Drugs As Pedagogy, Or Fostering A Relationship With The Cosmos

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. TC mark


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  • David T.

    Well said and very true. 

  • Stefan B

    “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.”

    Somehow all the drug users I know must have gotten the wrong manual. Or, their vision of the ‘infinite’ is slightly more sad than yours.

  • Tom


  • lindsey-lu

    what does ecodelia mean?

  • Captain Obvious

    If you honestly think doing drugs enhances your spirituality and strengthens your relationships with the Cosmos, you’re kidding yourself. 

    • Wdeanis

      I disagree, certain controlled drug use has the potential to broaden your mind and think about the bigger picture, marijuana especially. Of course, it helps to have an open mind beforehand Captain Obvious

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ENYYAGETDFZLHIIJFHIBN2N6TM Meursault

      I’d like to take your point seriously, but since you don’t offer any real argument/position with examples, I’m having a hard time with it.

      Would you mind taking the time to say more?

  • Thegirlwhofellasleep

    I don’t know if I agree with taking them so young, I JUST DON’T KNOW. But everything else, yes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=612928768 Samie Rose

    I laughed after I read the last sentence of the first paragraph and then just pretended the rest was a ridiculous satire because that’s the only way I could have enjoyed it.

  • berna fett

    Big words & drug-talk, yeah you’re smart

    • Guest

      you jelly?

  • Sam.

    I think the problem is that you need a certain maturity level to get what you got out of drugs, and the problem is just that teenagers aren’t very mature.  I guess your suggestion of educating and making drugs something that are not “other” or “taboo” would help to teach the maturity.  

    My question is – does your idea only go with hallucinogens (including weed), or does it extend to heroin, cocaine, etc (highly addictive drugs)?

    BTW kudos on a good article 

  • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

    Pretty surprised a greater argument thread hasn’t started over the content of this post. Interesting perspective.

  • Anonymous

    you’re so cute with your poetic views of frolicking in the stardust of drugs, but shit gets real fast when it comes to a lot of drugs (particularly young kids with drugs) and obviously you’ve been somewhat lucky in your cosmic relationship with drugs so how exactly does one take drugs “well”? and how do they continue to take drugs “well” without overdosing or becoming addicted? you offer this bite of big words and romantic views of illicit substances, but you don’t tell us how. if you can even offer a how is up for debate.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ENYYAGETDFZLHIIJFHIBN2N6TM Meursault

      Not speaking for Daniel, I think it’s important to unpack “shit getting real” into at least two categories: the physical (death, sickness, etc) and the emotional (PTSD, feeling shaken, scared, panic attacks, etc).  Now, looking at the emotional, I think good first question is to ask what if any distinction to make between negative emotional experiences from drug use and those we will inevitably experience throughout our lives.

      One way might be to say that in drug use we subject ourselves to the emotional difficulty by choosing to do said drug and in that way the emotional pain is is not necessary (and thereby tragic?).  However, I’m sure this distinction holds. Certainly we cause ourselves emotional pains, tragic ones, by the choices we make in our own lives that do not involve drug use. For example, sometimes we are attracted to certain personality types  in the people we date and this can cause us recurring and miserable experiences. Though we might not be aware of our behavior pattern of choosing the same personalities, we are certainly still–at least to a degree–causally responsible for these pains.

      So what then if in a drug free life we subject ourselves to emotional pains as we might do in a life in drug usage? I think it is helpful to focus on how we make sense of our emotional experiences, how we rationalize them, and in what general frame we can interpret them such that they become the catalyst for positive experiences in our life.  I think if we focus on learning to navigate our emotions in ways that are going to be beneficial to us we will be better off than trying to always avoid the difficult emotional experience, full stop.  That is to say, maybe by not doing drug X I can avoid some bad emotional experiences, but in avoiding those experiences I also lose the opportunity to learn new beneficial ways of processing those emotions which can help me in life.

      Now, issues around physical well being are another category, and admittedly more difficult and complicated to reconcile. My point is limited to just the emotional. Addressing the potential physical problems with drug use is another topic.

  • bianca

    nice article. you pretty much shared my perspective! i agree, i don’t necessarily think drugs are bad, i think it’s defined by how they are used. i think a lot of us go through an experimental drug phrase. after going through mine, i feel like i’ve been able to see things a different way. i feel like i’ve been more in tune with my mind and my body. yeah society tells us that drugs are bad, but i think you should just have an open mind and should go about it responsibly. and well then there’s drug abuse, which is just a different story.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ENYYAGETDFZLHIIJFHIBN2N6TM Meursault

    A few thoughts: First, your article reminded me of a blog post written somewhat recently by Sam Harris, “Drugs and the Meaning of Life.”

    Second, Daniel, I think when you say, “We focus on teaching kids a relationship to the social,” you really get at the aversion people have to others using drugs, why they do “bat an eye.” I believe that we form topoi, mental common ground, as a means of relating to one another, of coming together. Yeah, you’re in this body different than mine, but we both sort of have the same faculties for experience so when we both ride the roller coaster we share the same experience; the general sense of excitement and anxiety, the experiencing of the elements, etc..

    But when one is high and another is not, I think people see this as an inhibitor to the forming of this common ground. That when one is high (on something we don’t accept, like food, Xanax, or whatever) we think of them as detached from the experience we are having, and thus the social aspect is lost.  I think there is a lot to argue why this is not entirely the case, that people are still forming topoi just not in the expect ways, but I also think it’s a legit worry/concern.

  • lucy

    I think you forgot to make the crucial distinction between psychedelics and the other (much scarier) drugs. This is an extremely underdeveloped article, and although I agree that psychedelics can be wonderfully beneficial when taken correctly, I’m not at all surprised at all the negative comments.

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    […] She then LISTs the contents of the directory, and enters the command to load and run a particular program on the disc (BTW, there’s probably some subtle meaning to ecodelia). […]

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