100-year-old Albert Hofmann speaks at LSD symposiumI marveled at how spry Mick Jagger looked during his Super Bowl performance, but he's got nothing on Albert Hofmann, the 100-year-old discoverer of LSD, who spoke at the LSD Symposium in Basel, Switzerland.
The LSD Symposium started on Friday morning with a talk of about 20 minutes by Dr. Hofmann, alchemist extraordinaire and discoverer of the LSD molecule. After being introduced and cheered, the magic started. Uncle Albert is a petite, but relatively unwrinkled 100 year old genius who has no problem in talking (in German, but translated on headphones) for more than 20 minutes without going ahem or ahh and without consulting any written notes. It's unbelievable. He feels that the LSD molecule "called to him" and he tells us that the only reason he discovered it is because he didn't "work correctly."
MEETING HOFMAN AT THE LSD SYMPOSIUM
The LSD Symposium started on Friday morning with a talk of about 20 minutes by Dr. Hofmann, alchemist extraordinaire and discoverer of the LSD molecule. After being introduced and cheered, the magic started. Uncle Albert is a petite, but relatively unwrinkled 100 year old genius who has no problem in talking (in German, but translated on headphones) for more than 20 minutes without going ahem or ahh and without consulting any written notes. It's unbelievable. He feels that the LSD molecule 'called to him' and he tells us that the only reason he discovered it is because he didn't 'work correctly'. In other words, he credits a mistake he made for the discovery, much like Marie Curie and the discovery of Penicillin. His advice to everyone--there is complete silence in the large auditorium--is that it therefore follows that the pursuit of perfection is a useless occupation. Things are just getting better and better.
There's a genuine spirit of love and affection going round as we listen to the old man, realising how privileged we are to be here, how privileged we are to be alive during these times. Its almost too much to bear as Albert finishes off to cheers of 'we love you; and 'thank you'. I find myself on my feet with the rest of the crowd screaming 'thank you we love you' with tears streaming down my face, but he does remind me of my dad, who I lost only two years ago. He's everyone's father here though, and it makes me feel really weird looking around at all the oldies from all over the world who've come to Basel to pay their respects. What a trip!
Albert signs off by accepting 100 red roses. I'm amazed at how intently he looks at them, like he's never seen roses before, but I guess it's still all in the moment for him too. I'm 10 feet away looking into him with the HD cam. Crowded around me are another 50 photographers, filmmakers, TV crews, and the like. Everyone is delicately balanced, trying to stay out of the field of vision of those behind, even if it isn't really possible. After the opening I wander around with the camera and crew, but I'm too distracted to film anything. Besides besides being an accredited filmaker at the event, I'm also showing 'True Conversations', a 7 minute movie featuring Terence and Dennis Mckenna. Leo and Kate wonder off to film the exhibition, so I decide to take a break in the speaker's room. All the exhibitors have access to this private area so I get free coffee, biscuits and a place to hang out. My timing is great. Dr.Hofmann, without his security patrol, has had the same idea as me and is sitting with two other people at the plain white table with no distraction, except me. I get to tell him where I'm from, crack a joke and tell him how long the flight was. My German isn't great, but he has no problem understanding me and doesn't seem like someone of a 100 years old. His eyes and mind are focussed and his handshake is smooth like cashmere. No hesitation. I'm impressed. The moment lasts a few minutes, during which time I butt out and sit back, letting the three of them get on with whatever they were discussing (in German) before I came in and introduced myself. It's a great feeling, sitting there without needing to say anything more.
The rest of the day is a blur. David Jay Brown (Conversations at the edge of the Apocalypse) arrives from San Francisco. The screening of True Conversations gets well accepted and there are immediate shout-outs for it to be screened again. The technician helping me is cool. He's got the volume up so loud that we've unwittingly taken over the whole auditorium. Terence and Dennis's voices boom out over the sound system, then there's an atomic explosion. Sitting in the front row, my hearteat is pushing 180 BPM and I dare not turn around as I try to keep hysteria at bay. "We blew up the LSD Symposium" is all I can think, even though I'm going to be on stage explaining it all in less than five minutes, telling eveyrone about the full-length feature that's coming. Alex Grey is in the front row and the audience has grown but the force is with me and ranting about what I'm doing to the now-enraptured audience is more a case of deciding when they've had enough than running out of things to say.
At the end, I answer some questions about Cognition Factor, my so-long-in-production full-length feature, then make it off the stage. But this is when the fun starts as people try to get me to sell them, or give them, the movie I just showed, all at the same time,in Greek, Italian, German, English and even Australian. It's very flattering. I eventually give the copy to Spiridon, a young Greek guy who really flipped when he saw it. Afterwards Alex Grey is in the lift on the way up and he makes a point of telling me how much he enjoyed the show so David sets up an interview with him for tomorrow. I'm lucky David agreed to come. He knows everyone. Over the next few days I get to film Alex Grey, Ralph Metzner, Brummbauer, Stan Kreppner and David Jay Brown, plus short interviews with many people. Eva arrives from Germany. We hand the camera over and hope for the best. There is a constant coming and going from the room as we restock with film, memory and batteries. Fifteen hours of film later it's already Sundaynight. I've met so many interesting and generous people. I've seen some old friends, made some new ones and I'm content to be so priviledged.