Notices for the the DC Psychedelic Society started popping up for me on Facebook sometime in early 2017. When I first saw these notices, I was curious, but hesitant–I wasn’t sure what to expect from a psychedelic society.
Finally, one Saturday afternoon, I decided to make the 45-minute drive out to the Takoma Park library to attend a meeting. I half-expected that it would just be a few college bros hanging out, getting stoned and playing video games.
However, I was pleasantly surprised: I found a small room filled with people who were full of questions, experiences and knowledge. I was able to share my experiences, and people were genuinely interested in what I had to say. I listened to other people’s experiences with plant medicines, and realized how much ordinary people like me had benefited from these medicines, often just working on their own and not as part of any formal ceremony. From that very first meeting, I knew that the DCPS was a community that I wanted to be a part of.
And in my view, community is what the DCPS is all about. Community is something that we don’t get a lot of these days, and we all suffer because of that. Why is commmunity so difficult to find? What is community, anyway?
Community is a network of people who rise above their own personal needs and desires to connect with and support others. And we need this–we need this mutual connection and support. Over the last three years, I have met many people who are struggling, whether from depression, anxiety, trauma or other issues. Many of these people are looking to psychedelics and plant medicines to overcome their suffering so they can live full, happy lives. Both community and psychedelics support well-being, and when we combine the two, we create an environment where physical, emotional and spiritual health can flourish.
Over the last hundred years or so, many communities in the United States have broken down–people are more transient now, family networks have become looser and traditional communities such as churches have faded in importance. This is where the machine-like logic of capitalism has led us–when corporate profit becomes the most important driver in society, human communities are neglected. We have bigger TVs and air-conditioned homes, but in large part we enjoy these luxuries alone.
Psychedelic societies have been popping up across the United States and beyond for the last several years, and these communities offer an alternative to this social breakdown. One important thing that psychedelics do–at least for most people–is connect them to their bodies, their feelings and their hearts. For many years, I thought that I had to accomplish certain things to feel good–I had to make a certain income, have a certain title, own a nice house. If I didn’t have these things, I had no value in my own eyes.
My work with small doses of ayahuasca reconnected me to my own heart, and I realized the vanity of those shallow motivations. I realized that the connections I have with other people–and the connection I have with myself–is more important than any job title or six-figure salary.
When we connect to ourselves, to our own hearts, then and only then can we truly connect with others and come together as a healthy community. I hold onto the hope that psychedelic community–whether in the form of psychedelic societies or some other form, such as the Brazilian ayahuasca churches–will help lead us–all of us, not just the privileged few–to a new form of economic and social organization that places families and individuals above corporations, and love and compassion above profit and competition. Now, this represents one type of community, based on respect and equality for all people, regardless of skin color, religion, gender or anything else.
We need to be aware, however, that unfortunately community is not always a good thing. Community can be used to exclude as well as to include. Many thinkers of the early twentieth century saw fascism as a way for people to rise above their individual needs in support of the race or the state, and in doing so, to transcend their own selfish desires as they become subsumed into something greater. Of course, fascism was and is nothing more than a cynical ploy by deeply insecure men to coerce others into giving them power.
Today–right now–we have a choice between these two types of communities, and that choice now is starker–and the stakes are greater–than at any time in several generations.
It is a historical irony that this November we have on the ballot both the decriminalization of plant medicines in the District of Columbia and the choice between democracy and fascism for the nation. So many people are pushing for compassion and equality, but so many people are pushing against these values. Which vision of community will we choose? Which vision of community will you choose?
The DCPS is an infinitesimally small part of this struggle. It almost seems absurd to talk about the DCPS community and the national election at the same time. But they are connected. National and global change have to start with us, not with someone else. We all have a choice–are we going to be on the side of healing and connection, on the side of hatred and division, or are we just going to try to ignore it and let other people make the decision for us?
Whatever choice we make is political, whether we want it to be or not. Not being involved is not an option–not being involved only gives support to the deep pockets of racism and class hierarchy, the wealthy and powerful few who want you to not get involved.
I am not here today to advertise the DC Psychedelic Society. The DCPS has been important to me, personally, giving me community and connection at a time when I needed it. I have made friends and met many great people through the DC Psychedelic Society, as well through other local psychedelic societies, such as the Fairfax and Baltimore psychedelic societies. But what I am here to do, what has been my focus the last two years that I have been organizing and facilitating DCPS events, is to promote compassionate community that, I hope, will bring out a better world based on healing and connection rather than greed and division.
I do not wish to mention anyone here by name, but I want to close with a memory of one friend I met through the DCPS. He was a man well-loved in the community, and, sadly, he passed away in the summer of 2019. He had reached out to me one day that past winter, after we had a met at a few meetings, so that we could talk more about each of our own journeys with psychedelics, what we had learned from them, and the struggles we still faced ahead. Our conversations deepened my understandings of the potential of psychedelics and of healing community.
His memorial service was held in a beautiful, natural setting, full of people who loved and cared for him. This was a beautiful, although sad, example of the love and connection that come through compassionate and respectful community. I personally wish I had had more opportunity to get to know him better, and I’m sure many other people feel the same way.
Finally, I wish to say that I am no leader. I believe in community, and I believe in this community. I believe in the power of psychedelics, especially, but not limited to, plant medicine. People sometimes see me as the face or the voice of the DC Psychedelic Society, but only because I have had the free time and the desire to organize meetings and lead discussions. But that is something any of us can do, if we have the time.
I do not think that, in 2020, a white male in his 40s is necessarily the best person to lead the community forward, but I will certainly help to do so, as well as I can. But I invite others to lead us forward, too. In fact, I invite others to replace me. Diversity of backgrounds is one of our greatest strengths, so I invite you, if you have something to say, if you have an idea to promote healing and connection, if you want to initiate and lead conversations–please reach out to me or Vince, and you can lead or help to lead the DC Psychedelic Society into this new decade.