IN ‘THE ZEN OF SEEING’, Frederick Franck tells the story of a Buddhist monk who asked
his master what is the meaning of life.
The master took the monk to some rough ground near the monastery and said; ‘That’s
The monk complained that all he could see were grasses.
‘Yes, but some of the grasses are longer and some are shorter!’ said the master.
Even such an unpromising subject as the Delia and Jamie recipe books on our shelf
has that same delightful - and somehow significant - quality. Some of them are tall,
others are shorter.
In The Doors of Perception the literary Aldous Huxley describes the eye-opening effects
of taking a small dose of an hallucinogenic plant extract from the peyote cactus.
There were his familiar bookshelves but they seemed charged with an energy of their
own. Some seemed to be almost coming off the shelves with the intensity of the colour
of their jackets - as if they were bursting with enthusiasm to be read and to reveal
If you’re obsessed with drawing as I am, you’ll find it strange that anyone should
need any biochemical stimulus to see a world bursting with meaning and interest.
Instead of having drug pushers hanging around our streets we ought to have secret
sketchbook pushers, to get people into the subversive habit of drawing and seeing
the world as it really is.
Huxley was such a gifted writer but he realised that his brilliance with words was
something of a prison; that there were Doors of Perception that he could open.
But if he hadn’t had been in such a habit of literary precision, his reaction to
the experience might have been along the lines of ‘Hey, man, that was cool!’