tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE's Reviews > Jail Notes

Jail Notes by Timothy Leary
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bookshelves: drugs, philosophy

I'll never forget seeing Timothy Leary on tv when I was around 13. He was wearing flowing white clothes of a vaguely Indian cut, sitting outside under a tree on a sunny day, &, obviously (even to my inexperienced self of the time), in a state of profound expanded consciousness presumably under the influence of LSD. This wd've been around 1966 or '67. I assume he was being interviewed about being a 'drug guru'. That part I don't remember. He was clearly a highly intelligent person & I was deeply impressed - mainly by the glow of his face. Several yrs later he was in prison when he was arrested b/c his daughter was caught in possession of marijuana when they were reentering the US from Mexico. Or something like that.

How often do we get to read a highly literate acct of being in prison? Leary escaped & went to Northern Africa. For me, Leary was a genius &.. a fool. From the government's prespective, a very dangerous person. Leary managed to lead a long & fruitful life free of many of the neurosises that inhibit most people. Alas, he also provided mass encouragement to experiment w/ drugs that many people cdn't handle. Leary's foolishness lay in taking it for granted that people cd handle whatever he cd. A militant communist friend of mine disliked Leary b/c he'd heard that he'd been a snitch to save himself from more jail time. Then there were rumors that Leary had only told the Feds outdated & useless info. Whatever the case, I smell Cointelpro disinformation here. In other words, whatever Leary might or might not've done along those lines, I'll trust HIM long before I'll trust a rumor. "Jail Notes" isn't only concerned w/ Leary's personal predicament. He writes about fellow prisoners:

"PLIGHT COLLAR CRIME

Each day stories heartbreaking cruel and sad.

At lunch. Beautiful young black haired boy of nineteen.

At Newport Pop Festival, Cops started a riot. Long-haired kid threw rock cop and fell on its nose. Cops started search. In parking lot didn't know there was riot. Cops came up and said, "That's the one." Booked for assault on police officer with dangerous weapon. When cop gets wounded thits really go all out to hang it on someone. Have no money and father believed cops. Father hated hippies. Kid had public de-mender talked to him for less than five minutes. Got five to life. So depressed, bleak, incredulous, stunned, disbelieving, dazed sorrow that him story had to be true. Five years before gets to see the parole board. Five years. Age nineteen to twenty-four."

Grammatical, spelling, & punning peculiarities are Leary's. This is, of course, the type of story that the general public shd know more about. In a letter reproduced in the bk from April 7, 1970, Leary writes:

"You recall that while at Harvard we took LSD over 30 times in prison with long-term inmates. There is a lot more that I can do to liberate. The solution to society's problem is prisoner liberation. (The classic jargon of penology - punishment, reform, rehabilitation - is nonsense. We must all be liberated on both sides of the bars.)"

I agree w/ Leary completely about this & I'm grateful for his clear expression. Alas, such a liberation might've seemed likely to happen thru massive ingestion of consciousness-expanding substances but that's just as foolish as any other pill-popping solution. Life is far too complex for something so convenient & society is far too entrenched for an escape from its prison to be an easy matter. Leary cd escape & I honor him for that but what about the rest of us?!
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
December 1, 1976 – Finished Reading
April 12, 2008 – Shelved
April 12, 2008 – Shelved as: drugs
April 12, 2008 – Shelved as: philosophy

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