The Grateful Dead and Philosophy: Getting High Minded about Love and Haight

The Grateful Dead and Philosophy: Getting High Minded about Love and Haight

The Grateful Dead and Philosophy: Getting High Minded about Love and Haight

The Grateful Dead and Philosophy: Getting High Minded about Love and Haight

Synopsis

Twenty philosophical essays about the Grateful Dead phenomenon evaluates the bad, its lyrics, and its influence from a variety of ancient and modern perspectves to consider how it fits into broader trends of American thought. Original.

Excerpt

One of the standard jokes about Deadheads is that they’re determined to find cosmic significance in every aspect of the band they love so much. Every lyric, song choice, onstage utterance, and even random glance—-Jerry looked right at me!—was mined for arcane meanings by scruffy fans determined to believe that the universe is a conspiracy working in their favor.

It’s not hard to imagine why several generations of kids raised in American suburbia would be eager to join a subculture that held out the promise of Eternal Secrets Revealed during a night of serious partying and adventurous rock ‘n’ roll. What’s harder to understand for non-Deadheads is how often these secrets actually were revealed in the course of a show. I’m not talking about the stoned flights of fancy that evaporate in the harsh light of morning. I’m talking about the kinds of durable insights that are the foundation of any meaningful, creative, and responsible human life. For decades, Dead shows provided me and thousands of others with an opportunity to check in, take stock, set aside the distractions of daily life, and tune up the internal navigation system for the long and unpredictable journey ahead.

These insights were not given by the band to its audience, as esoteric teachings might be passed on by a guru to an earnest student. the band members had no special claim on enlightenment, and were put off by the notion that they were anything other than reasonably capable and occasionally hardworking musicians who had lucked into a good gig. But somehow, the totality of the experience—the music, the people, and, on those special nights, the psychedelics—provided a setting where it became easier to sift the wheat from the chaff and remember what’s truly important.

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