What is the connection between marijuana, meditation, the I Ching, incarceration and comedy? Easy! Tommy Chong!
The I Chong: Meditations from the Joint
, published by Simon Spotlight Entertainment is the first book by the comedian from the legendary duo Cheech and Chong. The book, on one level, chronicles Chong''s dubious run-in with drug enforcement officials, prosecutors and prison authorities after a suprise raid on his home in the wee hours of the morning on a day in early 2003. The reason for the bust? Chong''s company, Nice Dreams Enterprises, had shipped high quality glass bongs to a bogus head shop in Pennsylvania, fronted by the US federal Drug Enforcement Agency. The violation was not in the production or sale of the bongs per se
but in their transportation across state lines. The charge seemed so preposterous that Chong admits it never occurred to him to call a lawyer, and as a result, copious quantities of pot were seized, which of course is not surprising. Chong wound up incriminating himself through his characteristically glib wit that led him even further into an odd twilight zone of law enforcement.
Chong is eventually convicted and sentenced to nine months in federal prison. He spares no words in conveying how difficult the experience was for him. Chong feels he was victimized for the movies he made with Cheech Marin and the portrayal of drug officials in those movies “that ridiculed the hypocrisy and the racist, ignorant policies of the government''s war on drugs.”
Although Chong takes an understandably acidic position toward the anti-drug establishment, the book is less a “political indictment” than it is a spiritual liturgy with autobiographical elements thrown in for good measure. It was pleasantly surprising to read illuminating insights from the “pope of pot”, someone who many have surely written off as a hopeless stoner. These insights are the real appeal of the book and will remain as its lasting contribution to the discourse of the spirit. Chong, for instance, mentions receiving messages from the Holy Spirit and how “the Presence” has been with him uninterruptedly since the day of his sentencing. He actually took the inevitability of his sentencing quite well, feeling victimized but nevertheless indicating that “the universe has a way of correcting itself, so no matter what happens all we know is that is was supposed to happen.” And when Chong was allowed only one book to take with him, he chose Joel Goldsmith''s “The Mystic I”.
And where does the I Ching, the ancient Chinese book of divination, come in? Each chapter starts with a hexagram from the I Ching and a proverb that act to set the mood for the ensuing pages. His predominantly sobering assessment of his time in the slammer is not especially revealing, but it does playfully recount some of the characters he encountered, albeit in a one-dimensional portrayal.
Of course he was segregated from the general population at the prison in a place pleasantly called “the camp”, complete with garden, sweatlodge, and boccie ball court. While there, Chong helped to construct a pottery kiln, played cards, gave I Ching readings, and even convinced one of his prison mate to join him in fasts. Though not a terribly tragic experience, it made him realize that this form of oppression was going on, and that he had been comfortably isolated from it in the past.
For those looking for a stoned tell-all of his days with his buddy Cheech, there will be disappointment. There are, however, brief allusions to their time together, and he does mention that Cheech introduced him to Transcendental Meditation. Chong notes how it has changed his entire outlook on life.
It was also quite surprising to find out that Chong made a pact that he will not smoke again until marijuana is legal. (One wonders if he has kept his promise since penning those words). And he admiever smoked as much pot as my loyal fans thought I did, which is one of the reasons the DEA found so much pot at my house. People all over the country would give me their best buds that I would then “donate” to my pot-smoking friends...I would also go on periodic pot fasts when I wouldn''t smoke at all. The day of the raid I started a ''protest fast'' that I am still on today. I vowed that day that I would only smoke pot when it was legal.”
The final chapter ends with a warning that he will begin the fight to clear his name and to legalize his favorite herb: “This government has kindly opened the door for me, and I shall gladly take the opportunity to challenge its substance laws...I will do this with the direction of that higher power that has directed me all my life.”
“The next real revolution will not be the least bit violent. I feel that the Spirit will be involved, and love, peace, and understanding will melt the opposition like ice in warm water. The gentle smile of the child will persuade the oppressor to give up their ways and join the swelling ranks of peace-loving folks as we laugh our way into the future...”