Most of us associate health with taking a pill. Whether it’s a Tylenol for arthritic pain, or the generic Carvedilol, used to treat heart failure and hypertension. The use of prescriptions increase commensurate with aging. It’s common knowledge of the danger of overdoses, or abuse of prescriptions-even over-the-counter drugs. We’re too familiar with the astronomical price of some drugs-adversely impacting those absent health insurance. The term “drugs” have both a positive and negative connotation. Illegal use of cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana are rampant in our culture. Can we be delivered from this conundrum?
It’s been years since we’ve heard the name of the late, Harvard psychologist, Timothy Leary, who advocated “drugs inside one’s head” as an ideology, and extolled “the sacraments for the new religion,” in the early 1960’s. The Berkeley Free Speech Movement arose simultaneously with the hippie world of drugs. It proved to be a “world-turned on” with LSD. They promised an “open the door to Paradise.” Sadly, it was a toxic experiment for “death to the mind,” and rather than “free speech” it was the “dirty speech” movement, ultimately delivering Woodstock, in the Summer of 1969. Many spurned their parents personal peace and affluence at any cost mentality. Unfortunately, their alternatives were worse. It wasn’t nirvana. An ugly psychedelic event.
To this day, many revere Jimi Hendrix, an extremely talented, black musician, who overdosed in September, 1970, and drowned in his own vomit, shortly after some claimed he was “a symbol of a new beginning.” Not for him. Drugs then, as now, for many, became their escape. Forty five years later, that pernicious thinking beguiles us. With all the rhetoric about the legalization of drugs, at some level, former Drug Czar, Bill Bennett, observed that no civilized citizenry, one based upon self-governing, can remain neutral on the notion of a society in a perpetual “drug induced” haze. That doesn’t bode well for the future of a moral, responsible people.
This Fall, CBS introduced a new TV series, “Limitless,” an adaptation of a 2011 sci-fi, based upon a character, Brian Finch, who takes a drug, NZT-48, that provides temporary inhuman, robotic intellect, and perfect recall. His life was marked by stark banality. He found new meaning, serving the FBI as a super sleuth. Who’d be tempted to succumb to this scenario, if possible? Adolescents-likely. Adults-perhaps. We have a history in this realm. Ask Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire, Lance Armstrong, or female Olympic track star, Marion Jones-all had a career marring tryst with corticosteroids, or blood doping, that gave them a performance boost; an unfair competitive edge over competition.
It’s not a polemic of legitimate drugs versus illegitimate. It’s a matter of a culture that’s prone to quick fixes and short cuts. Whether it’s a “face lift,” “miracle weight loss pill,” a nutrient adding “years to our life,” or cheating on tests rather than studying. Swapping a virtue for a vice. Jettisoning hard work for compulsive gambling. Self discipline is an odd type of relationship. We make a “disciple” of one’s self. Paradoxical in its own way. Many of us desire that plane of existence. Bad habits are taskmasters. Easy to form. Hard to shake. Some seek advantage; some seek comfort-others seek both. At nearly any cost, we resist getting old, sick, irrelevant, or forgotten.
Overcoming vexing habits demand more than desire and “good intentions.” Most of us struggle in this realm. Often we seek to avoid discomfort, rather than face our “demons.” If we are afflicted by whether to seek comfort or affliction, it’s not an either or proposition. They sell Lazy Boy rockers. They sell Total Gyms too. We needn’t spend our existence on only one. One’s for our comfort-the other for our affliction. Like children, we often seek comfort and respite from things that assail us, and interrupt our reverie. As parents we eventually learn that a constant dose of comfort’s a malison-counterproductive to balanced healthy off-springs, lest we rear a lazy, self indulgent brat. We needn’t afflict them. However, we need to prepare them for the affliction that will surely arrive.
We weren’t created for a reclusive life, immune from calamity or joy. Mortals are adept at finding temporal potions and elixirs. Some are advantageous. Others are deleterious. Prescriptions are a blessing and a bane. It may quickly become a comfort zone from life. Refrain from prolonged stays at a psychiatrist couch or dulling our senses with prescription drugs. There’s nothing wrong with that comfy place, a cozy corner, where one feels good, augmented by a cup of coffee or latte, with a friend or mate. There’s more to life.
Many lack the wisdom to know what we need, and when, or how much. To the casual observer of biblical Christianity, Jesus is often mischaracterized as either a “full-time” comforter, or harsh afflicter. He comforted as only He can. However, He afflicted those who needed affliction. He comforted the woman trapped in adultery, forgiving her, telling her to “go and sin no more.” Conversely, He scathingly denounced the Pharisees and scribes for their hypocrisy and feigned purity. The adulterous woman understood her condition. The Pharisees and scribes were in denial.
In this world of uncertainty and discomposing vicissitudes, the inclination to “take another pill ” is alluring. C.S. Lewis put it best, “In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth-only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with, and in the end, despair.” Though imperfect, without the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, we’d be far poorer off, health wise. There’s a perfidious side to total reliance on physicians and pills. Another pill may not be the answer. What vexes us most? Ourselves? Bullyragging? Loneliness? Eternity? What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org