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Saturday, April 28, 2012

I'm Gonna Be Frank--This is an Essay About Drugs

The world today is toxic, and we’re losing our planet and ourselves to it. We bathe ourselves in chemicals, drink them, eat them, breathe them in and out, use them to power our cities, and clean our houses. We use them to color our hair or our skin or the walls of buildings stuffed full of chemicals. We use chemicals to make us attractive. We use chemicals until we get sick, then we use chemicals to make us better again. We pump ourselves full of chemicals, almost as fast as we’re pumping them into the earth. We inject them into the earth, pour them by the tons into oceans and rivers, and coat the skies with them.

It makes me sick.

I refuse to do drugs not because I think it is immoral or because my parents told me not to. I refuse to do drugs not because of middle school assemblies, because of any religious establishment, or even because they are against the law. I refuse to do drugs because I am fucking sick of chemicals.

Humans are, in spite of our protest, not divine beings—whatever that is supposed to mean. We are not only subject to the laws of physics, biology, and nature; we are manifestations of them. Any notion that any component of our existence might transcend these laws is mistaken.

Ironically, it seems that our true nature of being is best summarized by a passage from the book of Genesis, in which God tells man, “You are dust.” Most likely, the writer of Genesis intended for these words to focus on the mortality of the human race and its vulnerability in comparison to its Creator. However, they seem very appropriate when attempting to clarify the perishability and true nature of mankind. We are star dust.

Our lives are possible because of chemical reactions. Our flesh, insides, and brain matter are composed of molecules, which are composed of atoms, which are composed of even smaller units of matter we are hardly even beginning to comprehend. Hormones are responsible for our emotions. Our thoughts are electrochemical signals. Our personalities, appearance, and entire beings can be traced back to genetic coding and its interaction with the environment.

For quite a while, the inescapable scientific truth of our existence has clashed horribly with our preconceived notions about ourselves and the Universe. Put simply, the concern here is the conflict between religion and science, but in reality this is just the outcome of a fundamental issue that encompasses everything man has come to understand about his own consciousness, existence, and purpose in the world.

What is a soul, if DNA is responsible for one’s personality traits, behavior, and character? Perhaps it can be argued that the idea of a soul is indeed compatible with science and nature—that just because a person’s soul is composed of nucleotides and enzymes doesn’t mean it’s not a soul. I mean, what else would a soul be composed of? Divine particles? Those are particles, nonetheless.

Yet at the same time, where does a person’s soul go when they suffer a severe brain injury and can no longer talk or form coherent thoughts? When their minds have been so wrecked by misery or hatred or whatever-have-you that they are only shells of their old selves? People claim we can chip away and away at person as much as we like yet their soul will remain unscathed inside them. But if we really just keep chipping and chipping away, what could be left? What would distinguish one soul from another? Could our souls really be independent of our bodies? Of our brains?

Where am I going with this? Isn’t this supposed to be an essay about drugs? Yeah, I guess it is. I suppose I better get to the point soon.

What with all of man’s scientific ventures and discoveries in the past several centuries, perhaps the most disturbing question which has arisen in light of these discoveries concerns the identity of an individual. As I mentioned before, where does the concept of the soul fit into science? And if the soul is only a fallacy, what defines the self?

I guess the only remaining answer is genes. The environment. Memories. The mind. The body. But even those can be altered.

As I said before, we are alive because of chemical reactions. We are strange displays put on by the interaction of molecules and various reactive elements. One’s identity and being seems so volatile, and the definition of oneself is so very ambiguous and subject to change. How can we live with this? How can we continue to address ourselves as “I” and “me,” if we don’t even know who we are?

I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll ever find out. But in the meantime, I do not plan to taunt my body with stimulants and narcotics. I have no desire to plague myself and my body with even more chemicals than I already do, to afflict myself with further confusion about my own self. About who I am.

Furthermore, I don’t want my happiness to depend on my stash of weed, or nightly acid trips. I don’t want to wreck my body, already so frustratingly, terrifyingly fragile, with toxins and all of those countless chemicals. I don’t want to spend the rest of my short life in despair anticipating the next opportunity to inject myself with supposed magic potions which will bring me happiness, or fun, or remedy for pain, or whatever you want to call it. I don’t want to make myself numb.

At the end of the day, when it comes to drugs, I have this to say:

Hallucinogens are a poor replacement for dreams.

Junk and cocaine are artificial and meaningless when you compare them with emotions that don’t come through a needle.

Ecstasy doesn’t count as ecstasy when it comes from a pill bottle.

I’d rather not love someone on the condition that I have heroin in my bloodstream.

I don’t want my happiness to be drug-induced.

I want it to be real. Whatever real is, I would choose real happiness any day. I don’t want to live my live blissfully addicted to substances, and then suddenly in despair when I run out. I don’t want to live my life in a narcotic dream and then be trapped forever when I realize that dreams don’t last forever. I want to me, whoever “me” is, and not attribute the essence of my identity to the ground-up powder of some strange plant or leaf.

And if I can’t be happy, I would rather have real sadness than a drugged happiness.

I am a living, breathing unit of nature. I have no intentions to further upset the earth and myself by using drugs. And most of all, I’m so goddamn sick of chemicals. So goddamn sick.

And don’t get me fucking started on cigarettes.


Gabi said...

I love this. I love this so much.

There's a guy who goes to my school. I've known him since kindergarten, and he's the only person who has been with me at all of my schools. We kind of watched each other grow up, even if we were never especially friendly. He's a really intelligent guy. Once we entered high school, he got into drugs. His eyes are constantly bloodshot and he walks around barely aware of his surroundings. It makes me sad. Not because I'm upset about his morality or anything, but because he turned a perfectly wonderful guy into a person only known for selling weed. Maybe he's still wonderful on the inside. I don't know. But how could he do that to himself?

Julianne said...

This is the most convincing writing I've seen about drugs in a long time. Usually when people talk about why one shouldn't do drugs, they immediately jump to something like "Because it's bad and illegal and against the Bible," but the thought of being more removed from reality than we already are is terrifying as hell. A life of simulated happiness sounds terrible.

RainboRevolver said...

I feel a little awkward commenting, mainly because I partake of the things you despise, but this was very articulately written and offered valid points. Definitely made me rethink things. You should write an editorial column for a national publication. I would read it.

Alex said...

Chemicals are like superpowers. There is a tiny minority that use them for good, and we'd all like to think that we would do the same if given the ability and chance to do so. But we wouldn't and don't.

Either way, that was really great! I wouldn't read that to our school though. Somehow, I feel that a large percentage of the student body might disagree with you.

Oh, and to answer your question, 42.

Zeebs said...

Amen. I'd rather remember why I was excited than being just excited.

Jen said...

Thanks for posting this. Honestly, you just summed up my feelings on the subject. I'd rather live my life to the fullest, rather than an imitation of life that is augmented by reality-altering drugs. Not my idea of a good time.

Boyd said...

This is absolutely the most intelligent argument against drugs that I've ever read, just because it's so personal and impossible to refute. Also, everything about souls and chemical reactions, and their relationship, was fascinatingly well thought out.