Turn on, tune in, drop out

Per Timothy Leary: “Like every great religion of the past we seek to find the divinity within and to express this revelation in a life of glorification and the worship of God. These ancient goals we define in the metaphor of the present — turn on, tune in, drop out.”

Now we face an era of turning on the tv, the device, the screen; tuning in to what’s happening there; dropping out of the reality that is around us – family, friends, life as it was. 

I want to take this space and talk of escapism, the exit we experience when we retreat into our screens (phones, televisions, etc). We’re avoiding something, whatever our deficit is in our life, when all we do is escape. Sure, you can hear the talking heads deriding a generation spent staring into their phones, but they’ve been conditioned that way. There needs to be a conscientious return to old practices (such as spontaneous conversation or disconnected, i.e. no phone, meals) otherwise it will not happen. No one is going to fix the problems for us, other than ourselves.

For Leary, “Turn on meant go within to activate your neural and genetic equipment. Become sensitive to the many and various levels of consciousness and the specific triggers that engage them. Drugs were one way to accomplish this end. 

“Tune in” meant interact harmoniously with the world around you – externalize, materialize, express your new internal perspectives. 

“Drop out” suggested an active, selective, graceful process of detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments. “Drop Out” meant self-reliance, a discovery of one’s singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice, and change. Unhappily my explanations of this sequence of personal development were often misinterpreted to mean “Get stoned and abandon all constructive activity”.


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