From the wonderful Comic Strip.
For as long as mankind can (‘t) remember, it has been doing drugs.
50,000 YEARS AGO – A Neanderthal burial site in Iraq was found to contain remains of the herbal stimulant ephedra. Palaeolithic cave art across Europe and Africa suggests artists had experience of hallucinogens.
Some 40,000 years later, we were at it again:
10,000BC – Earliest agriculture. Some evidence that the first crops included psychoactive plants such as mandrake, tobacco, coffee and cannabis suggest that prehistoric types enjoyed a little feet-up time. Down the eons, betel seeds, poppy seeds, wine and beer, spirits, mushrooms, coca leaves, tea leaves, rotting plant materials, putrid yak’s milk, nutmeg – you name it, we took it. Mankind has always dabbled. As I sit writing this, I have just started a mug of coffee that was hot on the heels of two mugs of tea.
I suppose that makes me a druggy.
But why do we do them?
In Native American culture, drugs were used to alter the state of being and the way that the world perceived. At a certain age, before puberty, the world was revealed through a series of spiritual experiences. This was known as a ‘vision-quest’.
A vision-quest is a rite of passage, similar to an initiation, in some Native American cultures. It is a turning point in life taken before puberty to find oneself and the intended spiritual and life direction. When an older child is ready, he or she will go on a personal, spiritual quest alone in the wilderness, often in conjunction with a period of fasting. This usually lasts for a number of days while the child is tuned into the spirit world. Usually, a Guardian animal will come in a vision or dream, and the child’s life direction will appear at some point. The child returns to the tribe, and once the child has grown, will pursue that direction in life. After a vision quest, the child may apprentice an adult in the tribe of the shown direction (Medicine Man, boatmaker, etc).
So far, so good. For those of us ‘tree-huggers’, this sounds like a perfectly reasonable way to find your bearings and to understand the many layers of the world around you. It’s not dirty, it’s not crack, it’s only dangerous if a bear decides to eat you. At this point in the evolution of our species, I have just drained the last drops of my mug of coffee. I have the not too pleasant dry-mouth feeling that takes away the lasting pleasure of my beverage. I won’t be doing coffee for the rest of the day.
And now I yearn for tea to fit the chasm. When I was younger, I knew lots of people who used drugs. Alcohol was the accepted drug of choice and, during sixth-form nights’ out, many of us would participate in our own ‘vision-quests’. Back then, we weren’t sophisticated enough to use such user-friendly terminology so, we called it getting pissed. This came with a variety end results: devouring curry, dancing insanely to punk or new-wave, and then throwing-your-guts-up at the side of the road were the normal outcomes. You see we came from The North, Viking land, West Yorkshire, and this was our liberation from the weight of having to be ourselves. It also gave us the courage to chat-up the opposite sex. The thing about our West Yorkshire ‘vision-quests’ was that you never encountered wolves or bears, well not in their own clothing.
As a youngster, it was seen as a rite of passage. It was frowned upon, but accepted. The problem is that lots of youngsters liked the sense of escape so much that they continued it well into adult life. Not so ‘tree-huggingly’ good then!
Down the years, many artists, writers and musicians have ‘experimented’ in order to see a little bit more.
And that is the thing. It is funky. Not in the strange-smelling manner of today’s hipster slang, but in a way that suggests fun, excitement and adventure. With mind-altering drugs, there would be no need to go on holiday; just drop a tab and take a trip away from yourself. Some people do it and they are gone for a lifetime.
Unfortunately, there is a flip-side to this. On the other side is the physical addiction, the physical damage, and the psychological affliction. We are in the world but not a part of it. Somehow, we are safe. Somehow, we have been able to open doors that are good whilst closing the ones that are not so good. Yet, all the time we are searching for the doors that allow us to see life in its true state. And what if that true state turns out to be truly disappointing? Where do we go then?
The answer to that particular rhetorical question is: I DON’T KNOW.
Perhaps it is all about just getting on with it. Doing your best to make headway. Keep on going when you want to stop. Ignore those little voices that suggest that there is something else out there that you have not yet seen. Or, what if the thing that you find is worse than mundane?
The truth could be that the world in which we live is another planet’s hell. But I can’t believe that; truly. Thinking may be hell. Searching for Nirvana may be hell. Seeking the truth may be hell.
The point of it all could be that it has a point, a tiny pinprick in time. That’s us, that’s our lives. Once I fall into the space between the known and the unknown, I’m adrift.