Twice Dead


Categories: Writing Ayahuasca

                      When I was done dying,
                      my conscious regained
                      So I began the struggle,
                      a nothingness strained
                            - Dan Deacon

I arrived at my new school, the me that I had been. I was the gregarious, hilarious, obnoxious, tenacious and wild-haired new kid. And I started off with a bang.

The role of the ‘new kid’ presented a fun challenge. My mission: Make new friends and entertain more people. It was my time to shine. Or, so I thought.

Despite my optimistic wishes, the reality of the pack and the hidden cruelty of hierarchal younglings presented itself.

One day a much larger boy known for his size and passion for Brazilian Ju-Jitsu approached me. He had a smaller, smirking, freckle-faced crony at his side.

“Tell me a joke,” he said.

Not one to shy away from an opportunity to conjure a smile, I performed the most impressive joke in my repertoire. The sure thing. But, alas, no laughter came.

“…That was not funny…”

Silence followed.

“Now [OTHER_BOY]… you tell me a joke.”

The freckles tells a joke.

The intimidating Brazilian guffaws, a hearty and earnest chuckle.

“Well, it looks like you are not funny… [OTHER_BOY] is really funny.”

And so it was. Death to the funny boy. But being funny is who I am, I thought.

If I am not the funny boy, then which boy am I? The question plagued me.

It planted doubt, deep inside. Over time, I learned to become a different boy. I became the computer boy, the hockey boy, the quiet one. I grew up, as kids do, and changed. Bittersweet, and sad. But not yet my first death.

In 2009, I was three years removed from High School. More a man than a boy, but still ever-changing in the confusion of early adulthood. As reproductive and social strategies failed, newer and bolder ones took their place, over and over again. And in the throes of change, one day, everything changed.

After a whirlwind of uninspired, unfocused and uninteresting attempts at post-secondary education, I went through a series of moves. I relocated from my family home to a shared townhome, back into my family home, into a different townhome, into a basement suite, and onto a friend’s couch.

It was chaos, a once stable life ripping at the seams. Until, at long last, as a reward for holding down a stable job, I earned my own apartment with a room-mate. Freedom, at last.

My few things were moved within an hour. I plunked my mattress onto the floor, arranged my clothes in the closet, and put my computer onto a desk. I stepped into the shower. I started washing my hair. And then I broke into pieces.

A personality is what we show to the world. It is us, our self: me, I. The personality is our story of who we believe ourselves to be. How are our personalities created? Through experiences, through time.

The beautiful machine of gray matter within our skull computes this self-narrative with impressive consistency. It creates your presence, the abiding belief that you are you, a living thing, whole, attached, here, relevant and alive. It is vast and powerful, yet not immune to failure. In the shower that day, for me, the system crashed.

In an instant, there was no character. There was no self. No personality. No I. A recursive mess of null madness: self-references, referencing self-references which lack definition. The primitive gears in my mind remained alert: panic, horror, flight. Something is wrong. The system is down. I sat on the floor of the shower, water pelting my head.

Where am I? Who am I? I… I know my name. I am me. I went to this school and I was… Funny? No, I was. But I had to stop. I was… athletic? No, that was my brother. I was… smart? But what do I know? I don’t know anything. How can I be smart when I know nothing? Who is talking? Who is thinking? What is thinking? What is talking?

I remained there for what felt like an eternity. There was no time. I had no answers to these questions. There remained only a strange sense of observation and the horrified screams of my animalistic senses.

As the weeks went by, my mind slowly returned to normal. But the operating system had changed. Somewhere in the abyss of that endless shower, there had been a fundamental alteration to the underlying source code.

I now understood the existence of consciousness separate from the idea of personality, the idea of me. I had heard about these moments from books and meditative teachings. But the experience itself was pure and harrowing madness. It was psychosis, a breaking of the self. My first death.

Eternity changed me. It catalyzed a period of deep growth. I soon moved into my own apartment, this time with no roommate. I needed a deep reset. And so, I explored music. I worked on my mental health. I practiced meditation. I changed every relationship I had and became the sole owner of my life, responsible for writing my own narratives.

But, despite all this work, there was a knot. It was bleak, heavy, and afflicting. A black mass; an error, deep, deep in the code. I felt it time for the code to be re-written.

I needed help creating a better self, telling a better story. I learned of entheogen like Ayahuasca and how they can change your state of being. My journey into mind and science culminated in an experience with this ancient medicine, deep in the Amazon rainforest.

In the Amazon, I watched the entire program unfold. I saw the methods that inform the unfathomable depths and distance of space and time. I met with eternities and I spoke with the programmer. We were together, we fixed me, watching, and then I fell apart again. But the error was found, the bug eradicated, and something new written.

The self can die to madness. It can die to entheogen. It can die to deep meditation. It can die as all will do. And it is not so horrible. It is a time for growth, for change, to realize you are not this thought mess swirling around your mind. My third death, whenever it may come, may be my final death. And from it, I may never return. But I fear not, for it is only my self that will cease. I have met the pure love that exists outside of it.