I was born just before WWII in a National Guard field hospital tent in Alabama. My mother had been a newspaper reporter before marrying my Dad, who had been an Albany street kid before a judge gave him the choice of jail or the Army. He chose wisely, retiring as a highly decorated Colonel and my Mother continued to write lovely stories all of her life.
I grew up living mostly outside the US, and on those rare occasions when we spent time in America I had a unique opportunity to see my birth country through young eyes that had also seen the burned-out countries of Japan, Germany, France and Italy. America in those days did indeed seem beautiful, and full of promise.
After attending college for a few years I dropped out, bummed around the country with an old Martin guitar, and wrote a lot of terrible poetry that I thought, like most young ‘poets’, was going to make beautiful women swoon and throw themselves into my arms and fame come seek me out like Rimbaud – my role model.
Pretty soon I realized that wasn’t going to happen – at least not because of my poetry, so I returned to college, studied anthropology, and then went off to Africa with the Peace Corps. Chad was an enlightening experience, because while I thought that I had experienced living in other cultures as a child, those years were nothing compared with the experience of living in Isserom, a small village on the shores of Lake Chad. I loved the people I lived with, and today I feel the tragedy of the disappearance of Isserom and all the towns on Lake Chad as over the years the lake, which was the source of life for all, has dried up and a vigorous society that had survived and thrived for many centuries has turned to dust.
The first great awakening in my life was when I became a parent and then, very quickly, a single parent of a small baby boy. I realized for the first time that I actually had a responsibility for others, and I rather quickly grew up. About time too, since I was around thirty years old.
Then the next great awakening came when I met the sweet and talented woman who has ever since been my loving companion and soul mate, and who is to this day my inspiration for how I live life each day. Lisle is quite simply the greatest gift that I have been given in life, and I can only hope that I return some of the treasures of immeasurable value that I have received from her and from life because of her.
As I have grown older and had the opportunity to look back with some perspective on my life I have come to realize that the thing I have always done best, and the role that I have most enjoyed, is acting as a scout for my tribe. By that I mean that I have always gained the greatest pleasure from roaming ahead of others, going into unexplored lands or, more frequently, into lands where others had been before but where the pathways were overgrown and forgotten. I find fulfillment in seeking out these old paths and bringing news of them back to share with others around the campfires.
Of course I am speaking metaphorically, since my quests have been in the modern world and not in the age of hunter/gatherers, and the pathways that I have discovered and mapped have been information paths rather than mountain passes or lost trails through the forests. But I nevertheless get the same thrill of discovery when I come across something in old books that is genuinely new – because it has been totally lost and forgotten – and because it is astoundingly useful and relevant today. It was this way with my discovery of the secrets of growing Marijuana which I learned from a few kind souls in Mexico and California in the 1960’s, and it was the same with my discovery of the complex and disturbing truth about the so-called tobacco industry in the late 1970’s.
I have to admit that when I first began researching Erythroxylon (now Erythroxylum) Coca in the early 1970’s for my book “The International Cultivators Handbook” I really wasn’t aware of the immense spiritual healing power of this plant. I knew that it had been used for hundreds of generations by societies in the Andes as a source of physical and mental energy, but I had no idea that, after lying dormant in the consciousness of the European ancestors of the Conquest, it had been re-discovered by doctors and scientists of the 1800’s as – quite literally – a miracle cure for dozens of diseases.
That realization had to wait many years, and it was only when I began exploring hundreds of very old books now available online thanks to the efforts of hundreds of dedicated archivists in organizations like the Gutenburg Project that I began to understand the true implications of the discoveries, experiments, tests, validations and empirical experiences of these 19th Century doctors and scientists with Erythroxylon Coca as a pure, natural medicine.
Thanks to the works of the dedicated archivists who have put most of the world’s lost books online I was also able to trace the perfidious activities of governments, corporations, moralists and greedheads in suppressing and destroying knowledge of this sacred, divine plant beginning around 1900 and continuing to this day.
My two most recent books on the healing powers of Coca Leaf are already encountering the legacy of generations of misinformation, propaganda and lies – many people when first encountering the premise that Coca is a divine gift of the gods confound it with Cocaine, a scourge visited upon mankind in retribution for hubris and ignorance. My mission is to lay all the evidence before you, the reader in the hope that you will agree that Coca Leaf ought to be freely available without regulation. It is a profound natural medicine.
These two latest books, and several more that are in progress, are my latest effort to scout new territories and bring word of them back to my tribe. My tribe – also a metaphor but one that I feel strongly in my heart. I believe that I share a bond of brotherhood and sisterhood with each person who reads my words, as you are doing now, and that together we are a tribe camped on this marvelous planet, sharing the same sky, earth, water, air and light. I pray that my work may give something of value to you and make your own path forward a little more rewarding, a little easier, and a little more fun. If I can achieve that then I will, when the time comes, feel that I have lived my life in a way that honors all who have loved and cared for me and that gives back in some measure what others have shared with me in my journey.
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