Thanks to a couple of great teachers, I learned some things in high school. All evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, I learned to write expository arguments. I learned the pleasure of reversal — flipping assumptions upside down. I read The Communist Manifesto.
And — thanks to combinations of marijuana, LSD, cocaine, beer, and bourbon — I learned to seethe with the cosmos.
We have this strange, ascetic tendency to think drugs are somehow external, that being high is not being real, that it’s cheating. We ingest food and vitamins and supplements and kamboucha and Zoloft and penicillin without as much as batting an eye. But somehow things like acid and ecstasy are categorically different. I, for one, don’t see the difference. We consume in order to thrive. And drugs, when well taken, do just that. If not more.
If nothing else, drugs taught me a certain sense of humility, that I am not in total control, that my ideas and vision and even my body can do what they want. At the same time, drugs have taught me that I can seethe with the universe, swell with its cosmic tides, surf and drown and frolic in its (meta)terrestrial waves. In the words of Rich Doyle, drugs taught me to be ecodelic.
And it’s a good thing to learn young, before habit has begun to cement and weigh the body and self down. It’s good to be 16, tripping on acid and seeing the invisible textures of the universe. It’s good to be 19 and so lit that you can smell the stars. This prepares us for a beautiful life, plants the seed young that life is not defined by commodity and job and an A. It’s defined by one’s relationship with the universe.
Of course, there are all sorts of problems with teens — or anyone — taking drugs. They o.d.. They go schizo. They augment their depression.
But I don’t think we can blame drugs alone for these things. Just as we teach kids to drive (far and way the #1 cause of teen death), we need to teach kids to take drugs well. Charlie Sheen is right — read the directions before showing up at the party.
We focus on teaching kids a relationship to the social — how to be polite, how to perform their gender, how to sit still in their seat and know their phone number and address. But we rarely teach them a relationship with the cosmos, with awe, with the infinite. On the contrary, we try to obstruct their view, prevent their connection.
It would be amazing to have a concerted pedagogy concerned with fostering a relationship to the infinite, a relationship with awe and astonishment. Drugs, of course, are not the only way to create such a relationship. And, when consumed poorly, drugs can impede a relationship to the infinite as much as any soul killing job.
But when consumed well, when incorporated well into a life, drugs can help people of all ages break the constraints of habit, of anxiety, of dread. I love the idea of drug manuals for parents, courses at high school and college, PhDs in ecodelia.