The Accidental Vision Quest

My great change, my transformation? I now can see that it began one year ago, on a boat, on the water, when the illusion of time and form slipped away.

It was a Thursday. November 8th, 2012. I was on the ferry heading into San Francisco. It was approximately 8am when there was a shift in my perception. I became hyper-aware. My vision, my hearing, my sense of touch and smell – all became so acute that it terrified me. At first. I thought perhaps I was dosed. I have experience with hallucinogens so I know what that feels like. But this wasn’t tripping. Yet, I experienced that same hyper-sense, a similar but much more powerful sense of being in my body and of interacting within a field of interconnected energies. I actually recorded the whole experience. I wrote it all down as I went through this, but I am not going to share that with you now. It is almost indescribable with words, yet it had everything to do with what words really are. And the whole thing began with texture, with touch.

Everything I touched felt new. It was as if I was a baby waking up to the physical world. The nylon fabric of the seat in front of me, the cool aluminum handrail, the way the pen felt in my hand. I remember saying “Pen. This is a pen.” And the word and the concept felt wholly new.

I was not apart from reality, I was in reality. Everything else was illusion. I felt the objects around me like a blind man, all the surfaces and textures and cracks. I moved very slowly. The more slowly I moved the more this heightened sense increased. I could feel gravity, the force of it. I am not joking. I could feel the volume of the air. I walked off the ferry like a zombie, giddy and filled with a euphoric joy. Yet I was stone sober.


I could hear voices around me but they seemed distant and garbled. I felt like a ghost. When I got off the ferry I continued on in my fugue. I could feel the earth below my feet, the concrete, the tile, the floors. I felt barefoot even in my socks and shoes. What was this madness? I saw patterns, everywhere. Numerical sets. Shapes. Geometries that spoke to me like alphabets. I was moving deliberately and with the studied caution of an elderly man. When I moved my hands up toward my face, it felt like I was underwater. I was swimming in a soup of perception. I suddenly understood that objects are but obstacles in the path of light. Light blockers. Light absorbers. Light reflectors.

I could see all people as distinct entities. I could see their souls through their skin. Everything physical is secondary. There is no past and certainly no future. I was in the living Now. I was standing at the lip of the falls, where the water was neither flowing nor falling. It was the place where the breath pauses before the exhale. I understood, clearly, that speed cannot defeat time. Hurry, rush, multi-tasking, juggling – these give time its power. No. It is slowness that lifts the veil of time. Sloth, it turns out, is not a deadly sin. It is the blessing of life.


A photograph is a construction of light. A film is a human story told in patterns of light. It is not the script that gives the movie meaning, it’s the light, the photography. The same is true in the world of the living. Light gives us form. Sound gives us form. We are movies, running in drive-ins. We create the theatres of ourselves.


I looked down at my cup. There were messages written in the cream swirling at the surface of my coffee. The cream swirled like a galaxy in formation. The cream became a Rorschach of images. I saw maps, archipelagos, places I knew defined by familiar patterns of line. Lines convey great meaning. When a hand draws a line, is it tracing or creating? Is the line already there? Are the letters? When I write am I creating something new or raising latent form? Is art an inception or a summoning?

This vision, or whatever you want to call it, persisted for over an hour. It maintained its hold over me while I was seated, while I was writing, and while I was walking through the crowded city streets. I believe that if I didn’t go into the office that day I would have wandered San Francisco for hours in that state, seeing the world in all its glory like some alien arrived here for the first time. There was not a single thing I saw that was not a marvel. There was nothing insignificant. I laughed and smiled and brimmed with joy. I was outside of time. Finally. I was free of it. And sound, I discovered, was the, *is* the, key to everything. Not vision as I have always believed. It is sound that brings the world and all its wonders into existence. Sound. Vibration. A collection of frequencies, and I could hear it, see it, feel it, touch it. I was, on that day,  perceiving the frequencies of the vibrating strings as matter and reality spun itself into existence. Every sound was magnified and each was a symphony. I assure you that there is no hyperbole to what I am telling you. This was and is real. I was given a great gift.


I stumbled upon a truth. Every word we have for this is meaningless. Words themselves – lines, curves, juxtapositions. You can’t recreate or represent experience with the foolish alchemy of alphabets. Did Arthur Rimbaud stop writing poetry at 18 because he realized this too? That words are futile in the face of the true nature of being? Or did he stop because something stopped him?

I have to ask myself, what is it I want from this? What is it that I want to take from this experience and from writing itself? What do I expect? I once wished to reap the whirlwind. I wanted you to feel everything I felt. I wanted to share with you how I saw and experienced the world. It was not enough for you to simply understand, you had to feel, viscerally, what I felt. Because I believed that feeling was living, I believed that if I feel it, it is real. It turns out I was wrong.

It has taken me a full year to get from that revelation to here. Time is an illusion we create by believing in the past and the future and refusing to recognize the now. The past is over. Anything we bring from it into the now is a choice we make. The future doesn’t exist at all. Form is an illusion. Bodies are not at all what they seem. Objects are not solid. Nothing is even close to permanent except your spirit; which defies the very conventions you struggle to maintain. All is light. All is vibration. All is frequency. Look closely, not with your outer eyes but with your inner vision and you will see that everything around you is a swarm of tiny swirling atoms, which themselves are tiny universes within universes. What foolish, petty things we are.

My vision was a revelation. It was something sacred and true. I was let in on a secret. I was shown the way. It was as if I had spent my entire life underwater and then rose up through the surface of a river. And it was beautiful. I shivered in rapture. I was able to see all things, all objects, all material, all people, back to their origins and I could take their journey with them through time and I could discern, visually, the web of connection between those all things. It was gentle and loving, not terrifying. I experienced he giddy awe of mystery, not the freezing fear of the past. I walked through a garden of earthly delights like some LSD-affected flower-child giggling with the joy of a blind man to whom sight was restored.

And when I spoke the names of what I saw. As I began to label them – door, window, cup, sky – I brought each object into being. The words delighted me. I saw their weakness and their power both. I remember thinking “Labels. Guideposts. Lures. Spells.” It all made sense. I was simultaneously endowing and stripping words of their power. I could feel words being born.  I could taste and feel each letter as a distinct flavor, a distinct vibration, I could distinguish consonants and vowels by texture. I understood at one that words are physical manifestations of energy. They have corporeal form, sharp edges, volume, surface textures, points. The sense I got was that language, each language, is merely clothing we apply to energy that exists prior to being named. In short, words have souls. They are packets of energy upon which we apply a coating, a skin. And I saw them naked. I saw the ghosts of words.


What I had was not merely a vision, it was a complete physical experience of the world as it truly exists. I did not go to a dream world. some alternate plane. I had an out-of-body experience inside myself. Now I understand the significance of names, the one word that is assigned to each of us.

It has taken me one full year to crack open and emerge from this involuntary retreat into my chrysalis. Long and painful is that dissolution in the darkness. And make no mistake, this is a journey we must take alone. At best, the voices we hear outside are muted. Love gets through though. Love helps speed the transformation. But you don’t want to rush this delicate task. The butterfly lasts but a season. But just think about how much more light it reflects when it’s got such broad and beautiful wings.



7 thoughts on “The Accidental Vision Quest

  1. Something similar happened to me many years ago. It felt like I had tapped into the power that is the universe. It was day one of my life and it felt like anything from that point was possible. Just as you describe, I understood everything and was powerful, wise and joyful….Unfortunately that was nearly 30 years ago, and day to day reality has diluted that experience, but the memory of it remains. I think we are all capable of accessing the energy that drives everything and is everything. I think that we join it when we die, but get glimpses of it in our lives, if we are lucky….

    • My dear friend, the writer Andrew Wilson, calls it ‘The Shiver of the Real’. I call it The Anointment of Truth. It’s a visceral response to our connectedness I think, and also the recognition of something true, perhaps even universally true. Yes, I have felt this before. I feel it is God speaking to me.

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