”I’ve made a decision,” I announced to the small crowd gathered in my living room. Wringing my icy hands and second guessing my resolve, I looked from one pair of inquiring eyes to the next. I had worried for weeks about their reaction: these people were those closest to me in the world and I had asked them to come in the hope that I could win their approval. That at least would be some reassurance that I hadn’t completely lost my mind.
“I’ve decided….I’ve decided to go on a trip. A very long trip. I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I’ve realized that I’m not getting any younger. I’ve realized that I don’t want the days of my life to bleed into one another with no definition…and…and…I’ve decided I don’t want to work in a grey cubicle day after day, staring at a screen.”
I took a deep breath.
” I’ve decided….to seek a spiritual awakening. I’m going to look for meaning in this life by seeking out those who seem to have found it already.”
A few eyebrows raised around the room. There was silence for a moment as people tried to guess whether I was serious. Or maybe they were guessing whether I’d gone nuts.
My mother, a staunch, no-nonsense atheist, broke the silence.
“Well that sounds very interesting dear, but what exactly do you mean? Where are you going? How do you intend to find this “spiritual awakening” you claim to seek?” She used her fingers to put “spiritual awakening” in mocking quotes.
“I…well, basically I’m going to travel around the world for a year. Everything’s booked, and I’m leaving Monday. I’ve planned stops in Peru, Mexico, Africa….my life’s savings are going into this trip. I’m meeting with shamans, healers, and spiritual leaders, all from indigenous cultures practicing traditional forms of spiritual enlightenment. And…well, basically I’m going to travel around the world to seek healing through entheogens.”
My parents exchanged worried looks.
“Entheogens eh? I can’t say I’m familiar with that term. What is that exactly?” My brother grinned as he asked this, knowing full well the answer and inquiring about it only to force me into describing out loud the ridiculous reality of my intentions.
“Ok, ok, here’s the whole truth. The word entheogen has Greek origins. It means ‘that which causes God (or godly inspiration) to be within a person’. Basically, I’m going to travel around the world to experiment with a bunch of drugs.”
The faces looking back at me displayed a comical range of emotions: primary among them was a kind of amused horror. My brother laughed. My mother looked ready to disown me.
“Ok, so that’s settled then. Who’d like a drink?”
And so it was that I put the life I had been building so carefully for thirty years on hold to embark on my journey. This journey, which I hope to share with you as I navigate my way around the globe and through the rocky terrain of my psyche, is one that I know many are seeking in an age of scientific realism, technology, and secular detachment from all things spiritual. I have grown up in this world, and have until this time subscribed to all of its practical rules and goals. I have worked the 9 to 5 job, I have achieved conventional success. I have played along with the solid if slightly mundane tableau of life presented to me since birth. Most of all, I have faced the reality of my simple animal mortality and have not sought after anything more extraordinary.
But I’m not willing to accept what has been fed to me anymore, at least not unthinkingly and without question. I’m unplugging from the matrix; I’m leaving the herd. I’m going to find my own path! In the end, I think there’s a good chance we’re all just a bunch of monkeys wandering around without a true purpose for existence on big old space rock. There’s a very good chance that life and consciousness are just the physical products of a chemical body, and as that body passes out of being so to does that thing we call a soul. But if this is so, after this journey I am about to make is complete I will at least have the satisfaction of knowing that I grasped at something more. I may not touch the divine or commune with my immortal soul, but at least I can say I tried.