The Houseboat Summit

Featuring Timothy Leary, Gary Snyder, Alan Watts and Allen Ginsberg

Part Two: To Drop Out or Not

Leary: Yes, I think he should drop out. And I want to be absolutely clear on that. NOBODY wants to listen to that simple, two-syllable phrase. It gets jargled and jumbled, and I mean it...Now, everyone has to decide how he drops out and when, and he has to time it gracefully, but that's the goal.

S: We understand that...

Leary: Well, Allen didn't. And Allen, I want to tell you the people in Berkeley that ask you what I mean, I mean ABSOLUTELY have nothing to do with the university, and start planning step by step how you can detect...

Ginsberg: OF course, that's where the big argument is, over the NON-STUDENTS. The guys that dropped out are not involved, and their problem is what kind of communities they organize.

Leary: Now, I can foresee that you might work for Sears & Roebuck for six months to get enough money to go to India. But that's part of your drop out. And what I'm doing today, Allen, is part of my drop out. I've got responsibilities, contracts..and I don't think that anyone should violate contracts with people that they love...Contract with the university--ha! Fine--quit tomorrow. Therefore, I have to detach myself slowly. When I was in India tow years ago...

Ginsberg: India...but know the university is personal relationships also. They're in contact with persons. They can't reflect those persons, necessarily...There might be a Bodhisattva among those persons.

Snyder: ...As Tim says, you can gracefully drop out...

Leary: Aesthetically...

Snyder: one time or another, which I take to mean...

Ginsberg: I was teaching at Berkeley last week--what do you mean 'drop out?' (laughs)

Leary: You've got to do your yoga as a college's part of the thing you're gonna have to go through, and after you do that then (laughs) you shudder, and run to the door.


Watts: Surely the fact of the matter is that you can do this on a small scale, as an individual, where just a few people are doing they always have done. There have always been a kind of elite minority who dropped out--who were the sages in the mountains.

But now we are in a position where the conversations that you and I have go to millions, and people are asking this sort of question.

Let's suppose that everybody in San Francisco decided to take the six o'clock train from the Third Street Station to Palo Alto...See? We know there's no chance of their doing so. And therefore this catastrophe doesn't happen.

Leary: That's exactly what I say to people who say, "Well, suppose everybody dropped out?" Ridiculous!

Watts: Yeah, supposing everyone dropped out...Of course they're not going to.

Leary: Suppose everyone took LSD tonight (laughs) --Great!


Watts: The thing is this: what we are facing, what's going to happen is this...if we do not encounter the final political catastrophe of atomic war, biological warfare and wipe the whole thing out, we're going to have a huge leisure society--where they're going to reverse taxation and PAY people for the work that the machines do for them. Because there's no other solution to it.

In other words, if the manufacturer is going to be able to sell his products, the people gotta have money to pay for the products. All those people have been put out of work by the machines the manufacturer is using. Therefore, the people have got to be paid by the government--CREDIT of some kind, so they can buy what the machines produces--then the thing will go on.

So this means that thousands and thousands of people are going to be loafing around, with nothing at all to do. A few people who are maniacs for work will go on...

Leary: I think what you're defining, Alan, is...

Watts: But that's the kind of situation we're moving into. IF we survive at all.

Leary: Well, there's another possibility. And, I think you're defining two possible new species. Let's face it, the evolution of mankind is not over.

Watts: No!

Leary: Just as there are many kinds of primates: baboons and chimpanzees and so forth. In a few thousand years we'll look back and see that from--what we call man--there may be two or more species developing.

There's no question that one species, which could and probably will develop, is this anthill. ItŐs run like a beehive with queens--or kings--(laughs) and it'll all be television and now, of course, in that, sexuality will become very promiscuous and almost impersonal. Because, in an anthill, it always turns out that way.

BUT you're gonna have another species who will inevitably survive, and that will be the tribal people, who don't have to worry about leisure because when you drop out then the real playwork begins. Because then you have to, as Gary says, learn how to take care of yourself and your loved ones on this...

Snyder: I don't think that you're right about that anthill thing at all though. That's a very negative view of human nature. I don't think it's accurate.

Leary: It's no longer even human nature. We won't call them human anymore. These people


Snyder: C'mon, Tim, they're humans and they're gonna be here. You're talking a drama here. You're talking about--you know--anthropological realities. The anthropological reality is that human beings, in their nature, want to be in touch with what is real in themselves and in the universe.

For example, the longshoremen with their automation contract in San Francisco...a certain number of them have been laid off for the rest of their lives with full pay, and some of them have been laid off already for five years--with full pay--by their contract.

Now, my brother-in-law is a longshoreman, and he's been telling me about what's happening to these guys. Most of them are pretty illiterate, a large portion of them are Negroes. The first thing they all did was get boats and drive around San Francisco Bay...because they have all this leisure.

Then a lot of them got tired driving around boats that were just like cars, and they started sailing. Then a few of them started making their own sailboats. They move into and respond to the possibility of challenge.

Things become simpler and more complex and more challenging for them. The same is true of hunting. Some guy says "I want to go hunting and fishing all the time, when I have my leisure...but God!" So he goes hunting all the time. Then he says, "I want to do this in a more interesting way." So he takes up bow hunting...Then the next step is--and this has happened--he says, "I want to try making my own arrowheads." And he learns how to flake his own arrowheads out.

Now, human beings want reality. That's, I think, part of human nature. And television and drinking beer and watching television. is what the working man laid off does for the first two weeks.

But then in the third week he begins to get bored, and in the fourth week he wants to do something with his body and his mind and his senses.

Leary: But if he's still being paid by the Establishment, then you have someone who's going back to childhood. Like, he's making arrows that he really doesn't need...

Snyder: May I speak my vision about this?

Leary: I object to this very much. I want him out there really fighting--not fighting, but working--for his family, not chipping.

Snyder: Well, this is a transitional thing, too...It's too transitional.

Ginsberg: This leads to violence because it divides everybody up into separate...

Snyder: Oh, he was talking poetry.

Leary: No, I;m not! I want to be clear about this. Nobody wants to listen to this. We are doing this already...

Snyder: No, but the difference is, the children of the ants are all going to be tribal people. That's the way it's going to work. We're going to get the kids, and it's going to take about three generations.


And in the meantime, the family system will change, and when the family system changes the economy will change...and in the meantime, a number of spiritual insights are going to change the minds of the technologists and the scientists themselves, and technology will change.

There will be a diffused and decentralized I see it...

Watts: Well, go on...Are you saying now what you said was your vision?

Snyder: Now, what I was going to say was very simply this.

I think that automation in the affluent society, plus psychedelics, plus--for the same curious reason--a whole catalytic, spiritual change or bend of mind that seems to be taking place in the west, today especially, is going to result--can result ultimately--in a vast leisure society in which people will voluntarily reduce their number, and because human beings want to do that which is real...simplify their lives.

The whole problem of consumption and marketing is radically altered if a large number of people voluntarily choose to consume less.

And people will voluntarily choose to consume less if their interests are turned in any other direction.

If what is exciting to them is no longer things but states of mind.

Leary: That's true.


Snyder: Now what is something else...

People are not becoming interested in states of mind, and things are not going to substitute for states of mind. So what I visualize is a very complex and sophisticated cybernetic technology surrounded by thick hedges of trees...

Somewhere, say around Chicago. And the rest of the nation a buffalo pasture...

Leary: That's very close to what I think.

Snyder: ...with a large number of people going around making their own arrowheads because it's fun, but they know better ...(laughter) They know they don't have to make them. (more laughter)

Leary: Now, this seems like our utopian visions are coming closer together. I say that the industry should be underground, and you say it should be in Chicago. This interests me.

Watts: Well, it's the same idea.

Snyder: Well, those who want to be technological engineers will be respected...And the other thing is that you can go out and live close to nature, or you can go back and...

Leary: But you won't be allowed to drive a car outside this technological...

Snyder: You won't want to!

That's the difference, baby. It's not that you won't be allowed to, it's that you won't want to. That's where it's got to be at.


Watts: Because, it's the same thing when we get down to, say, the fundamental question of food. More and more one realizes that the mass produced food is not worth eating, and therefore, in order to delight in things to eat, you go back to the most primitive processes of raising and preparing food. Because that has taste.

And I see that it will be a sort of flip, that as all the possibilities of technology and automation make tit possible for everybody to be assured of having the basic necessities of life...they will then say: "Oh, yes, we have all that, but now in the meantime while we don't have to work, let's go back to making arrowheads and to raising the most AMAZING PLANTS."

Snyder: Yeah...It would be so funny; the thing is that they would all get so good at it that the technology center of Chicago would rust away. (laughter)

Watts: Right! Right! (laughter)

Leary: That's exactly what's going to happen. The psychedelic drop-outs are going to be having so much fun. They're going to be so much obviously healthier.

Watts: But Tim, do you see any indication among people who at present are really turned on, that they are cultivating this kind of material competence? Now, I haven't seen too much of it yet...

Snyder: Some of those kids at Big Sur have got it.

Watts: Yeah, maybe you're right.

Snyder: They're learning. A few years ago they used to go down to Big Sur and they didn't know how to camp or dig latrines.


But like what Marine has been telling me lately, is that they're getting very sharp about what to gather that's edible, how to get sea salt, what are the edible plants and the edible seeds, and the revolutionary technological book for this state is A.L. Kroeber's Handbook of the California Indians, which tells you what's good to eat and how to prepare it. And also what to use for tampax: milkweed fluff...(laughter) Diapers made of shredded bark...The whole thing is all there.

Leary: Beautiful...

Watts: But the thing is this. I've found so many people who are the turned on type, and the circumstances and surroundings under which they live are just plain cruddy. You would think that people who have seen what you can see with the visions of psychedelics would reflect themselves in forms of life and art that would be like Persian miniatures. Because obviously Persian miniatures and Moorish arabesques are all reflecting the state of mind of people who were turned on. And they are rich and glorious beyond belief.

Ginsberg: Majestic.

Watts: Majestic! Yeah! Well now, why doesn't it so occur...It is slowly beginning to happen...'Cause I've noticed that, recently, all turned on people are becoming more colorful. They're wearing beads and gorgeous clothes and so and so forth...and it's gradually coming out. Because you remember the old beatnik days when everybody was in blue jeans and ponytails and no lip[stick and DRAB--and CRUMMY!

Snyder: What! (laughter)

Watts: Now, something's beginning to happen!

Snyder: Well, it wasn't quite that bad, but we were mostly concerned with not being consumers then...and so we were showing our non-consumerness.

Watts: Yes, I know! The thing is I am using this as a symbol because the poor cons in San Quentin wear blue jeans.

Snyder: The thing is that there are better things in the Goodwill now than there used to be.

Watts: Yes, exactly. (laughter) But the thing is that now I see it beginning to happen. Timothy here, instead of wearing his old--whatever he used to wear--has now got a white tunic on with gold and colorful gimp on it.

Ginsberg: Gimp?

Watts: Yes, and it's very beautiful, and he's wearing a necklace and all that kind of thing, and color is at last coming into the scene.

Snyder: That's going back before the Roundheads, and before Cromwell...

Watts: Yes, it is.

Leary: Let's get practical here, I think we're all concerned about the increasing number of people who are dropping out and wondering where to go from there. No let's come up some practical suggestions which we might hope could unfold in the next few months.

To Be Continued...

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