Epilogue as Introduction: the acceptable failures of Drugs and Religion
(Written in April 2008, this piece was to serve as an epilogue to Cannabis Chassidis, but instead, a modified version of it will be an introduction to the New York edition, in late May 09. It has to do with Pesach a bit. Enjoy!)
So, I’ve come to a header in my relationship with both drugs (marijuana) and religion (judaism) that makes it hard to feel right talking about either. Because i've lost faith in the inherent infallible redemptive power of either, and disillusionment is heartbreaking.
Not that the virtue of either doesn't exist, only that my confidence in pursuing either into the great pit of infinity is now in question. I AM CONCERNED that either death will be a waste of life, and a beckoning call of others into the pit with me. I'm not sure I want to be responsible for that.
Too much of anything, blah blah blah. Too Much is the only way to get intoxicated, the only way to Go Further and innovate, the only way to bring anything new to the table.
For instance, I would like to be the best marijuana smoker ever. Is that a stupid aspiration or what? I would like to be the guy that finds the most effective, holy tradition of Correct Healing Dope smoking thus far, and passes it on. What an utterly wasteful aspiration, no? Rather than feed or clothe orphans, or get involved in progressive technologies, I want to be the great Rebbe of Drugs and marijuana.
What a foolish and dangerous idea, especially if I repent of this path in my old age, crying in my soup about everything I gave up to make this moronic fantasy possible.
R'Nachman bemoans all who gave up too soon, just as they were about to make a breakthrough. But so awkward is the state of standing in between a terror of going too far, and a terror of having never gone far enough.
That's why I like Tai Chi. It lets me balance slowly, and the internal strength it teaches and builds in me let me move confidently fast as well as slow when the times encourage.
I was telling Josh Lauffer once about a fantasy i'd had, about building a rocketship out of Hemp, fueling it with Cannabis to somehow magically project beyond the stars into dimensions inconcievable.
And he sighed, turned aside with a mixture of contempt (for?) and angry heartbreak and said "I remember back when we thought Marijuana had no limitations on how much it could do."
Ah, the smashed dreams of the days when possibility was infinite; how sad to wake up, diseased and smelly, suddenly aware of the distance between the fantasy's clarity and the world one finds oneself in. And that would be fine, if only the fantasy became clearer! But alas, with grass, the fantasy itself fades in the excess, the visionary clarity evaporating into frustrating fog.
I'm sure there's a way of catching that perfect mean, with sacred use of timing, intention and space... but G-d help me and the world, I don't have a tradition of it that I trust, of making the bridge between what shamen used to have down, and what I can use it for, the longer i'm in the great and terrible city.
I feel this way about Judaism too. My relationship to it was always a little cautious, I never felt too compelled to swallow bullshit, only sometimes charmed into understanding it's role and function, it's power and the cool things that can grow from it... But once it felt like my curiousity was so infinite, and now, too much mixed with an expectation and filtering of the self indulgent delusions that our g-d spoke to us. How sad! I was so learned too, but those are always the guys who get tired of things, ones who think they know, think they understand.
Humility is a powerful anti toxin, "what do I really know after all?" But I will not lie, I will not deny the torah that demands revelation, though I will be silent until the other voice has finished speaking. Unless it's changing subjects too fast, or subtly hypnotizing me into submission with it's speed, confidence and assumption.
I don't want to ignore people because of what they are saying, I don't want the warm comforting glow of it to sooth me into submission to a unhelpful direction, into an obedience of spirit to a lesser god. But a g-d i've never yet seen, never yet understood, is mamish the one i'm most hungry for. What i've already understood is a whore, cheap and available. What I've never yet comprehended is a virgin, untouched and longed for. The devil's closed hand, hiding some secret promise, of something that might very well be amazing, who knows?
The terrifying thing to me about religion is that, unlike drugs, the fantasy can become clearer and clearer the more you do it. Is that true, all you folks out there in reader world that have been more and more religious for their entire lives? It seems to me that the more that adults invest in their old fantasies, the more they are really experienced as real. Maybe that's what "a place in the world to come" means: a stronger faith to feel good about once the body is old and falling in strength, (mercy protect us all!) A more developed and refined fantasy, that becomes clear and more potent the more you do it: a perfect drug after all.
I don't know, i'm not an old man, thank G-d. But I sure hope I feel good about life when and if I ever am. I sure hope what I see can give me hope that life is enduring better, closer, somehow, in somekind of super advanced definition and pallette that I can taste to the very last moment . But learning and loving are the only pleasures that life has, and this is the secret of what R' Yehuda Hanasi meant, when he said, "My whole life, I have never benefitted as much as a belt strap’s worth from the world," when in fact, he was one of the wealthiest people around in his day, a known possesor and probably even eater, of many exotic, expensive, and out of season fruits and vegetables. It's not that he didn't taste the world he lived in, only that he saw pleasures through to their source: the one G-d, every moment, teaching and touching something new. Learning and loving implies Teaching and touching.
What's taught, doesn't nessesarily touch. But what touches always teaches.
The religion is taught; the Lord, she touches.
We were learning before, how do you know if something is real? You never want to stop. The easy way one can tell how fake eating, fucking, defeating and opiating are is how much one really does want to stop, but just forgets how to just chew slow, and notice for when it's time. My problem with oversacramentalizing both marijuana and judaism is that I have seen, in both, the point where I do want to stop, or have seen myself consume so much of, that I was made smaller, weaker,and less beautiful than I had been or wanted to be. And it's true about my cynicsms and skeptisms as well: once they make me feel uglier or more trapped, they are still asked to stop, or at least slow down.
Once nice way to be devoted to, but still not consumed by, is to set times for. Having shabbos on shabbos controls my taiva for eternal shabbos, sparing the danger of eternal not-quite-in-the-world, distracted-by-resentmentism, hopefully. So it's true with everything sacred and self indulgent: make times for it, and it won't consume your life, but only make you stronger for the rest of it.
Something you don't want to ever stop at all, even relative to other things you want to do instead, one can't make times for: one has to just do it all the time. So maybe some people appreciate,having work times, having food times, vacation days, retreats and such. It controls the impact a bit.
People use shabbos different ways, and have a right to, according to what they love doing and have to let themselves stop. That's all I want to say about THAT.
But yeah, Josh told me a great Torah by my engagement party. I asked about the mystery of the conflict between fantasy and actuality, as far as in a relationship. How much does fantasy have to be supressed to be able to see actuality?
And he said, no, it can't just be that way,
When Hashem first split Adam, The Zohar says
It was not for the sake of keeping Adam separate
but for letting the two sides of him see
Letting Adam and Chava see and relate to each other/ themselves at last.
And so with the fantasy and the reality of a situation
G-d's unity is the fantasy, the story that is sought after. It makes the romance possible. All romance, all excitement and fear is dependent on a fantasy about what could be, very easily, very soon. That fantasy, born out of memory and hope, is what has moved things forward since forward was invented.
All guidance is about fantasy and protection. Really good guidance comes from those that have seen dreams come true. Cynicsm comes from those who have seen them not. Be careful of the second, because they still might, be careful of the first, because they may yet cause trouble, those dreams, and they may never really work out the way they were hoped for.
And this is what Passover is all about. The freedom was so new and so ancient all at once, and so is the food. The very traditional mixes with the super innovative loophole food, maccaroons and quinoa escaping from faraway places into jewish staples, strange extractions and processes used to banish chametz in fresh way. A vacuum cleaner comes before the traditional wooden spoon and feather, and matza is baked, exactly as long as it has been since they made a technology for it, in either new and purer machines,or the oldest and simplest way, depending on what one holds by.
Cudos to Chabad for outlawing refined oils on Pesach, for out lawing powdered sugar and that kind of poison. I like to think that the unconcious genius of the Rebbes caught that, the transrational insight that can speak when everybody trusts you.
And this for me is the acid test for whether a religion, whether MY religion, is good or evil. If it connects me to and reminds me of the wiser past, gevalt, it's great. If it holds us back from truth and rightness, from treating someone right, and caring for someone in need-- then what good could it be. Same with Drugs. While it's nice to be able to ignore the world, to have a way of doing so safely sometimes, enough is always enough, and it's nice to be able to see over the psychic walls we've built, or just hear over them, in case the world is demanding to desperately not be ignored.