OCTOBER 6, 2011 10:47AM

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Until he died this week, I never paid much attention to Steve Jobs. I was vaguely aware of the dramatic ups and down in his career, and that he was some intense guy with a vision. I was too busy working on and playing with the products he created to notice to the man behind them.

 With Steve gone that’s changed. I realize that starting with my first Mac in the late 80s, Apple products changed how I made music, and how I made money from it. How I got my information, and in turn communicated with the world – as with this blog. When I gave up composing for writing a memoir I bypassed paper and pen, typing directly into a Mac (granted, on Apple rival Bill Gates’ Word.) But by then it was second nature to use the same machine as I was writing on to jump to Google, Wikipedia or Gmail to extend my research into my past out into the world wide web.

 The man to thank for all this is Steve Jobs, including the world wide web, the first version of which was developed on his NeXT machine in 1990.

 The Times’ fine obituary  is titled “Apple’s Visionary Re-defined Digital Age.” Steve was a true visionary. He made no bones about the roots of his vision. As the Times said,  “When he graduated from high school in Cupertino in 1972, he said, ”the very strong scent of the 1960s was still there. After dropping out of Reed College, a stronghold of liberal thought in Portland, Ore., in 1972, Mr. Jobs led a countercultural lifestyle himself. He told a reporter that taking LSD was one of the two or three most important things he had done in his life.”

 A lot of people will brush past that last fact with a moment’s discomfort, then forget it. LSD to this day is a fraught subject. People fear it, and with good reason. It’s microgram for microgram the most potent drug known to man. It’s driven men and women  temporarily mad, and sometimes permanently so. As I could attest myself, it could give you experiences 1000 times scarier than the creepiest horror movie.

 LSD also inspired heavenly visions. Most of those had an annoying habit of evaporating once the drug wore off.   But some of the acid pioneers – because that’s what we saw ourselves as –brought something back to this mundane world from their trips to fantastic realms.

 Though most of my handful of trips were quite nightmarish, the first hours of the first one I experienced nothing less than a Peak Experience. When I came down I saw the world differently. Among other things I saw that the path of science my parents and grandparents had set for me was not my way, that I must instead follow my heart and become a musician.

 I was far from alone.  Many went away on acid and returned to change their lives – to give up on parents’ visions of them as lawyers, dentists or corporate executives, to work with their hands under the sun, to create music and art. To try to change this world in some way to reflect that ideal world we’d briefly glimpsed.

 Which meant to invent. That was the real promise we saw in LSD – that we could return from our trips and invent new lives for ourselves and others.

 Acid revealed that everything, and everyone in the world was connected – something the Buddha had figured out a long time ago.  Once we saw that in a chemically induced state, we wanted to see it in this sober, mundane world.

 As a young pioneer I naturally looked to my elders for guidance. In 1968 I devoured Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Trip, in which Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters painted a bus and drove it around the country. They conducted Acid Tests, and the band that played them was the Grateful Dead, lead by Jerry Garcia, “Captain Trips.”

Soon I was on a painted bus of my own, traveling with the same festival as the Dead. I spent a memorable afternoon interviewing Garcia. The Dead invented a new kind of improvisational music, in which form dissolved into the whims of the moment. It was an experiment, one which often failed. But when it succeeded it was revelatory.

 The Jefferson Airplane were five very different people who espoused anarchy as a philosophy, who rarely could agree on anything. Yet employing copious quantities of the solvent LSD over a four month period they did come together to create a psychedelic masterpiece – After Bathing At Baxters. It was marked by a dissolving of the lines that had previously existed between classical, jazz, folk and rock music.

 Mike Bloomfield of the Butterfield Blues Band did the same thing – he took acid and listened to ragas all night, then made “East-West,” one of the abiding works of the time.

 And of course there were the Beatles from Revolver to the White Album.

 Acid had given me the courage to follow my bliss and become a musician.  My psychedelic musical heroes gave me the notion of combining rock and classical music, from which I forged a successful style.

 The inventers weren’t just musicians. Stewart Brand, the Prankster who ran the Trips Festivals, created the Whole Earth Catalogue, with that famous picture from outer space of our planet as one. He and other acidheads created the ecology movement, and the notion of sustainable technologies. Andrew Weil, a cohort of Tim Leary’s Harvard, was behind the movement towards holistic approaches to medicine. Ram Dass – who as Richard Alpert was thrown out of Harvard for acid antics –wrote Be Here Now, a spiritual book which for many broke down the old barriers between Religions, opening for them new spiritual paths.

 But with his death it’s obvious that the greatest inventor of us trippers was Steve Jobs. What does his enormous legacy have to do with LSD?  Maybe nothing.  Acid has an insidious way of convincing its users of all kinds of profound truths, none of which can really be verified, because they come in the form of strong feelings, intuitions, instincts. 

 So maybe Steve was just a genius who would have done what he did regardless of LSD.  Maybe, like so many, the drug grabbed credit for what was really his doing.

Except….the world we now live in, which Steve Jobs largely was responsible for creating, and which young people take for granted, is an old acidhead’s dream.

 Political tyranny detoothed by the internet and smartphones. People exchanging information instantly around the world, for better and worse.. Artists drawing, composers composing, dreamers making their dreams real, all at the touch of a mouse.

 Whether it was hallucination, or the grace of the Buddha’s vision, we saw everything as connected.  So did Steve.

 And he made those connections happen in the real world.














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That is certainly a different take on Mr. Jobs as visionary. Thank you.
I wanted to read something different about Steve Jobs and this was it.
I too had a nightmarish time and there were no apple products coming out of my brain.. BUT he was a clever thinker and inventor and will be sorely missed.

Your insight and relationship to Mr Jobs is so fascinating to read. He would like this I am sure..
Truly different. And good.
“Only connect”? I am not sure if you are suggesting that Jobs tripped on acid or that he’d even approve of it. But it doesn’t really matter. No one did more to throw open the Doors of Perception than Jobs did. A too-short life lived more than a million of us. We can only wonder what wondrous work he’d have done had he lived another 50 but who can complain. The world is surely indebted to this kind wonder. He faced crude fortune with a grace, a stoicism, courage, and equanimity even the most cynical must admire. I too doubt that LSD had anything to do with Job’s achievements but your peculiar connection expresses the otherwise in expressible. Curiously the connection works.
“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception” -A.H.

Nice to see you back here, LM.
What a great tribute, I am sure he would love it.
I never tried acid but you make a good case for it.
rated with love
What a fascinating view Luminous. I suspect that a couple of generations from now some grad student will be plumbing the same line of thought. Of course it's not provable one way or the other but it's plausible. Especially give what Jobs himself said about how important it was in his life. Good to see you back, good luck with the memoir and thanks for the post.
Great post! I didn't realize he had used LSD. I think you are right in your conclusion that artistic people want to glorify their experience in some way and yet think of all the burnt out brain cells. I can't afford any more of mine to die!
Great post! A new look at his life and one that I applaud. He created a world for us all with those visions. 

"Political tyranny detoothed by the internet and smartphones. People exchanging information instantly around the world, for better and worse.. Artists drawing, composers composing, dreamers making their dreams real, all at the touch of a mouse.

Whether it was hallucination, or the grace of the Buddha’s vision, we saw everything as connected. So did Steve.

So well written. Thank you
this is a very unusual take on an oft-repeated retrospective of a man; two thumbs up
Again yes. As Arthur C. Clarke put it in his Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
LSD doesn't explain Jobs's accomplishments, but I have no doubt it facilitated them. It is a tool, though more powerful than others, and what you do for it or it does for you depends on what you bring to the experience. On balance, psychedelics have certainly played a part in far more good than evil in the world, and that is something to say.
I was amazed & thought it was an innuendo or metaphor but he actually did drop! See The Steve Jobs Nobody Knew How an insecure hippie kid reinvented himself as a technological visionary – and changed the world

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