Radical is no longer chic. "The Me-Decade," Tom Wolfe calls it, catchily labeling the '70s headlong pursuit of self-fulfillment, while sociologists ponder the causes of the "New Narcissism." It's not too hard to figure, really. The '60s and its aftermath - Vietnam and Chicago and Kent State, Watts and Newark, Dallas and Memphis and Los Angeles, and, of course, Watergate - burned us out, used up our supply of altruism, made us feel victimized, cheated somehow. "In a world where elephants are pursue by flying men," says the war correspondent in "Who'll Stop the Rain," straight out of Vietnam and into dealing heroin, "people will just naturally want to get high." And if drugs weren't the answer, you could get high "self-tripping."
It all seemed to begin in the late '60s in California, where most things do, with Esalen, the original "touchy-feely" ay to encounter the self through others. ("Interaction," they call it.) Today there are hundreds of organized methods of self-realization - from traditional Zen to Jung to the wilder shores of iridology - all available for a price of course (probably $25 to $75 an hour).Running might be cheaper - those joggers clogging the paths by the C&O Canal on any given morning may be as much after the fabled "runner's high" as they are beautiful bodies. But if pulled muscles and shinsplints seem too painful a price to pay, herewith is a non-tested consumer's guide to some less stremuous, though not necessarily easier, pathways to discovering yourself in Washington.