What is your ideal future?
(No. 137) Plus, our bronze-age ancestors were tripping
Feed Your Head
I’ve been told that some corner delis in New York sell chocolate covered psychedelic mushrooms for flower children of all ages. In Oregon, legal guided trips for older people are a thing. John’s Hopkins is studying the possible benefits of psychedelics for a variety of conditions, including depression, negative responses to trauma and terminal illness. Psychedelics are a big thing among boomers these days. Apparently, they’ve been popular for a long time. Recently, scientists entered a cave in Minorca, Spain, and found evidence that bronze age humans had been tripping their brains out. Given their great potential benefits for aging people, why do scientists and governments still not understand enough about the effectiveness and safety of psychedelics to make them widely available?
It’s hard for a friendly misanthrope like me to believe in communitarian vision boards for aging people, but I do
Rarely do I stop to imagine my ideal future. I’m more likely to stop and examine my unwelcome past — that collection of moments I return to that illustrate what an ass I’ve occasionally been, or how clueless I was at times. Imagining my ideal future is difficult because that entails a level of self-regard that I was taught from an early age to squash. As in, “Don’t get too big for your britches.” It’s a midwestern thing.
Yet, I’m starting to do just that. I’m thinking about my ideal future. This is spurred, in part, by the fact that I’m living alone this summer for pretty much the first time since I got married, in 1986. My last child has flown the coop.
Granted, there was a two year period between the end of that marriage, and the beginning of my second, when I split custody of my three kids week by week, so there were days when I was alone. But this current stretch feels significant, and liberating. It makes me realize there is a potentially very interesting series of years ahead. And with the horizon a little shorter now that I’m 65, I’m enjoying imagining how I want to live once I extricate myself from the rat race of working for others. Right now, that rat race primarily involves ghost-writing books and articles for people with plenty of thoughts, but no time or skills to write them down themselves. I’m working towards pulling back from this work in the next few years, because I have plenty of thoughts of my own, plus the skills to get them on paper.
My goal is to write only projects I want to write. That would be retirement for me. Those projects might include a memoir about the house I’m living in now, in lower Manhattan. And a novel about the 1970s in Lawrence, Kansas, where I grew up. I am also teaching myself how to edit videos, so that I can express myself in art documentaries. And I’m working on a one-person show that I fully expect to perform on stage in my hometown, NYC, within two years. In one respect, these are all the same pipe dreams an opium smoker might have. On the other hand, nothing ever happens until you give it a try.
I see that my dreams of the good life generally involve work and creating things, and never involve yachts and Dior jackets. Sort of like I’m keeping myself in the work rat race, but in a holier than thou way, because I’m forgoing the financial rewards. Perhaps that’s something I will rethink. The rat race aspect conflicts with my current desire to live more in the moment, stretching out time in a mindful way. Making time last forever in this magnificent world that is also so ugly.
Apart from work, I’d like to live in a simple apartment that I decorate with color and comfort and lots of vacant spaces. I want my children to call it their home whenever they desire to be home. I want an extensive no-till garden that feeds the neighbors, and rainwater catchment and a garage. I want this in Manhattan, ha ha. But good to wish. I want to befriend someone who will be happy to tend to that garden when I decide on the spur of the moment to drive or walk or bike across the country for a month or two. I want dogs all around, but none that I’m responsible for. I want the time to read books. To watch movies. To swim at the beach.
I wish for this to happen in a rapidly changing world, where people begin to shift their desires from luxury to livable, from collecting to generating, from libertarian to communitarian. Ok, universe, let’s make this happen.