I admit that I was and still effectively am a Deadheaded individual.
(Conjuring an image of "deadheading" dead roses on the bush so that their rotting petal flesh fragments can feed the soil that feeds the plant.)
Jerry Garcia was not the leader of the band but he was the leader of a massive, singular focus of minds when he plucked a string that amplified a ripple-cum-wave washing over thousands of bodies all
at the same exact moment in time.
There really was nothing like a Grateful Dead Concert.
And you didn't have to be there, you have to be here, where it's all happening. Calmly undistracted and focused on the present moment of experience.
Jerry Garcia was a Bodhisattva born of, and for the renaissance of psychedelic technology. Born in the midst of rebellion against a coalescing oppression of drying blood on the streets of America and in the rice paddies lined killing fields of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, Garcia didn't pull our focus, he fashioned it into wings to fly our minds like Icarus, like Peter Pan, to the Forever-Everland that surrounds this one.
Garcia was the cheerful pilot reassuring us with his lilted voice to hold on tight, that this was going to be a bumpy right but in the end everything would be alright.
And he was right.
It was bumpy. My college years were bumpy. My experiments with psychedelic were bumpy. My discovery of myself as being so much smaller and so much bigger than I ever saw myself to be, was bumpy. Having to shed, sometimes so painfully it was more like skinning myself alive, the preconceptions, the outmoded categories and values, the emotional attachments to false loves and self indulgences that were blinding me to the truth of who I really am.
I am the eyes of the world, I am the ripple in still water, I am the runaway train with my monkey as the engineer, once in awhile I get shown the light in the strangest of places when I look at it right. And you know that notion just crossed your mind.
Garcia's ability to articulate a penetrating, piercing, peal guitar through the improvised chaos of the bass, drums and rhythm was like being led by Virgil through the darkest wood.
Like a sonic beacon through the mechanical labyrinth of my newly discovered mind. The humility of intelligence, the prankster trickster who's not in control of any special power or knowledge, he just knows that no one is in control and that literally ANYTHING can happen next. So he lives as such and what he expresses is the wisdom the experience of living on the literal edge of the moment brings.
Garcia was no saint, he was better.
He was a Mensch.
He was the toothy kid on the album cover with a rainbow ice cream cone stuck on his head.
Alfred E. Newman on acid.
Or was Alfred E. Newman always on acid anyway?
Garcia personified compassion because he was just like "us", stumbling, flawed, bozos without enough change to ride the bus.
And all of us, we all did, all of us kept on trucking.
I am non spiritual. Yet in my life I have had the fortune to meet with a few who others consider spiritual teachers.
One of the Dali Lamas (at Oakes College, UCSC),
Krishnamurti, (sitting under an oak tree in a field outside Santa Barbara),
Thich Nhat Hanh (A 3 hour symposium at the Friends Hall Quaker Center in London),
Ram Dass, (at my university's psychedelic conference in honour of guest speaker Albert Hoffman.
I would add Jerry Garcia as a teacher in my life or at least the hip boy scout leader who knew where all the good rocks and dangerous spots to climb were.
I was at that psychedelic conference attended by Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, Ram Das and John C. Lilly, with my college freshman roommate Cliff Gerrish who later took me to my first Grateful Dead concert.
I had no idea what to expect except that I hoped that they might play songs as good as the Beatles.
I remember turning to Cliff Gerrish after hearing Garcia and the Dead perform their first set for the first time at Winterland.
I said "you know, I don't think they can actually play their instruments very well"
"That's the point," Cliff replied.
I got the point, but I'm still trying to get it everyday.
I guess each of us can play our instruments better when we practice.