Sitting on my summer deck
Jerry plays, hot in the sun
I reach out with myself
to commune with nature
The very same one
I tamed with power tools
irony hangs thick on the air
Sitting on my summer deck
Jerry plays, hot in the sun
I reach out with myself
to commune with nature
The very same one
I tamed with power tools
irony hangs thick on the air
a coil of muscle
stretching the length of
the python of song
bass notes wrap and spiral
as guitar circle prey
the piano a calliope
confusion takes form
drummers raise pressure
burning one fuse
energy builds thick
tensions reach critical
but for you there
the darkness is now
in your tiny space
as your spirit takes flight
*The following is multi-part series on the rise of cannabis as a medicine, how it affects alcoholics and addicts in recovery, and how to go about changing the information we have in our minds.
On June 10, 1935 the modern recovery movement was born when Alcoholics Anonymous came into being. And with it came an entirely new way for society to view alcoholism. While this isn’t the only method for people to recover, it’s going to be my primary starting point for now.
AA presented alcoholism as a disease, and one with no known cure. They also offered an ongoing “treatment” for alcoholism that would help the sufferer keep their illness in remission. It soon became very well respected, primarily for the recoveries that it had helped foster. Rather than branching out into other problem areas in society, it instead offered up its 12-step formula to other organizations, to adapt as they saw fit to help other populations with different needs. AA also offered its help to the world of science and health, helping to catapult much of the medical research on alcoholism and addiction that we now benefit from. They firmly put themselves in a position to only help, and never to engage in opinions one way or another. AA also tried very hard to foresee the future in order to avoid falling prey to medical fads, or fickle politics. In doing so, it necessarily took a step back, offering no opinions or endorsements. It’s that kind of foresight that has allowed the program to help as many people as it has over the years. It also gave the mistaken impression to many that the organization itself was mired in the past, advocating faith-healing over science, and allowing people to blame their problems on a disease instead of taking responsibility.
On August 2, 1937 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Marijuana Tax Act, setting in motion an eighty-year assault on plant that had previously been cultivated for a variety of uses by Americans up until that point. The bill itself was drafted by Harry Anslinger, who served (not at all coincidentally) as the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. There is more than enough evidence indicating that cannabis was already under assault on different fronts prior to this point, but history has also shown that Anslinger played a pivotal role in cannabis prohibition. And, like many of the other substances that were being regulated, and prohibited during this particularly active period of American puritanism, cannabis went from being a plant of many uses, to a fast and efficient way to ruins your life just from the penalties alone.
So, for 80 years those two worlds existed on parallel planes, rarely interacting. As the 12-step world grew and expanded to include organizations like Narcotics Anonymous, and Marijuana Anonymous, the idea of members using any sort of medicine that alters consciousness became taboo in church basements around the world.
It’s here where I need to step and explain something. I have and will use the terms organization, program, members, and culture to describe things like AA, and that isn’t accidental. It also needs to be pointed out that they aren’t synonymous with each other, something that becomes important as this narrative continues.
The organization of Alcoholics Anonymous is just that, the parent organization that exists to serve the groups, and individual members with information to aid in their recovery. This is the same type of organization that I mentioned had “firmly put themselves in a position to only help, and never to engage in opinions one way or another”. Unlike most organizations, they never set rules or requirements for their members to follow, at most they will offer suggestions. Not everyone at the organization is a member, let alone an alcoholic or addict. If asked about their position on different forms of cannabis being legally prescribed as medicine, or about recreational legalization, they would very likely say that they have no opinion on those kinds of issues.
The program of Alcoholics Anonymous are those 12-step things you hear mentioned in TV and movies all of the time. If you actually use these twelve things to help you in life, you are following the program. You don’t need to be a member, or even an alcoholic or drug addict to use them. They were designed to be “open source” long before that was a term of use.
The members of Alcoholics Anonymous are just that, the people in the seats. Someone becomes a member when they say they are, that’s all there is to it. Of course, because the membership is made up of people who get to decide if they are members, or even if they are alcoholics at all, it is as flawed as and varied as people are in general. And while that means no one person is in charge, it also means that anyone who thinks they are, will try to be. I invite you to someday attend an AA meeting someday, and then randomly suggest they move their coffee pot across the room. Watch to see how many people think they are in charge. This will become is a crucial point in this narrative, because they are people with lots of opinions, who talk to each other all the time.
Finally, there is the culture of Alcoholics Anonymous. This is where most misunderstandings and conflicts arise within the world of recovery. And it’s here where opinions become dogma, regardless of evidence.
To be continued…
I spied the keyhole tonight
the signpost planted deep
No Trespassing —
The shadow reaches back
more dire for what it hides.
What it says of the soul
I was just texting with a friend who had just come back from a house party, and part of his comments were that he didn’t feel like he fit in with that particular group of people. My initial response was, “I feel like that at every party.” Which isn’t entirely true, but it sometimes feels like it. In fact, for about 95% of my life, I’ve felt like I’ve only had about 5% in common with any person in the room.
For myself, I feel as though that happens to me when I am acutely aware of my-self. You know, that part that tells me that J am actually separate from others. There’s something about those feelings of isolation, or separation that seem to fuel the egos growth, solidifying the belief that we are unique and different from others.
Of course, none of that is actually true. The more I lose myself in any situation, whether some music or even just a really good conversation, the less I am thinking about myself. I don’t think about whether I’m hungry or not, or if I’m bored, or even if I am being self-conscious about the clothes I’m wearing. Instead, I am engrossed in the moment, in the now. I am present.
Self-talk, that chattering monkey in your head, necessarily requires you to pause your attention to the current moment, and asks of you to step slightly outside of it to gain perspective. While this view is only a subtle difference, it’s more than enough to stop you from being fully present.
When we aren’t present in our own life, we miss the magic of the moment. And by missing that we begin to separate from others, just a little bit. We begin to see the differences between ourselves and others. And when we do that, we begin to make judgements, even the most well-meaning of which encourage us to compare and separate again. And each time it needs just a little bit more, inch by inch, stretching on for miles.
And we find that, no matter the teacher, the message is the same. “Judge not, lest ye be judged”, is nothing more than a statement of cause and effect, one that we can expect to happen if we allow ourselves to step back in order to observe the differences between ourselves and others. That in itself is neither a good nor a bad thing. What it is though, is simply the statement of a natural law that we can count on as surely as gravity pulls us back to earth.
It is a mile built on inches.
Because, once we do, we have begun to lead ourselves into the hell of no longer truly being on the same plane as others around us. Each judgement one more small wedge that we use, to split ourselves off of the larger tree of society.
When I am sitting in a party and begin to think, “I’m not sure I agree with that lady’s politics”, or whatever other differentiation I might toss to my mind for fodder and fun, is the moment that I set that this separation in motion.
And only we can do it to ourselves. I am the only person actually capable of deciding whether or not to put chasms of thought between myself and the person sitting right next to me.
I was listening and laughing to David Sedaris’s Santaland Diaries near the end of this writing, and during a discussion about forced enthusiasm and fake authenticity, David uttered such a profound line that I stopped dead. It summed up everything I was saying about the cause and effect nature of self-judgement that dooms then dooms us as individuals. And it’s that line I will end with:
“All I do is lie, and that has made me immune to compliments.”
I saw Bohemian Rhapsody recently with some friends, and I loved it. I’m also old enough to have been around for the first time around. Long before it seemed necessary to immortalize it on the big screen as its own story.
Soon after I saw it, I found myself listening to an interview with Rami Malek as he discussed what it was like to attempt to portray Freddy Mercury, and it got me thinking. Imagine the process someone has to go through when they try to portray a primarily contemporary musical idol to their original audience, as well as a newer world. More than that, someone who was such an absolutely massive personality. I mean, Freddy Mercury was, if nothing else, a man with a huge presence in recent musical history. A personality that embodies, and maybe even defines the title of “lead singer in a rock and roll band”.
And, during this interview, Malek, begins to describe how to emulate a man who, when he was on stage, gave 120% at all times…
I stopped right there.
Ok, at so first my pedantic nature takes over and I think, “Ugh. I hate that crap. Per Cent. Per 100! If we are giving something our all, that all would be 100% of what we have to give, right?! I hate this crap. It’s just over-the-top Tony Robbins motivational blargspeak, and it makes my teeth itch. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought about why some people make us feel as though they can give beyond what we think they are capable of giving. Therefore, when they give it their all, we see that it’s in excess of what we expected to see from someone like that. And we label it as them having given 120%.
But, this is about art. My belief is that art is really spirit. Or, more specifically art comes out of the gaps in our spirit. It reaches itself out to, seeking the same in others. And art is the language they speak.
Art is spirituality manifested in some form that pleases/stimulates/connects with other people’s spirits, and it communicates entirely on its own plane. It comes into being when its creator creates it, or names it, or loves it, or even passionately hates it. Sculpture and music, painting or stagecraft, subway platforms or museum niches, art exists because we’re human. In the darkest of places, art is a blazing torch. Even in the mundane, art is the eyebrows* we put on that spreadsheet of dry numbers we give to our boss.
But what about the artist who doesn’t have cracks, or even gaps in their shell? What about those who are almost raw spirit under a thin human veneer, coming face to face with the world for the first time. They don’t create when they make their art, they become it. As they perform their art, they create an energy around them that is its own, higher form of art. This form we call ‘love’.
I don’t think artists like Freddy Mercury are capable of giving 20% more than everyone else. I think they are somehow able to transmit the love they helped create when their untethered spirit is finally allowed to fluently speak its native tongue. That’s what we call that ‘art’.
And the best we’ve come up with to describe this phenomenon is, ‘he gave 120%’?! No. No. No. We’re going to need to get an artist on this right away and change that.
barraging your ego
slow crust build
that candy shell
there you are
didn’t want to be
years of practice
appears to shrink
loss begets begin
same size again
This one was tough to put into words, even more so in writing.
You know, I’m glad that people are shocked and motivated to raise awareness about suicide since the passing of Anthony Bordain, and Kate Spade. Similar concerns erupted around Robin Williams suicide a few years ago too. But unfortunately, it’s very likely that these concerns will have to get voiced again, and again, since this problem isn’t going away anytime soon.
Awareness is a good thing, but in and of itself, it’s not very practical. Compassion, and awareness need to be paired with action to show their real effectiveness. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying awareness is useless. I mean, it sure beats some of our other bright ideas, like ‘life’s a beach’ T-shirts, truck balls, and Budweiser mirrors, but it is only awareness after all.
Suicidal ideations don’t usually just come out of nowhere. Usually those kinds of thoughts are like an old friend that has quietly whispered never ending doubts into your ear for many years. And it’s not usually a threatening voice either. In fact, to the some sufferers it’s a very reassuring one, because it’s the only one that offers anything resembling relief, however final it may be. While the idea of suicide may seem a tad drastic at first, with constant nudging from that voice, it begins to lose that feeling of being such an “extreme act”.
It should be universally understood that someone is no longer functioning normally when they are willing to conclude that everyone they care about (and who cares about them) would be better off if they were no longer alive. It should be, but it isn’t. Instead, people confuse depression with sadness, in much the same way a very vocal minority confuses climate with weather.
For the sufferer, anything that interferes with their ability to wallow in their own thoughts, gets jettisoned quickly. The passage of time is only relevant to how long it’s been since their last bout. For years the voice has been convincing them how minor their death will be, that everyone is better off, and how it has always been an option. And the more they listen, the more powerful it becomes, just like Hyde did to Dr. Jeckyl.
If you know someone is struggling, you need to reach out to them. Think for a second about how willing you are to reach out when you’re feeling down… a lot of us would just like crawl back to bed, at the very least. So take a few minutes out of your day to talk with them and catch up. Make sure to stay in touch with them, because a huge part of the problem is the almost total inability to ask for help!
If we know someone who might actually need help, we should encourage them to talk to their doctor or seek another form of help. We should keep in touch with them, and follow up. We need more human contact, we’re all beginning to realize how much of that we’ve given up for our phoneputers. And I’m probably guiltier of it than most.
I’d love to wrap this up in a nice bow that tells everyone how we can fix it. Yeah… that’s not how this works. Helping people can be inconvenient sometimes, but we aren’t going to solve some of our more ‘human’ problems without getting right in there and showing that we give a shit.
Being an American does not mean you should or shouldn’t possess a gun, but we should respect each other’s right to choose either. It’s a gun, it’s designed to kill people. You should be glad not everyone wants to do that.
Being an American does not depend on where you were born. We are all a mix, and we always have been. No one likes to be the last one picked for a team, so don’t be a jerk.
Being an American does not mean you need to speak a particular dialect, and we have never had an official language. Don’t be so self-centered, you look and sound different to other people too.
Being an American does not mean we must obey a particular religion or God, but we sure do know enough to keep them all out of our laws. If everyone doesn’t believe in something, then there’s no way you can rule with it. Ignoring this always leads to uprisings.
Being an American means you don’t need to know the words to our national anthem, or even to stand up during it. There’s people who think you should, and others who think you shouldn’t. The wonderful thing about freedom is when you get to exercise it.
Being an American does not mean you have to submit to an arranged marriage, or any marriage for that matter. And if you do want to marry someone else, we are finally beginning to realize that it’s no one’s business who you fall in love with. No matter how closed-minded people can be, no one like’s to be told what to do.
Being an American does not mean you have to fit in one of the predetermined parties that we group people by in politics. In fact, most of us rarely like everything that comes bundled up by a single political group. It’s almost as if people are actually different. That’s a good thing.
Being an American does not mean you have to like your president. In fact, we have always believed that a peaceful protest to can help right the wrongs we sometimes make. America has always tried to assure that the minority opinion gets heard. And when it doesn’t, it is our right to engage in constructive dissent to see that it does.
Being an American means that we recognize the world is bigger than us, most people are different from us, nothing is forever, a majority does not equal harmony, we don’t like bullies and monarchs, and we prefer to change our public servants often.
Being an American means that we take the good with the bad, and strive to be better next time. It means that you shouldn’t insult others for protesting during an anthem, especially if you can’t remember the words to our other national ballads.
Being an American means that we do believe, we do care, and we are united. But what we care about, what we believe in, and what we unite over, is different for each of us.
We are strong because we are different. We are special because we are equal. The most aggressive are the most afraid. And what looks like the end always brings a new beginning.
It is a practically universally accepted fact that the Russians have been trying to interfere with democratic elections all over the world, including in the United States, where they appear to have been successful.
It is also a near universally accepted fact that human activities are contributing to rapid climate change, and endangering the planet and the human race, and that this activity is directly linked to the burning of fossil fuels.
So, do you suppose that it’s by accident that the only notable exceptions in each of these cases is a group of politically linked, right-wing individuals, who have built a news echo chamber so efficient that even facts are unable penetrate it?