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This is what It Feels Like to Be Enlightened!

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Alicia Dattner, a professional comedian, tells how over years, she lost her sense of humor. She details the moments when she despaired. “Pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords, the death of George Floyd,” among others. “All I can think of is about our culture ...... destroy and dominate.” To get her humor back, Alicia went to the woods in Santa Cruz, where she took substances, and in this talk descriptively chronicles the effect they had on her. Alicia speaks about an awareness she came to “To actually recognize the miracles that we have evolved into.” And realized she’d also regained her much-needed sense of fun.

Alicia Dattner

Standup comedian Alicia Dattner is also a writer and producer. “Standup comedy, solo performance, physical comedy, and storytelling are my passion.”

As well as many clubs in the States Alicia performed in Bombay, Chennai, London, Honolulu, and Bali.

She’s won tons of awards for her comedy, including Best of the Fringe (twice) at San Francisco Fringe Fest.

Alicia leads one-on-one spiritually guided coaching and workshops around the world. “My craft is informed by cultural studies, ecology, transpersonal relating, somatics, travel, spiritual practice, and a little too much NPR.”

Did you know, I just read this, by the year 2050, the oceans are gonna run out of fish? What if I have a child one day, and they get dumped and all I can say is, "Oh, honey, don't worry. There are plenty of . . . plastic bags in the sea."

I'm a professional comedian. And my sense of humor keeps me sane and helps me tell the truth ever since I was a kid.

I'm seven years old. I'm swinging in this hammock that my parents installed above my bed. And I like to do acrobatic tricks on it. And I'm trying to process what I've just read. We are chopping down the rainforest in the Amazon. We're losing a hundred and fifty species every day—creatures and plants that took billions and billions of years to evolve are dying every day. And adults know that what's happening is bad, and they're doing it anyway. And even though I love their crispy French fries, I decided to take a stand and boycott McDonald's. I start the Earth Club at my school, and I decide it's my job to save the entire planet, which will be way easier than saving my parents' marriage.

By age twenty-six, it hits me. I can barely save myself from my various addictions, much less save the world. Turns out I'm not the Messiah.

But it's not until November 4th, 2016, that I realize something even bigger. I'm at La Peña in Berkeley, and we are all watching the election returns. Next to me is Adam, my gorgeous conscious philanthropist boyfriend. His hand is on my knee. Missouri falls to Trump. And in that moment, it seems like everything hopeful in my life is slipping away. I can feel my gorgeous boyfriend is about to break up with me. My home country is about to vote someone into office who will waste the last moments that we have to rein in climate change. And I can feel my comedy career also slipping down the drain because at this moment, I realize not only am I not going to save the world, for the first time in my life, in my hopeful heart, I realize, that it seems possible no one will save the world.

That moment and many others after—pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords, the death of George Floyd, countless lies and scandals from our president—are the moments that break my hope. And since then, I haven't found anything funny. A surgeon loses their sense of sight—they can't take tumors out anymore. You know what's coming. A winemaker loses their sense of smell—they can't make excellent wine anymore. A comedian loses her sense of humor—she can't make people laugh anymore.

I feel more and more angry every day as the California wildfires caused by terrible droughts have me lying in bed at night. I'm choking on the smoke. My breasts ache for too many weeks in the month from the endocrine disruptors in my food supply. I can't drink the tap water because it's polluted with carcinogenic pesticides. All I can think of is about our culture, this culture of harder, better, faster, more, more, and more, this destroy and dominate nature, dominate women, children, jungles, oceans, fish.

It just seems like any joke that upholds this patriarchal system is just another brick in the wall causing the destruction of the earth, which just so you know, I'm calling the patriarchal dynamic. It is not the fault of men. Men, you are imprisoned as you know in this system as much as anyone else. The truth is, I'm at a place in my life where I have no humor. I have no laughter. I have no jokes. And clearly, neither do you at this moment.

After four years of humorless despair, in November of 2020, I go with my medicine teacher to the woods of Santa Cruz. We're in the mountains. I ingest a handful of mushrooms and some ketamine, trying to find some answers.

And my hips start to shake involuntarily. They're rattling. They're rustling the leaves below me. The sun starts peeking through the trees, and suddenly, I'm shaking. I just start to relax for the first time in four years. And I'm overcome finally with awe and gratitude that billions and billions of years of miracle upon miracle has created all of this. It's created you and me. And this awareness, us in these human bodies, the awareness to actually recognize the miracles that we have evolved into. So much energy is coursing through me, lightning shooting up my spine out my fingertips, through my pussy. This is what it feels like to be enlightened. I get it.

But I remember what my lineage calls these mushrooms. I remember they're called Los Ninos Santos, the little clowns, and they're laughing at me. They're laughing at how silly and seriously I am taking myself, and they're laughing with me, and they're laughing through me, and they're laughing at my tension and my anger and my fear. And they're telling me that these are all in the way of my aliveness, and they tell me then the answer that even if everything on the entire planet dies, it's all gonna be okay because right here, right now, my job is to shake and feel and laugh for no reason at all.

And that might be the only thing that does, in fact, save the world.

Thank you.


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