Kid Charlemagne's trip is over


"Did you feel like Jesus? Did you realize that you were a champion in their eyes?"

So go the lyrics of Steely Dan's 1976 hit "Kid Charlemagne," which is about "Acid King" Owsley Stanley, who died in a car crash a few weeks ago. Stanley, a benefactor of the Grateful Dead, supplied the late 1960s music scene with highly refined LSD. He reportedly dispensed a million hits (doses) or more. Although I never took acid, I have tripped on searching for spiritual meaning in the lyrics of rock 'n' roll's psychedelic age. What a long, strange trip it was.

On warm summer nights, with a poster of psychologist and acid enthusiast Timothy Leary hanging on the ceiling for inspiration, my buddies and I spent countless hours in a garage loft listening to the likes of the Beatles, the Doors, Neil Young, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and the Moody Blues. We discussed veiled lyrics like those in "Kid Charlemagne," hoping see them clearly and even find meaning in them.

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Lacking Christian faith, a coherent worldview, and being a product of the first generation of a Godless public school system, I didn't understand my purpose or place in the world. Rock 'n' roll lyrics, especially those of the psychedelic genre, filled this void. Not understanding that God is the source of truth and knowledge, I was on a vicarious acid trip looking for meaning in the atheistic-existentialist lyrics that Owsley Stanley's acid helped to inspire. Certainly, I thought, there must be meaning for life in those musical sermons.

Of course, I found no meaning. I was searching for something outside of my own being that made sense, but acid-inspired lyricists presupposed that listeners would find truth via a personal, drug-induced experience.

Several years later, God changed my heart and mind. The elusive truth I was searching for was now mine. Several years after that, I became reacquainted with lectures I had heard in college in the form of a two-volume set of books developed by Grove City College professors titled "Building A Christian World View." Suddenly life came into focus and I finally understood the long, strange trip I had been on. It was navigated, in part, by Kid Charlemagne. I thank God my trip is over.

Lee Wishing
Lee Wishing

Lee is the administrative director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.


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