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by Dylan Boyer

Killing the Buddha and Eating Him 



-Kathy Acker


The summer was feral. Slusarz was in town, and we went with Matt to meet a dealer halfway and pick up ten grams of mushrooms. When we went back to Matt’s place we sat beneath an umbrella beside the backyard pool, snug in the mid-August heat where we ate the Penis Envy and watched the clouds billowing cotton through the pale wide ascending blue and the wind that we couldn’t see moving through the thickly green branches of the trees beyond the fence, the water of the pool clear and lapping and rippling with the gentle but firm breeze. A few weeks earlier I’d had a ketamine infusion, a tune-up following a breakdown in Tulsa, some five months or so after my second round of treatment with tablets. During those sessions I made a lot of progress. I slowly began to learn how to detach thoughts from feelings, to center myself in a space between emotion and reason; I began to feel the capacity for self-love that had been for so long full of rotten emptiness. There had been an encounter with an entity that my mind labeled “god” despite my materialist/atheist mindset, and there had been experiences with pure and joyful gratitude and appreciation for life and all its workings. In a doctor’s office with a needle sticking from my hand, I cried out of joy and relief for the first time in my life. These experiences had opened me up to a remaining potential for recovery despite the stalled feeling I’d been having; the intravenous tune-up in July of 2022 gave me the boost I needed to push past some uncomfortable events and maintain a grip on a sobriety that could only be regarded as tenuous.

Ketamine and mushrooms produce very different varieties of hallucination (while LSD is a whole different beast altogether), and although I have used psilocybin in a recreational setting (Lionel Richie had three mouths), I don’t recommend treating either substance as anything other than medicine – considering their potential for psychological healing and change, they are weighty chemicals that should not be regarded lightly, while also standing importantly and quite clearly apart from mere “drugs.” Think of them as lenses. The former is considerably shorter in duration (one hour compared to four or five), but sometimes stronger in effect; ketamine opened the curtains shading some of the windows in my mind that I hadn’t the capacity to open myself – it comes on like an internal wave, or like dropping gradually into a current that is usually inaccessible to oneself, fastmoving and clear and rich with the calmly ineffable; psilocybin, on the other hand, crawls over its subject  from the inside out like an interdimensional mold, and once it has taken a taken a fusing grip to you, you are in its thrall and there is nowhere to disappear to but everywhere at once. Both ketamine and psilocybin deserve bits of credit for facilitating my recovery from both addiction and mental illness; they provide the temporary flexibility necessary to begin working important cognitive muscles – the exercising of fingers fine enough of tissue and bone to dig into the cleaves in knots of thought and unravel them like coiled parasites wrapped up in the mind; malleability is a choice that is not always made willingly, and sometimes even when the will is there, it’s not enough. Sometimes a shock to the system is needed, an attack not simply on the structure but on the foundation of the Self as one perceives and presents it.

That day the dose had to be somewhere around an eighth each – we didn’t weigh the dried caps and stems, eyeballing amounts in our sweaty palms. It came on slow. Matt, Slusarz and I watched the water until it began to shimmer like a big puddle of sky, and we waded in and spun and dipped through the cool clear blue as our movements further undulated and lapped the water at the edges of what had begun to seem like the membrane of a cell, the three of us bounding back and forth in a vat of cytoplasm; we swam and watched the trees which began just beyond the fence, their canopies crawling in the temperate wind that pulled sideways over the earth in gusts that I began to feel the atmospheric height of as I bobbed in the weightless chlorine jelly, cool and blue.  Beginning to lose my sense of different kinds of matter (air and water, for instance), I swam to the concrete wall of the pool and hung onto the lip of it. Slusarz looked at me and I gazed back and through them, and I made a confused face and said

– Dogs with… human feet?

It was not long afterwards that we decided that getting out of the pool was a good idea.

We sat in patio chairs, wrapped in beach towels and dripping wet shadows onto the concrete. As we sat, smoked, and talked, I gradually grew quiet – my friends were under the impression that I was just in a daze, and in a sense they were right – what I could not communicate was that my sense of the meaning of words had detached itself from the sound of them. I could recall simple phrases or clusters of words, standard responses, and conversational niceties, but I had no clue what any of it meant, and so I went mute. It was in this silence, this absence of language, that I began to see the web of Being begin to stretch out in front of me like a nervous system growing itself out in its multitudinous spindles and branches and weavings of gossamer and foliage, hair and blood. Every living thing – plant, mammal, insect, parasite, Water Bear – presented itself before me as a leaf on a humungous tree; this sense of connectedness was utter and whole. I immediately lost all grip on history, social norms, and cultural contexts, and what I thought of as my Self no longer had any borders, or if it did then they were porous – I felt a deep, familial understanding of other creatures flow through me, and I found myself to be inseparable from the whole of Being as time dilated past its borders, and I suddenly became unsure if I’d been alive for thousands of years, or simply decades; space became just more air to move through on the nervous circuit, and I found myself somewhere in Southeast China for a few moments,  pinballing through spacetime as – with time and space having grown malleable if not inconsequential – I began to remember the concept of Death. I looked down at my tendril veils standing out clear through my cool pale gooseflesh and I began to realize that I had drowned; perhaps all three of us had. I panicked; I stood and quickly changed still dripping into my clothes before fleeing Matt’s backyard and wandering out into the neighborhood; the sun was slowly going down and I knew I had to go somewhere, and so I decided to follow the sun since that was a sentiment that I remembered. After maybe five minutes of this, something in me clicked, and I began to do a beeline back to my house, wandering with a mind wiped of any semblance of Self – a puppet skittering automatically towards some instinct of safety – stopping only once to examine a neighbor’s mailbox with genuine curiosity. Believing I was dead, my mind had evacuated itself. It was as though I had done a “factory reset,” to put it one way; I could not recall any information whatsoever, moving and acting on instinct and muscle memory alone.

The rest of the night and into the following day was a prolonged exercise in rediscovery – I remember walking up to the microwave and being unsure how it worked, and deciding to just let my hands move and push buttons with the confidence that it would come back, and it did. I remember being guided through a grocery store by Slusarz as I marveled at my rediscovery of distinction and diversity of life and matter, beginning to ground my understanding that there are discreet things in the world (like apples or bread or Pringles) and expressing this as – Look at just how many different things there really are! And every one of them has a name! while Slusarz wondered if I needed to be taken to the hospital. I remember asking my friends questions about my life the next morning, still fully amnesiac, and being confused at their confusion when I asked them if I was a good person:

– We can’t tell you that, they said.

I respect that answer.

After maybe thirty-six hours, when I’d recovered enough to convey any of this in a way that made sense, I felt as though I’d shed something. I’d relearned what words like “depression” and “paranoia” meant, but I could not relate to them, could not find any part of myself that identified with them; of course, this didn’t last, but for several days to a week I felt a quietly strong elation glowing through my life. While this nearly overwhelming aura of joy, gratitude, and calm awe eventually subsided, I retained its roots, the knots and curls and trestles of the sort of Being that even in my grimmest days of illness I knew was buried beneath a thick mantle of scar tissue through which these coils of light now threaded to brace me as I bent to the work of healing myself, of picking back the calloused dead flesh with my thumbnail in a pinch and digging through the dead-matter that I had massed around my heart under the guise of muscle. It took another year of dialectical behavioral therapy, medication adjustments, white knuckling, night drives, sweats cold and hot, irresponsible amounts of coffee and nicotine, and six more variations of the Ego Death experience to drag me fully into recovery. As of now I’m laying off psychedelics indefinitely.

The occasions of “dying” that I experienced between my first Ego Death and the last were in equal measure profound, terrifying, and transformative; my fiancé has seen pictures of me from the days before my first brush with ego death and from the days immediately following, and she says she can see a difference in my eyes.

– They’re darker, before, she says.

Maybe it’s the lighting, but she isn’t wrong.

The last time that I experienced Ego Death, she was there with me; I meant to take a light dose, but as I was subsumed into the mushroom haze, I forgot what the little dried pieces were and found myself idly munching through the rest of the eighth. By the time I realized what was happening, it was too late to do anything but prepare her for it.

– I’ll likely lose the ability to speak, and I might not know where or who I am, I said.  –  I might get confused or scared. This has all happened before, though; I know how to navigate this and I’ll be OK.

I managed these words as I simultaneously found it more difficult to move my mouth. For the next three hours I drifted in and out of fugues of Self; I remember watching a childhood memory unfold in a litany of variations as though I were watching alternate universes play out – I remember losing everything my mind tried to hold onto; just as before, history and biography ran through and out of my mind like it was a broken sieve. I remember becoming overwhelmed with horror, clenching my right index finger with my teeth and feeling almost unable to keep my eyes open, growing gradually convinced that I had bitten my finger off and bled to death.  I remember thinking that my fiancé would abandon me after bearing witness to the mad circuitry of my mind. I remember her folding her arms around me and bringing me back to rest against her as my eyes turned to the roof, the thunder rustling there above us, and lightning flicked white through the high-ceilinged windows of that boxy warehouse apartment. I remember growing peacefully unsure, as she held me, where she ended and I began.

I never forgot who she was.


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