Hello! Here you'll find comments on the afterlife of Timothy Leary - his impact on our culture and his portrayal in the media. Consider this a continuation of the biography 'I Have America Surrounded - The Life of Timothy Leary', by John Higgs with a foreword by Winona Ryder.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Anti-Leary Sentiment Discussed in a Nice Italian Restaurant

Timothy Leary is scum, a worthless despicable arsehole, and that must be true for it says so in the papers. You don’t even need to read the bodies of the reviews of Robert Greenfield’s recent book about Tim to find this out, even their titles hate him – see for example ‘Timothy Liar’ (LA Weekly), ‘The Nutty Professor’ (New York Times) or ‘Timothy Bleary’ (LA Times).

Now, it’s not really my place to comment on Greenfield’s book, but I don’t think it’s unprofessional of me to mention that it somewhat on the negative side, and that it has made a lot of people who knew Leary extremely upset. Many have decided that it is best not to detail their complaints publicly, hoping this will help starve the book of the oxygen of publicity (although there have been some exceptions, such as Zach Leary’s eloquent letter in the New York Times). Nevertheless, I thought the following recent conversation was interesting enough to report.

I recently had a meal in London’s Soho with Joanna Harcourt-Smith and Brian Barritt, two people who had lived with Leary long enough to really know him and be under no illusions about what he was like. Both have good reason to be 'anti-Leary' - particularly Joanna. But both recognize that he was responsible for connecting people to a much larger world, and that such an ability is so rare and precious that all the complaints about him don’t even begin to eclipse it. It was not long before the conversation turned to the subject of just why is it that some people hate Tim so much. And it was the ‘hate’ that was interesting, for anti-Leary sentiment is rarely a simple mocking dismissal, it is usually much a stronger emotion than that.

Joanna thought it was significant that bulk of the vitriol seems to come from men of a certain age. Was it the case, she wondered, that these were men who’s lives had gone very differently to how they wanted, and that the sheer strength of their hatred for Tim reflected an awareness that he symbolizes something that they have lost and need to deny that they had ever even glimpsed? This possibility reminded me of the Jungian interpretation of the type of story classed as ‘tragedy’, in which the people that the doomed protagonist destroys are personifications of the very elements of his own psyche that he is failing to integrate into his life, and in doing so is prevented from ‘becoming whole’ by integrating his ego into the Self.

To which Brian replied that this was all very well, and could well be true for all he knew, but it doesn’t change the fact that some people are basically fucking idiots.

Brian Barritt has a way with words, it must be said. I wonder if I can persuade him to start a blog?


Blogger moshido said...

Hallucinogens and Medicine

It's been four decades since Timothy Leary started to explore the spiritual side of drugs like LSD and mushrooms. Now, after years of neglect, hallucinogens are attracting the interest of a growing number of researchers. Join the Kojo Nnamdi Show on NPR for a look at hallucinogenic drugs and their therapeutic potential. Guests: Dr. Roland Griffiths, Charles S. Grob, Robert Greenfield, author of the questionable recent biography of Timothy Leary.


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