Monday, June 15, 2015

Go Gentle

I was probably four years old when my mother and I went to visit some relatives who used to live on the edges of Istanbul. It was a ranch of sorts with chickens, a large vegetable garden and a goat (more about the goat in another post).

We were sitting on the veranda when some neighbours ran through the yard in a panic telling us to hide from terrorist gunmen. We all ran into a small shed and shut the door. There were about eight of us cramped inside. I was in the front left of the shed with my mother trying to cover me into the corner and telling me to be as quiet as possible. One of the neighbours was quite shaken. She was praying and saying something about dying. Someone else told her to be completely silent if she didn't want to die. 

I remember feeling a sudden burst of fear and drawing in a quick breath to try and hold it. It became clear very soon that it wasn't going to be practical to hold my breath. My mother was stroking my hair and whispering something. We heard some people run by frantically and everyone seized up. 

I remember deciding that I had to do what I had to do to remain calm and suddenly seemed to have a mastery over my breath and nerves. I closed my eyes and entered what I now might consider to be a psychedelic state. I was peaceful and confident and felt like I was floating. The sounds around me started to present themselves in my mind as colours and moving shapes. This is my earliest memory of a synesthesia that I experience when concentrating on music. It often presents itself in a more pronounced way when I'm under the influence of a psychedelic. 

I was able to transform and manipulate the sounds around me into a swirling kaleidoscope. It gave me access to an infinite calm. I was, in retrospect, in a trance or perhaps a dissociative state. I had perhaps triggered a defensive survival mechanism in the face of what I perceived to be mortal danger. Some say that at the instant of death the human brain releases DMT, a very strong psychedelic. Maybe it's a last ditch effort of the body to save itself or at least go peacefully off this mortal coil and gentle into that good night. 

I wonder how this might also be related to my inclination to sleep when faced with a heightened emotional state. Is it an expression of the same instinct or is it something I learned to do that day? Maybe the trauma of that experience forever flavored the way I respond to and deal with my emotions which I've always thought of as things to be controlled lest they get you in trouble or maybe even killed. How much of my personal development (functional or dysfunctional) can be traced back to a single stressful event and how I was able to deal with it?

The shed door was finally opened and we saw soldiers with machine guns in front of us. There was a sense of relief as they told us that the situation had been resolved and I returned to this reality. 

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