(Originally posted by Pat on 5/9/10)
Last night I returned home around 5:00 AM with still a slight buzz
from the vodka I'd been mixing in my Coke. I went to sleep immediately,
and awoke only moments ago with a pounding headache. Whether it was a
hangover headache or a sleep-disruption induced migraine is really
beside the point: My pain now is an obvious and direct result of my
And this, it must finally be admitted, is a terrible way to live.
late nights, the alcohol, the drugs, even the junk food; these things
are very bad for us. All in the name of "fun" that is fleeting hedonism
and "friends" who are shallow acquaintances and "sex" that is either
empty or nonexistent, we are killing ourselves. This is not good, it is
not wise, it is not healthy, it is not rational.
Alcohol, marijuana, cocaine; these chemicals are neurotoxins.
Milder per milliliter than the batrachotoxin of the most deadly dart
frogs, yes; but responsible for thousands more deaths. These drugs are
literally slow poison that destroys our minds and bodies. They have shortened thousands of lives, and ruined millions more.
I am no Puritan, no ascetic; fun and pleasure are good. I'm not even saying that drugs and sleep deprivation are immoral---for
they are crimes with no victims, and hence not crimes at all. Rather, I
am saying that we are using the wrong metric of human happiness. We are
living by Diogenes and Bentham when we should be living by Epicurus and
Mill. A vibrant chat over a flavorful meal between dear friends is a
critical component of a good life; indeed I have difficulty imagining a
satisfying life that did not include precisely this from time to time.
Sex, too, is good, and I have difficulty imagining a rich life without
it. But sex without intimacy is nothing more than spatiotemporally
coincident masturbation. Two people are being pleasured and they happen
to be the in the same place; but there is no reason that either one
really needed the other. In such couplings the partner is
interchangeable; the sex is a commodity.
Contrary to popular belief, aging is not mere chronology and death is not a law of physics. Aging is wear;
it is accumulated damage to the body that outpaces its capacity to
self-repair. This is why drug addicts, smokers, and tan-salon users
always look old for their birthdays---they quite literally are.
Death, too, is a causal event; something must cause you to die. People
don't die of old age! They die of liver failure, congestive heart
disease, cancer, accident, murder, or starvation. It just so happens
that as the body wears out such dangers become more serious; moreover,
over time small probabilities accumulate, until death becomes so likely
as to be virtually inevitable.
Yet while we may never be able to
conquer death, we can surely build walls to hold it at bay. One obvious
way---indeed, probably the best way---is to eat healthy, sleep healthy,
and live healthy. Be smarter and safer about the way you live, and the
odds are good that you will live longer. I for one value my life and
think it is worth trying to keep it going.
The rest of you may
think me strange, but I'm done with this childish hedonism. I won't be
staying out late drinking alcohol anymore. I won't be taking any drugs
into my body that are not evidence-based medical therapy. I have given
this "party scene" a few tries. In some cases I have found it to be
quite stressful and uncomfortable; even in the best cases I have found
it no more pleasurable than a flavorful pasta or an engaging video game.
Why should I pay more for a worse chance at the same happiness? Yet
once you factor in the cost to my body (not to mention my wallet), this
is what you are asking me to do when you suggest that I take a shot of
vodka rather than play a round of Wii Sports.
Join me, and we will share meals and games and conversation.
need not be teetotalers, though psychologically it might be easier to
eliminate the poisons altogether rather than try to intelligently
moderate them. There are many fine alcoholic beverages---wines
especially, at least in my opinion---that have a flavorful experience
which could not be matched by any virgin drink. But if we drink, we must
drink for the joy of the drink, not the pharmacology of the ethanol.
Cider, lemonade? What's wrong with the plain kinds? Vodka, whiskey?
Throw out that poison; you were a fool to buy it. A splash of flavorful
rum might complement a sweet drink, but that is the strongest mix we
should even consider. Only in beer and wine is the alcohol really
inseparable from a beverage experience that's actually worth having.
Alcohol lowers inhibitions, yes; it does so by undermining the operation of the prefrontal cortex.
That's the most important part of your brain, if you hadn't noticed; it
is was separates you not only from the Teabaggers but indeed from the
chimpanzees. Under the influence of alcohol, you become less inhibited,
only at the cost of becoming less rational and indeed less human.
The sex we get while drunk (if indeed we get it at all) is invariably
of lower quality; our bodies don't work as they are evolved to function,
our perceptions are dulled and our motor control is impaired. Moreover,
any chemical strong enough to make me sleep with someone I wouldn't
have is a chemical strong enough to make me sleep with someone I really didn't want to. The real me, the complete me, is the sober me; hence what I didn't want sober, I didn't want simpliciter.
we feel (as I do) that we are too inhibited, we should be working to
remove this inhibition; but we should be working to do so through
private meditation or social change or replanning and restructuring our
lives. We should find ways to integrate satisfying social and sexual
experiences into our lives without poisoning ourselves. Neurotoxins are a
poor substitute for the examined life.
Indeed, in a strange way it may be you,
drinker, not me, who is the Puritan; you take for granted the
association "sex, drugs, and rock & roll", the link between
pleasure, sexuality, and pharmaceutical self-destruction. The Puritans
have made an argument: "Sex, drugs and pleasure are the same, drugs are
bad, hence sex and pleasure are bad." The conclusion was appalling, and
you have rightly rejected the argument, and by modus tollens
rejected one of the premises; yet you have rejected the wrong premise.
You should not have rejected "drugs are bad"; you should have rejected
"sex, drugs, and pleasure are the same".
It is sad to me how often
people in our culture talk of "being naughty", propose with a grin that
we "behave badly", or suggest that something appealing is "sinful". Yet
if it were really true that we were being naughty, behaving badly, or doing something sinful, that would necessarily entail that we ought not do it.
Moral reasons are overriding reasons; if an act is wrong, it must not
be done, and nothing more needs said. Yet when asked to explain why
kissing in public is "naughty" or fellatio is "behaving badly" or
chocolate is "sinful", we can offer no reasons for this. We can merely
gesture to the history of our ascetic culture. And so this culture
controls us; we assimilate its norms, live them out in our lives; we
speak of "counter-culture" as if that's something wonderful to be, but
the counter-culture is merely a negation of the culture, and it is every
bit as much controlled by the same false and oppressive norms. If a man
commands you to stand and you stand, you are his slave; if he commands
you to stand and you sit, you are still his slave, for all he needs to
do is reverse the polarity of his commands. Because we have been taught
to do so, we act as if it is obvious that anything pleasurable is
immoral. Yet what sick perversion this is, for pleasure is the essence
of morality; what is good is good in large part because it brings pleasure to beings such as we.
I do not reject drugs because they are fun; on the contrary I reject them because they are not fun,
not really, not in any lasting or significant way. For a few moment's
joy that we could just as well have gotten without them, drugs destroy
our minds and ruin our lives. Alcohol is a Faustian bargain, and it is
one I shall henceforth reject.
Join me; we will dance and love and
play and sing, but we will do so with our cognition intact. When we are
done we will sleep the sleep our brains demand of us, and never break
our life-sustaining circadian rhythm for the sake of a brief moment's
high. You will find that life this way is just as fun, or even more
so---and you will have no regrets in the morning.
Join me now in living a better, wiser life. Today it will cost us little; tomorrow it will repay us a hundredfold.