Bourdain was expressing the fact that he was looking for meaning in life. Last year, he told David Remnick—the New Yorker editor who published the 1999 article that made Bourdain famous—that, upon entering the public spotlight, he implemented a “no asshole” rule. If the phone rings at 10 pm, no matter how much money was on the line, Bourdain never wanted to regret having to talk to that person. Money was secondary to enjoying life; he knew it could be an impediment. He felt that time was too precious to waste.
In his new book on psychedelics, How to Change Your Mind, Michael Pollen writes about Patrick Mettes, who, while suffering from bile duct cancer decided to end his grueling chemotherapy regimen. Death was imminent. Mettes had heard about an NYU study in which researchers were distributing a synthetic form of psilocybin for terminally ill patients undergoing “existential distress.” Against the wishes of his wife, he decided to enroll.
During the last days of his life, Patrick’s wife, Lisa, was the one being consoled. Mettes, who had never taken a psychedelic before, underwent a transformative experience. His life was suddenly filled with meaning, while the mindset switch—the deactivation of the parts of his brain related to ego, which is, in large part, how psychedelics work—made death a less harrowing prospect. Mettes died content, filled with gratitude.
Bourdain did not have the same experiences on LSD, though he admits that it made him “more open-minded.” It also empowered him with a greater sense of empathy, which might have later influenced his role in introducing hidden cultural landscapes to new audiences. Even though Bourdain never took LSD again, he continues,