Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues


          New Year’s greetings are past, Resolutions already broken, and the Year of Our Lord 2020 will be as messy as the last.

          To re-set expectations, comedian Ricky Gervais at the recent Golden Globes cared not a fig for the pompous array of egos before him and gave the world of celebrity a dose of what it needed most: humility—a reminder that, as he said, what they were about to hear were JOKES, for god’s sake, and since all those gathered would be dead soon enough, they’d best lighten up and stop taking themselves so seriously. Amen to that. Celebrities are our way of re-creating royalty despite giving it up when we left the Brits, but none of those who stride down Red Carpets will last as long as Queen Liz: new hunks and chicks are ever ready to take their places on the path of brief fame and fortune.

          The holidays past should remind us that the whole of our winter solstice is about the return of the sun, first noticed not by shepherds on Judean hillsides but by ancients long before, who feared the disappearing orb in the sky would depart forever and leave them as “people lost in darkness.” Imagine their delight when the source of heat, life and nourishment came back each cycle of seasons, making them the lucky ones who “saw a great light,” from whence cometh the notion.

          Early Christians deemed it advisable to co-opt that pagan date of celebration as their own, but all those other religions that also celebrate the returning light are totally legitimate—and one can do worse than to glory in that great source: take away the sun and, guess what: no life, and no religion too. Sobering thought.

          Then there was the death of Ram Dass (nee Richard Alpert) and, on its heels, the news that psychedelics are being re-discovered as beneficial to science and mental well-being. When I interviewed Alpert, a celebrity in his own right (and equally flawed), a select little group met him at an airport before leaving us for what became a long night.

          The ambiance was as reverent as if God had arrived, and continued to my time with him as he sat cross-legged on the floor and devoured oranges. One must grab as much time with a subject till his real self appears, and in the wee hours he became a Jewish boy from Newton, MA slapping his knee and laughing hysterically while dissing other notables of the time who also owned followings among the impressionable young: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, leader of Transcendental Meditation, but whose title, Alpert informed me, meant that he was only a “secretary” to another holy man in his native land; that Werner Erhard of “est” fame who called people “a—h—-s” to break down their personal and social conditioning—done also in the Marines, where the process is longer and harsher—and who though well-meaning had “still to find his real spiritual core,” quoth my guest; and Maharaj Ji who, I was assured, was but a power-seeking teenager. These were but three among many. A good time was had by all, viz., both of us—while I prayed that a film crew might show up.

         ’Twas a sad moment when I inquired of Tim Leary, his pal at Harvard in the psychedelic movement but who came to think of Alpert what the newly-minted baba thought of the gentry noted above, a when Ram Dass went to visit Tim in prison, the latter refused to see him and our room fell quiet again at recount of that occasion.

          Now wouldn’t you know that the acid trip is making a comeback in science labs, per a feature in the Sunday Globe. In truth, what may have set back real research was people like Alpert and Leary who sensationalized it and it fell into hands of the reckless and irresponsible, thereby scaring the hell out of polite society, that in turn called for its banishment. Sadly, they also called for incarceration of the young for lesser drugs while adults continued to abuse their pals Jim Beam and I.W. Harper.

          So things that can be beneficial to us are what we fight most harshly against; and what is most harmful is most warmly embraced. Dare any of us say the place of alcohol in society is on balance a good thing? Its cost is more than the other top ten drugs put together. But movies about the era portray its movement to the mainstream as romantic, featuring always silver screen studs of the moment.

           A researcher scoured my oral and written archives over a 20-year career elsewhere and allowed that my most frequent target was celebrity as the thing most corrosive of society—to which I plead guilty, given that around that crowd swirls all that we should love to hate: lives of excess, including alcohol and other drugs; the smoke-and-mirrors that lead us to think that others’ lives are better and happier than ours; the portrayal of violence as important to the redemption of all life situations; and the acceptance of movie scripts as actual history.

          Be sure we can count on this year as being more of the same. Wacky New Year one and all!


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