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Commentary: A psychonaut’s adventures in videoland

Amanda Nieto, Arts Editor

Journalists are driven by curiosity. Their job is centered on asking questions, finding answers and relaying their findings to an audience.

Hamilton Morris, a 24-year-old writer and filmmaker, is one such curious seeker who has taken his work to other-worldly dimensions through his quest to bring firsthand accounts on psychedelic drugs.

In his series for Vice.com titled “Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia,” Morris travels the world to better understand drugs. These documentary episodes feature Morris interviewing people of different cultures then experimenting with their drug of choice.

Some of these adventures include an experimental take on the voodoo zombie poison Tetrodotoxin, an interview with the ‘godfather of psychedelics’ Alexander Shulgin and rubbing the venom of an Amazonian frog into his burns.

Morris may sound reckless and crazy – another junkie looking for his next high. Some may even think he is looking for a deity or higher consciousness. However, Morris is simply following the path of curiosity and letting it take him on a trip to unfound places.

Morris approaches each drug through a scientific lens, and lets his research take viewers to a newfound understanding that steers clear of being romanticized.

He takes control of his subject by doing the necessary research, interviewing experts and those familiar with the drug. It is then time for him to sit back and let the subject take control of him.

“Hamilton and the Philosopher’s Stone” is a recent video post where Morris travels to Amsterdam for an encounter with magic truffles. In the video Morris gives a detailed description of what these magic truffles are, how they are grown and the chemical effects they possess. Interviews with growers and drug experts accompany the research.

After giving background on the drug, Morris ingests the truffle. The camera crew then follows him as he drifts into far off places.

To the relief of my family I should now add that experimenting with foreign drugs and reporting on them is not an aspiration of mine; however, I find Morris’ work extremely commendable.

He is taking a subject that is widely misconstrued, and thus unknown to the general public, and is providing firsthand, scientific videos to raise awareness.

Although he claims to have no shamanic purposes behind his study, he is still shedding light on ways that many beliefs express its spirituality. Through spreading knowledge of this subculture he is helping remove a stigma that has made these psychedelic drugs taboo and illegal.

Morris is showing a scientific approach to a recreational, and often times spiritual, activity. Furthermore, he is demonstrating what a journalist does in an exciting way; he is going out into the world to find answers to his questions.

Amanda Nieto, a sophomore journalism major, is arts editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by email at amanda.nieto@laverne.edu.

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