A week or so ago, I had a lengthy debate with a fellow church member on Facebook about marijuana. I had posted a status update on my Facebook wall that I knew would elicit a response from him. One day on the bus home from work, someone had boarded and sat next to me, drenched in the stench of marijuana. And yes, to me its a fowl smell that makes me want to vomit. I know a lady who used to smoke the stuff and after she quit and removed herself from friends who still lived that lifestyle, she said that whenever she does smell marijuana smoke, she still is drawn to it, even though she hasn't smoked it for years. What is the lure of this drug for people? I've never had it.
I know it might come across as hard to believe for some people, but I have never smoked marijuana and have no desire to. Marijuana users like to say, "don't knock it until you try it" but I don't need to take a cyanide pill to know that its bad for me. I'm generally more open-minded than most anyone else I meet. That is, open minded to different ideas. However, if marijuana users want to call me closed-minded because I have never smoked it and won't change my view that its not good for your body and mind, so be it. That's essentially what this church friend said to me in the debate. He wanted me to cite actual facts that it was bad for you, because he claims that its beneficial. Yes, he self-medicates and has admitted to being bi-polar. Supposedly, the drug helps him better than any pharmaceutical pill that is FDA-approved. Whatever.
After our debate went no where because I wouldn't play his game of posting websites where I get my information to back up my claims, he actually de-friended me on Facebook. We used to have around the same number of people on our Facebook friends list, but I had noticed that he had steadily been decreasing over the past several months. Now, he's down to 24 friends. I'm not sure if he was the one doing the de-friending or if others were, due to his extremist views. Whatever. What I know is this: the guy's an incredible narcissist and does not realize it. I have never met a more selfish human being in my life. What an incredible waste of a life, though. In every spiritual book I've read, selfishness is viewed poorly in regards to the meaning of life. A life of self-indulgence is empty and meaningless. Considering that the guy considers himself an atheist now (he belongs to the same church I do), its not a surprise based on his narcissistic personality. His ego is strong and I know from personal experience as well as the sheer number of spiritual books I've read that true spirituality generally does not emerge in a person until the ego gets broken in some way.
When people talk about their "born again" experience, what they are referring to is the moment in their lives when their egos were shattered and they had to begin again with a new belief system. It could be a fundamentalist Christian church, Alcoholics Anonymous, or a complete change in careers. What precedes the fall in those who have such experiences? Usually, a completely selfish existence. Drinking, drugs, climbing the corporate ladder by screwing other people over, excessive materialism, etc.
In all my conversations with this guy in the past four years that I've known him, he exhibits every stereotype of a slacker pothead (as viewed above): lack of ambition, doesn't really care about anything (except his "sovereign rights"), his thinking is rather muddled (though he really believes himself to be the most logical person around), and he is definitely paranoid (believing our government to be the worst "tyranny" on earth. I think the people of Burma would love to swap places with him. Just a hunch, but what do I know? I was only an International Politics major whose focus of study was on human rights!).
In our debates lately, he became obsessed with wanting facts and for me to cite every claim that I was making. He does this game with everyone, whether its citing law statutes, Supreme Court cases, and legislative bills, if you can't do this, then nothing you say has merit. Its absurd, though, because we're not on the debate team or writing an article to submit to a medical journal or a graduate course. When it comes to citing information in a formal paper or debate, of course its to be expected. In casual conversation? Who does that? I go to a discussion group every other Wednesday and we've discussed topics that run the gamut on internationally-related news. People share their thoughts on whatever the topic might be and no one demands to know where they got their facts. Occasionally, someone might say something intriguing enough to prompt someone to do a check on their iPhone, such as the last time when someone mentioned that you can actually see the borderline between Haiti and the Dominican Republic due to Haiti's practice of deforestation. Someone else got curious to see it and did a Google image search and was impressed by the photo that came up.
The reason why I did not offer this obsessive-compulsive guy info on where I got my facts is because I read a lot and don't save every article that I read nor memorize the exact magazine article / date / writer, etc. For me, I digest the information and move on. I've learned about drugs and its effects since elementary school. In fact, the films we saw in the 5th grade about drug usage so scared me that I didn't need Nancy Reagan telling me "Just Say No" for me to say no. Unlike the other kids, I did not think it was funny when we watched a scene from a video of a girl high on some kind of drug stepping up on the railing of a highrise balcony, trying to balance a walk like she was on a tightrope and falling to her death (it was a reenactment, not a snuff film). To an 11 year old like me, that was a scary image seared into my brain for life. My impression then (as now) was that there is no way I'd allow myself to be unaware of my surroundings. I've been drunk a few times when I was in the Navy and the night I indulged too much and blacked out to where I couldn't remember anything about that night was probably the scariest moment of my life. That I had allowed myself to be in a situation where I had no conscious awareness of my own safety and had to depend on other people is something I never want to repeat again.
If my own intolerance of drug usage weren't enough, I also don't like people who are on drugs. Never have. For some reason, I have an intuitive ability to tell when I'm talking to someone if they are "fully present" or not. If I detect drug usage, it becomes even more unbearable for me. In my own life experience, I've seen people who are drug users behave and I don't like their behaviour at all. The best example of this was last November on my San Francisco vacation when I rode Caltrain from Mountain View to San Francisco the morning of the Giants ticker tape victory parade. A group of obnoxious young people decided to light up a joint to pass around. They were loud, completely selfish (not considerate to the rest of us in that train compartment), and obnoxious. There was nothing likable about those people at all. And we were powerless to do anything. My eyes kept meeting a middle-aged Hispanic lady's eyes and we just shook our heads at the discomfort of the situation.
As a teenager, I had attended a cast party after the success of our play. I was depressed when I saw my fellow cast mates drinking alcohol and smoking a joint. I decided I didn't belong, so I left. The party was in my neighbourhood so I was able to walk home, where my mom actually waited for me to come home. My parents have never had to tell me that drugs were bad. I guess I've just never been a wild person, needing to experiment with things. I don't know where the strong anti-drug mentality came from but I'm very glad that I have it. One of my major "flaws" might actually be my absolute disdain for people who use drugs. I have a low opinion of people who use and don't respect them. The way I feel about it, if that person doesn't care enough to respect his or her own mind and body, why should I respect them? Especially if the drugs they are using makes them loud, obnoxious, and foolishly brave.
The above photo is part of a new anti-drug campaign. By showing the contrast in a person's looks, the hope is that the ads will appeal to a young person's vanity. I don't think it will work, but anything to show the reality of what long-term drug use will do is a good thing. Drugs have the amazing ability to turn people into the zombie look. Whenever I see a person who looks older than they normally should, I automatically wonder if they are alcoholics, smokers, or drug-users. The part of Portland I live in is full of people who look like the lady in the photo labeled "2002." Its sad to see the evidence of "hard living" on the peoples faces while waiting for the bus. When I lived in downtown Portland, I hardly ever saw anyone smoke. In far out eastern Portland, it seems like everyone does.
Even worse is to hear them speak. The ignorance of their manner of speaking is so obvious. I totally understand that the combination of low wages, ignorance, and lack of economic opportunity is a huge deathblow to anyone's esteem. But to see these people get trapped in the cycle of the next chemical fix is truly depressing. For me, I may be stuck in low wage jobs and unable to find my way to a living wage career, but at least I'll always have my books and desire to improve my interior life. So, in contrast to these depressing people who use alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs to numb the pains and disappointments of their lives, I think I have a smarter way of dealing with disappointments. At the end of our lives, all we have is our life experiences and the knowledge we gained while living to take with us to the next realm of existence. Drugs don't do a damn thing for us, except to give the illusion of escaping one's "issues."
To me, its amazing that a smart guy such as that church friend I had mentioned above will cite all the supposed "benefits" of marijuana to him while denying any of the negative aspects. I'm not out of line or being outrageous by claiming that long-term marijuana use actually does make people less smart. People don't joke about a person "being baked" or "stoned" without some kind of truth behind it. I don't need to cite sources in a casual conversation on well known aspects of marijuana use. Paranoia is evident in users as well. And these two aspects: dumbing down and paranoia are such unattractive qualities that it hardly makes the temporary euphoric bliss that one feels worth the price your mind and body ultimately pays. Especially when there is a way to experience euphoric bliss without any negative side effects: its called "meditation."
Out of curiosity, though, I did do a Google-search on the question "Is marijuana harmful?" and "Is marijuana good for you?" While I did come across some articles that cited the benefits of using marijuana (to increase one's appetite, to deal with physical pain), the same articles mention that each person's brain chemistry is slightly different, so whenever you add chemicals to it, you really don't know how your brain will react. Some people have addictive personalities while others can walk away and never touch a substance again. Ultimately, though, long-term use does have negative effects. One big factor is the body's ability to gain a tolerance towards the substance, which requires larger and larger doses to get the same state of euphoric bliss as before. The never ending cycle of greater and greater doses will ultimately overwhelm a person's body. This is the reason why people should be aware of the dangers of drug usage. Marijuana is not some harmless plant with all the virtues and none of the negatives.
Over a decade ago, when I examined the possible meanings behind the Adam and Eve story in the Book of Genesis, I never understood why anyone could think that partaking of the fruit from the tree of good and evil could be a bad thing. The attainment of knowledge should be considered a great thing: the aim of our lives. If it had been me prancing around the Garden of Eden naming animals, I wouldn't need a snake to tempt me to take the fruit. Of course, the story is not literally true (despite what fundamentalists believe). Its a metaphor for something, but for what? I wanted to ponder it until I came up with a reasonable answer. When it hit me, I was stunned by the implication. Now, I'm not saying that what was revealed to me is the true meaning of the story, just simply one possible meaning worth considering.
The fruit from the tree of good and evil can be thought of as "Satan's candy" (or if you prefer, "the Devil's candy"). What is the Devil's candy? Well, drugs of course. Anyone familiar with Faustian tales can see how they relate to drugs. Its all about the concept that a drug can make you feel euphoric bliss for awhile. Its alluring enough that many people do take it every day to feel better about their lives. But then the crash comes. Or the hangover. Or the downturn. What does one do then? Take another dose to make the crash go away? Or deal with it until your body is no longer craving it again? There is a price to pay for the momentary euphoric bliss that one gets from ingesting "the Devil's candy."
In another aspect to the story, when Adam and Eve partook of the fruit, they no longer were innocent like children. They gained knowledge. Why is that a sin? Because the knowledge came from ingesting something, not from one's life experience or study. They wanted the quick fix instead of the long-term process. So perhaps the Adam and Eve mythological tale has a point for us to ponder, even if we don't really believe such people ever existed. The take home lesson is: beware of any quick fix or direct path to knowledge or euphoric bliss. There is always a huge price to pay in the end. For Adam and Eve, it was banishment from the garden and ultimately death.
When I discovered the euphoric bliss attained during meditation, I was stunned why more people did not try this instead of drugs. Oh, of course...meditation requires right concentration and time. The ability to clear one's mind of all thoughts is not an easy one. The reward, though, is complete calm, bliss, and sometimes even an incredibly euphoric feeling. I've never experienced any negative side effects to meditation. That's the secret. It takes work on one's part, while drugs are easy: once the chemicals hit your bloodstream, you're there. With meditation, it might take a good long while before you get there, if you get there. However, there are actual scientific studies that show meditation being good for people (less stress, more peaceful feelings). Even more amazing is that the more one meditates, the easier it is to get to that "zone" of euphoric bliss. Its the opposite of drugs in every aspect. I've seen middle aged women who have meditated and am amazed how young and vibrant they look. Quite the opposite from the photo above of the drug-using lady in 2002.
The map above shows which states have now legalized medicinal marijuana. It seems to be a growing movement. I'm against medicinal marijuana because I don't think its a good drug at all, despite what people who claim to need it say. The medicinal marijuana movement is only the first step in a larger plan: the complete legalization of marijuana. In Oregon, a medicinal marijuana state, there are actually people who try to get a doctor's prescription by claiming all sorts of ailments. It also makes it hard to distinguish between people who have the medicinal marijuana card and those who don't. When I lived in the downtown apartment, I could sometimes smell marijuana smoke in the hallways. I had no idea if the person had a card or not, but it still affected my environment. Before moving to Portland, I had never smelled the stuff before (save for a visit to the Berkeley campus in 1997). Because of medicinal marijuana being legal, you can smell it anywhere in Portland. The law makes marijuana smokers of all of us. The smoke is a gas and there is such a thing as a contact high, or in my case, a sudden urge to vomit. My view is that if a person has the right to smoke marijuana within my nose's ability to smell, then I should have every right to vomit in the smoker's face.
Though this friend from church is a passionate defender of the cannabis weed, I don't need a documented study from a science lab to tell me what I already know. I've seen enough slackers in Portland who rave about the weed. Everyone that I know who is successful in life are not into drugs. They might be into fitness or healthy foods or supplements or yoga or spirituality or money, but they obviously have some good habits worth emulating. I don't see any drug user having habits that would convince me that drugs are a good thing in the long run. I'll give them their argument that drugs may help in the short term, but none of them will ever convince me that long-term use is good for the mind and body. I choose to keep my mind sharp and will continue to prefer meditation above all else. You can take your Devil's candy straight to hell, because that's what your life will become on drugs. A living hell.