Free-Range Chicken Syndrome
"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek." - Joseph Campbell
"You know what a free-range chicken is," the farmer asked me with a knowing smile on his lips.
"We keep chickens in the coop through their infancy. During the chicken's adolescence a door is opened which allows her to walk into a tiny open-air courtyard. But here's the thing: They never walk in. The chicken is so accustomed to living inside confinement that the courtyard seems like a scary, unfamiliar place."
Initially this conversation cemented my understanding that the marketplace is a unfeeling entity, prone to deception, which doesn't hesitate to capitalize on consumer goodwill. Recently, sitting beside a coffee table loaded with beer bottles and cocaine, I glimpsed a deeper parallel.
I had met the guy on the rooftop. We were both renting AirBnB's in the building. He was lonely and wanted company. In his apartment he spoke of the women he'd conquered and mentioned his sister was a slut for dating a few actors as she climbed the Bollywood ladder. He compared cocaine quality around the world as he chopped lines on his coffee-table. He asked about my favorite drug.
"Judging by quantity of consumption it would be caffeine," I answered, "but the substance which has given me the best experience is magic mushrooms."
"What does it do?" He asked leaning forward eagerly, a large Kingfisher beer in his grip, powder on his nose.
"It turns off all the filters. You see and experience everything. You're ego begins to diminish as the feeling of connection with everything else grows."
"Oh!.." He exclaimed flopping back in his seat, waving a cigarette, "No thanks. Beer and cocaine for me. I'm an alcohol and cocaine kind of guy."
I was surprised by his reaction, but now I realize what I told him. I told him that a doorway would open in his coop and he would be nudged outside under the open sky, star-lit galaxies stretching to infinity. Like the free-range chicken, he found the idea terrifying.
There is a reason why sitting in front of Netflix with a glass of wine sounds much more appealing than a multi-day meditation retreat. It's no coincidence that millions of people are drinking beer right now watching sports, while only a handful sit in psychedelic ceremony**. We've all been raised in the coop. Our limiting beliefs, fears, insecurities, and shame mixes with society's morality, norms, and materialistic values to create the walls. Our frail grip on identity is the interior decoration. Pharmaceuticals, alcohol, and mindless entertainment make us more tolerant of this confine. A spiritual journey leads to the exit.
** This reason, it must be clarified, is not physical safety as research has shown alcohol to be a more physically dangerous drug.
Disclaimer: Psychedelics are unlike recreational drugs. They belong in a separate category. Always do your homework before taking a journey being especially mindful of "set and setting". To learn more about humanities ancient relationship to magic mushrooms, tune into Road Less Traveled Season 4 where we visit the Huautla natives who kept these secret ceremonies alive as they were lost to the western world.
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