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By Os Davis

MARCH 6, 2000: 

The Delicious Grace of Moving One's Hand: The Collected Sex Writings by Timothy Leary (Thunder's Mouth Press), paper, $13.95

Enough, already. Enough with the mass media's hippie paradigm force-feeding, an informal mental indoctrination policy apparently unstoppable until generation-dot-com, too, succumbs to mainstream acceptance of the 1960s as Western Civilization's nadir.

Thunder's Mouth Press has seen fit to scrape the water pipe of intelligentsia once again, cramming together almost 300 pages from famous acidhead Timothy Leary. The subject here is S-E-X, but this book does little more than feed the narcissism of glory days-tripping Baby Boomers in yet another tired expression of "tune in, turn on, drop out."

Silly statements come early and often here, from the giggle-inducing ("The Clitoris may be ... the GENETIC BRAINLOBE of our species"), to the scoff-worthy ("I consider the psychedelic drugs plus electric rock and roll to be the most powerful revolutionary agents man has ever known") to the bile-raising ("In principle, pornography is good" and, concomitantly, that Larry Flynt is equivalent to Mark Twain). Prognostications for 2001 and the cyberfuture ("all children will be born on the beach") should make for gut-busting hilarity at your next nitrous oxide party. And how about this one, ladies? "Every woman has built into her cells and tissues the longing for a hero, sage-mythic male, to open up and share her own divinity."

Delicious Grace's flashes of relevance almost make one believe claims that Leary was an honest-to-Socrates philosopher. The rapid-fire history of the battle between Northern and Southern cultures over mankind's last 10,000 years is a real eye-opener. Theories regarding man's true nature -- simplicities like "This anthill, this rat race that we're in is very new. A hundred years ago, the average human was much closer to nature" -- appear worthy of attention. The comparison of Reagan-era mass-media brainwashing to George Orwell's 1984 also bears thinking about.

Against these responsible passages, however, is the self-destruction of arguments aspiring to holistic knowledge; alongside thoughts on DNA run psychological analyses based on astrology. Alternative history takes are summarized with the already-hackneyed bumper-sticker response "give peace a chance" whilst praising a subculture clearly interested in little more than partying. Footnoted explanatory references to great thinkers like Aldous Huxley and Herbert Marcuse sit alongside Baba Ram Dass and Jean Baptiste de Lamarck. (Lamarck, for god's sake!)

As for the future -- if we ignore the "Berkeley Lectures" promising pre-1990s psychedelic-induced learning and teaching -- the final section decrees that "Platonic Love Becomes Pretty Real." Leary's well-publicized jump from mind-expanding pharmaceuticals to mind-expanding cyberspaces is delineated here for all who blissfully missed his frighteningly irrelevant trips on this subject.

Somehow, the doctor figures that, via "inexpensive computer clothing," humans can experience Love and Sex (blurred boundaries between the two are commonplace in Delicious Grace with Leary's typical hedonistic oblivion concluding that "love is not an emotion" at all) through silicon chip technology, apparently handled benevolently by the same mega-corporations the Me Generation feared a long, long time ago. And the same logical paradoxes haunt Leary's 1990s writings as well: If we sit and have cybersex in front of a screen, "the current apathetic, torpid TV addiction" will be alleviated. Shift your ass, infers the logic, and your mind will follow.

Daniel Weizman's lamenting prologue that Timothy Leary was "misunderstood as self-promoting shaman, drug-peddler, a Doctor Feelgood confidence man" is refuted not at all in this collection of lackadaisical insights. Any sober-minded revelations this hallucinogenist attempts to impart come off as misplaced altruism, mere fodder for the self-serving and simplistic flower power dogma reiterated in Delicious Grace's introduction: "If it FEELS good, it probably IS good." Heavy, man.

In the final analysis, this book serves little more purpose than to encourage the continuing self-aggrandizement of his feeble-minded believers. Few new converts will emerge from this stream of consciousness. And the cheap thrills (ah, good to see a tirade targeted against Ed Meese again!) garnered from those who remember can't justify the arborocide committed to put this collection in print.

"You must never believe anyone's statements about their trip," Leary himself declares in the "Berkeley Lectures" section. Now there's some good advice; leave this one on the shelf. And never trust any philosophy over 30.


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