking, gardening, community development, the list goes on. But what LSD can do more effectively than anything else is open the door to possibility immediately, to show us right away how manufactured our understanding of the world really is. The potential for personal empowerment is enormous, and an empowered populous can change everything.
You don't have to be afraid. You don't even have to be brave. Living in a gilded cage. The only risk is that you'll go insane.