Terence McKenna at Wetlands Preserve, NYC July 28th, 1998
There’s nothing like the smell of a late-summer New York club crowd to get the old blood pounding, is there? It’s a pleasure to be in Manhattan; Manhattan is my second-most favorite island in the world — only because I live on Hawaii. I feel more affinity to this island than to the other Hawaiian islands (which have various cultural extremes I’m not really capable of relating to. But you’ll hear more about that.) Anyway, it’s great to be here. It’s great to see so many familiar faces. It’s a pleasure to be here. I always feel when I come to Wetlands that I’m “checking in” with sort of my home base congregation.
About five years ago I moved out to Hawaii for the specific purpose of looking back at this scene and putting in a full-time effort to understand it. (Of course this tells you I didn’t have a job! I still don’t — but if you’re a cultural commentator, who needs a job, right? The glory alone is sufficient to pave one’s way.) And I — probably like you, here at the end of the Twentieth Century, having lived long enough to go at least once or twice around the block — I’m noticing that the strangeness is not receding. The strangeness seems to be accelerating.
The theme of this evening is “Logos meets Eros”. Well I don’t know a lot about Eros — I do think if you smoke after sex you’re probably doing it too quickly. But otherwise my expertise lies in another direction. I started out in psychedelic drugs, and people said it was a flight from reality. It still is a flight from reality, but I think reality is now a bit more scary than the drugs we used to fly from it, so long ago. Is that the victory of a cultural meme, or is that just the yawning grave opening ahead of us?
My thing is to be amazed at the world as given by nature, but ever more, as we approach this millennial speedbump in our cultural highway, to be amazed at people, and about the direction that mass psychology seems to be taking. And since I assume everybody here is a shaper of this mass psychology in the extremely powerful media-based jobs that you all occupy, it might be worth talking about that a little bit tonight.
Art: Heidi Taillefer ‘Venus Envy’ 1999-2000