Consciousness expansion in Silicon Valley: a brief history


The Pranksters are primed in full Prankster regalia. Paul Foster has on his Importancy Coat and now has a huge head of curly hair, a great curly mustache pulling back into great curly mutton chops roaring off his face. Page Browning is the king of face painters. He becomes a full-fledged Devil with a bright orange face and his eyes become the centers of two great silver stars painted over the orange and his hair is silver with silver dust and he paints his lips silver with silver lipstick. This very night the Pranksters all sit down with oil pastel crayons and colored pens and at a wild rate start printing handbills on 8-1/2 x 11 paper saying CAN YOU PASS THE ACID TEST? and giving Big Nig’s address. As the jellybean-cocked masses start pouring out of the Rolling Stones concert at the [San Jose] Civic Auditorium, the Pranksters charge in among them. Orange & silver Devil, wild man in a coat of buttons — Pranksters. Pranksters! — handing out the handbills with the challenge, like some sort of demons, warlocks verily, come to channel the wild pointless energy built up by the Rolling Stones inside.

They come piling into Big Nig’s, and suddenly acid and the Worldcraze were everywhere, the electric organ vibrating through every belly in the place, kids dancing not rock dances, not the frug and the — what?—  swim, mother, but dancing ecstasy, leaping, dervishing, throwing their hands over their heads like Daddy Grace’s own stroked-out inner courtiers — yes! — Roy Seburn’s lights washing past every head, Cassady rapping, Paul Foster handing people weird little things out of his Eccentric Bag, old whistles, tin crickets, burnt keys, spectral plastic handles. Everybody’s eyes turn on like lightbulbs, fuses blow, blackness — wowwww! — the things that shake and vibrate and funnel and freak out in this blackness — and then somebody slaps new fuses in and the old hulk of a house shudders back, the wiring writhing and fragmenting like molting snakes, the organs vibro-massage the belly again, fuses blow, minds scream, heads explode, neighbors call the cops, 200, 300, 400 people from out there drawn into The Movie, into the edge of the pudding at least, a mass closer and higher than any mass in history, it seems most surely, and Kesey makes minute adjustment, small toggle switch here, lubricated with Vaseline No. 634—3 diluted with carbon tetrachloride, and they ripple, Major, ripple, but with meaning, 400 of the attuned multitude headed toward the pudding, the first mass acid experience, the dawn of the Psychedelic, the Flower Generation and all the rest of it . . .


That shifting mind-set — the idea that life and work must be blended rather than separated — is increasingly common, according to other doctors, scholars who study work habits and the generally well-compensated workers of Silicon Valley like Andrew Sinkov, 31, a vice president of marketing at Evernote, a digital note-taking service. “ ‘Life-work balance’ is a nonsense term,” Mr. Sinkov said. “The idea that I have to segment work and life is based on some archaic lunar-calendar thing.” Given that his employer is paying to clean his apartment, Mr. Sinkov and his girlfriend do not have to quibble about cleanup duties. The value of the perk is greater than the money saved, he said. “It eliminates a decision I have to make,” Mr. Sinkov said. “It’s just happening and it’s good, and I don’t have to think about it.”

His boss, Mr. Libin, also gives employees $1,000 to spend on vacation, but it has to be “a real vacation.” “You can’t visit the in-laws; you have to go somewhere,” Mr. Libin said, adding that he did not see these perks just as ways to keep his work force — and their families — engaged. He said he also tended to be frugal as a chief executive, preferring these types of peace-of-mind benefits to, say, business-class travel, which the company does not pay for. “Happy workers make better products,” he said. “The output we care about has everything to do with your state of mind.”

4 thoughts on “Consciousness expansion in Silicon Valley: a brief history

  1. Eric C

    Nice ironic juxtaposition there.

    I enjoyed the passage from “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” but was reminded again of what a tragedy it was that that great moment in history had mega-square Tom Wolfe as its reporter. He was, to use the Hendrix terminology, “inexperienced.”

    It’s certainly sad that what passes for “consciousness expansion” these days in the Bay Area is nothing more than work and crass commercialism – and the invasion of work into areas that should be sacred: private time and the home.

    As an aside, what on earth is a “digital note-taking service”?! Something tells me, it’s yet another “app” that is supposed to save us time, but winds up robbing us of time. I’m going to make a nice little note in my hardcopy datebook to the effect of: “Do not subscribe to digital note-taking service.”

  2. Nick Post author

    Then again, the experienced tend to be entirely incapable of describing the experience to the non-experienced, as the Pranksters’ hilariously fucked-up attempt to make a movie showed.

  3. Mark

    ‘Life-work balance’ is a nonsense term,” Mr. Sinkov said. “The idea that I have to segment work and life is based on some archaic lunar-calendar thing.”

    The disdain of guys like Sinkov for any divisions or thresholds between any aspects of life–family, work, play, day or night–leaves me…cold with fear for the onward rush to a blurred and ill-defined life of speed and meaninglessness.

    The Italian Futurists of the early 20th centry come to mind when I hear these guys talk about progress…”Let the good incendiaries with charred fingers come! Here they are! Heap up the fire to the shelves of the libraries! Divert the canals to flood the cellars of the museums!” and on and on and on….

  4. Nick

    “The idea that I have to segment work and life is based on some archaic lunar-calendar thing.”

    Yeah, that’s just such a chilling thing to say, made all the more chilling by the smug offhandedness with which it seems to have been said. I really can’t imagine where one goes from there.

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