Back in the late 1960’s, illicit pharmacology brought me regularly to marvelous “Aha!” insights into the ultimate nature of the universe. The reason I currently neither have a Nobel prize in physics, nor am I recognized as a great spiritual sage, is that the insights were only insightful while in my artificially altered state of consciousness.
They could be shared, though, which lent them more validity than they probably deserved. One moonless night in 1968 a friend and I were rolling rocks off the edge of a ravine in the Santa Cruz mountains, marveling at how long they took to noisily reach the bottom. Moving on to deeper questions, we then stood in the darkness, trying to grok with our mescaline-fueled minds what everything was all about.
We could feel it so clearly. But what was it that we were feeling? We struggled for words to express the plenitude of this psychedelic experience. “The universe is…” I’d say. “Yes, the universe is…” my companion would respond. We almost had it! One more try! “The universe is…” I said again. And then—I swear to god this is true—we simultaneously proclaimed: “a paper bag turned inside out!”
It was so right, so true, so perfect. What a relief! Finally, all the searching was over. No more pouring over the Tibetan Book of the Dead for clues to what lies beyond this veil of maya. It is the other side of this paper bag of a universe! In the morning, none of this made a whit of sense to either of us. Oh well, that’s cool.
Now, thirty-six years later, my cosmic insights aren’t as powerful or as bizarre, but they keep on coming. Mini-secrets of the universe get revealed without any help from chemistry, other than what is bubbling away naturally in my brain. Last night I had one of those flashes while reading an Oregonian article about the effects of Measure 37.
I was immersed in the usual funk I get into when I think about how Oregon’s pioneering land use laws run the risk of being trashed by this ill-conceived measure. For it allows owners to be exempted from a law passed after they acquired their property if it reduces the value of their land. The other option is for government to pay them for this reduction in value, but nobody expects cash-strapped Oregon to be able to come up with the money to do this. Instead, land use laws simply will be waived.
I was moodily visualizing convenience stores popping up in the middle of residential neighborhoods, and gravel pits being dug next to state parks, when a crystal-clear realization broke into my meandering thoughts.
Whatever is going to happen is what has to happen! All right, I realize that this sounds as meaningless as a paper bag turned inside out! But the difference is that my clear-headed 2004 insight still rings true to me, even the day after. What came home to me is that the 60% of people who voted for Measure 37, as for the 51% who voted for Bush, are going to experience what has to happen as a result of their choice.
The universe is going to work things out perfectly. What goes around, comes around. Whatever you sow, you reap. Garbage in, garbage out. Pick your cliché, the meaning is the same: the changes caused by Measure 37 are going to result in exactly the right effects. “Good,” “bad,” these aren’t what I mean by “right.” “Right” means that the universe always keeps itself in perfect balance, and I don’t have to worry my little liberal Green head that anything unjust is going to happen—with Measure 37, Bush’s second term, or anything else.
I felt like a big weight was lifted from my psyche. It isn’t up to me to right supposed wrongs. The cosmos takes care of that.
Soon, Laurel and I hope, a lead petitioner of Measure 37 will find that someone is going to build a ghastly environmental and aesthetic disaster next to his or her home after taking advantage of the Measure’s lifting of a land use law. When I read about this in the Oregonian, I’ll smile.
Everything is going to be all right. I’ll remember that the universe told me that on November 14, 2004. Now, I’ve just got to figure out how this connects to the whole paper-bag-inside-out thing. A Nobel prize could still be in the cards, in my own mind at least.