In the video below, the legendary lyrical freak of the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, recounts the time he dubiously took a scoop of frosting off of a big, beautiful birthday cake backstage before a performance. Moments after relishing in the frosting someone walks in to inform the people backstage that the birthday cake editors had 800 hits of acid dropped in the frosting. In the middle-late sixties Jerry no longer enjoyed performing while tripping ridiculously. It was no longer fun due to the fact that once the tripper is tripping, there is no button they can press to make the trip stop. The tripper is in it for the long-haul (Keep Truckin').
Jerry began to enter a steep, slippery state of unwarranted paranoia. As his surroundings started to distort and disintegrate into visions of liquid and auditory roaring the paranoid notion that the place was full of ill-intentioned mafia gangsters trying to kill him began to take root. As he and the members of the Grateful Dead were walking out on stage Jerry remorsefully realized that he was going to die. As he came to this ultra-paranoid realization, he thought to himself the only thing he can do at that point was to play for his life. So on that dreadful night he played for his life and to his confused astonishment the mafia gangsters decided to let him live! From that point on, anytime he questioned what or why he was doing what he did, Jerry would simply play for his life.
Clearly, as this anecdotal evidence from a legend suggests, although extremely unpleasant, instances of extreme paranoia can be looked back on as animated life lessons. Despite how ridiculous it might seem to seriously consider the validity of paranoia (especially while in a dialogue with a schizophrenic), the exaggerated levels of these abnormal states of mind might offer us an experience that can be processed into elevated levels of understanding, empathy, motivation, even wisdom. These attributes can be invaluable tools for therapists, medics, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, and mental health assistants in the medical field, underground scene or at the festival scene (i.e. Kosmicare and Zendo Project).
My model for playing is based on the psychedelic experience, also. When I go on stage what am I trying to accomplish? Okay, here's the story...
We were playing at the old Filmore in the middle-late sixties along with the Flaming Groovies. Some of the bands that were happening back at that the time.
This guy who was sort of a famous freak who ran around the scene in those days, comes in and he has this big birthday cake. He's got this huge, big birthday cake. And I think "that things gotta be dosed. I know it's dosed."
I'm looking at it and looking at it, and looking at it. But it looks good! I'll just take a little of the frosting here. I'll just take a little snack. So I took this and then someone comes in and says,"Yeah we put about 800 hits of acid in that frosting."
And I go, "D'oh, ohhhhh God, oh Jesus Christ I'm going to be totally wiped out."
By this time I didn't enjoy playing under the influence of psychedelics because I didn't have the freedom to quit when I wanted to. It's not really fun to play when you don't have options. It wasn't something I was looking forward to.
And it keeps getting later, and later, and later, and I'm coming on. The place is swimming and I start to hear the overhear of people. And I'm going off in this paranoid space. God, this place is full of mafia guys and they're all trying to kill me. I got that notion in my head. This guy comes in and he looks exactly like a mafia guy. And he says, "here you want something to drink?"
And I thought, "poison! No, no, no, no thanks.
I'm waiting there, thinking, shit, this is my last night on earth. It's like everyone is armed to their teeth and they're all trying to kill me.
Shit, this is it. I'm convinced of this now... Still in this psychedelic roar. So we go out on stage to go and play and I go out there and play and thought, oh, Jesus, what have I done to deserve this? I'm going to go out there and play and they're going to fucking kill me.
The only thing I can think of to do, I say, okay, I'm juat gonna play for my life. I'm going to play for my life, that's what I am going to do. And so I played for my life and they let me live! Haha
Ever since then I thought that works for me, is to play for my life. So when I forget what I'm doing or why I'm doing it, I play for my life.