But listen to the color of your dreams

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

John 12:1-3

I’ve never taken psychedelic drugs, at least not recreationally. I have been under anesthesia a couple of times, and I know they sometimes use Ketamine for that, but the last time I got knocked out “I Just Called to Say I Love You” was in heavy rotation on Nashville’s Y107 FM, so it seems unlikely that Special K was the passed gas of choice. But even if it was, I don’t know anyone who gets an appendectomy as a form of recreation, so my point still stands.

And just to be clear, I’m not saying that, aside from those six weeks in Troop 1, I was any kind of Boy Scout. My concerns were less scrupulous and more fearful about the boogeyman that might be lurking in my unconscious mind. Since my youth I have found the boogeyman, and he is me, but now the time and energy it might take to explore a psychedelic journey seems better spent on watching The Shawshank Redemption for the 4,237th time. I’m really fun at parties.

Probably not as much fun as John, Paul, George, and Ringo back in the day though. (Ok, not as much fun as John and Ringo if it’s all guys, just Ringo if women are present.) Presumably much like all of their contemporaries, the Fab Four clearly took experimental journeys, counting every mile of railroad track. The outcome of that era was, of course, some genre-defining music, and I will defend the hypothesis that the Beatles’ “Revolver” is the best alternative rock album ever made at least until I listen to Uncle Tupelo’s “No Depression” again next week.

What I cannot know by any measure of personal experience is whether or not the last track on that album is really the best song ever to capture what an LSD trip feels like. I am willing to go with one critic’s take that “Tomorrow Never Knows” is the most successful “rendering into a different mode of experience of the internal psychedelic condition in such a way as to make it make sense to any human listener.” If that is true, then there is something in the experience being communicated that I can absolutely identify with.

I have heard — from people, from NPR stories, from around — that the psychedelic experience can connect people with a sense of wonder and awe that they had previously been unable to access or had lost as the result of a traumatic experience. That’s why Ketamine has been used in a clinical setting for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. Combat veterans for instance, having seen what they have seen, might find it difficult to believe in or experience awe and wonder in the world. The same might be true for a woman who has witnessed her beloved brother’s death, mourned him deeply, and then seen him inexplicably returned to life.

How, in words, can she start to make some sense of all of this? Mary, the brother of Lazarus, probably could not. What words are available to her? Maybe she, like the mop-tops of Liverpool, had to follow a different course:

Turn off your mind
Relax, and float downstream
It is not dying
It is not dying

I’m not implying that Mary was on some kind of psychedelic substance when she wiped her hair across Jesus’ feet, but I do see a connect between her experience in his presence and the experience that is captured in “Tomorrow Never Knows”.

Mary sees something in Jesus, or perhaps knows something about Jesus, that none of the other disciples have yet grasped. She understands that every word he has said about being betrayed and executed is not metaphorical. She also understands that, just as her brother Lazarus’s tomb now stands empty, so will the one of the man that she is anointing, the Christ. In those moments when she was sitting at his feet, not helping her sister Martha in the kitchen like she should have, Mary has seen Jesus and all of his story fully and completely. And she is in awe.