Joe Rogan mentioned that DMT is a drug that expands your “database of possibilities”. DMT (aka dimethyltryptamine) is a psychodelic drug that’s popularly reported to lead to hallucinations that are life-like in that you feel not as if you’re imagining things but are actually living in the world of your imagination.
Rogan was describing the fact when you are introduced to an alternate reality, your view of the possible expands, and it humbles you in your approach to the non-drug-induced reality.
I don’t personally know anything about the world of drugs (outside of what I learned from Hunter S Thompson), but I do know that this mind-expanding aspect of psychodelic drugs can be achieved through any kind of learning. One example is traveling and interacting with people from other cultures. It can open your eyes to the fact that your moral standards are much less absolute than you imagined. A second, and more powerful, example of portal into alternate reality is reading. In particular, reading historical accounts of periods of turmoil in the 20th century. It’s recent enough to be life-like and real, and distant enough to be approachable with the objective calmness of reason.
Reading about the rise of Hitler in 30′s Germany has been a very moving experience for me (especially in the account centered on an American in In the Garden of Beasts). I gained a sense of the thin wall between normalcy and chaos, and the animal nature napping patiently behind the polite veil of middle class peaceful existence.
By the way, my reference to DMT in this post is just for fun. I know nothing about this drug from personal experience. For me, the only drug I need is a Kindle and a coffee.
I am genetically incapable of enjoying an “epic” love story of the kind in Titanic or The Notebook, but I do think that the connection that we weird monkeys call “love” is a glue that can makes a dark story that much deeper and more complex. In books and on screen, I like seeing flawed struggling characters try to navigate the turns of their messed-up existence while driven in part by a passionate affection towards one another.
Here are 10 of my favorites.
Leaving Las Vegas – Nicolas Cage rightfully won an Oscar for his performance in this. An alcoholic and a prostitute, attached by a mix of passion and desperation while spiraling down due to their self-affirming drug of choice.
Requiem for a Dream – The characters might not be as complex as Leaving Las Vegas, but the self destruction is more complete. A reminder that heroin is a different beast than alcohol. But the point of the movie is that everyone has an addiction (legal or not) that can potentially drag them to the bottom.
Casino – De Niro and Sharon Stone. The classic story of trying to make something work against the momentum of human nature. This story has been told in my many ways, but I just enjoy the hell out of this one. Joe Pesci makes this movie that much more perfect.
Good Will Hunting – This is the least mentally unstable movie on the list, and the closest to a “chick flick”. To me it’s a reminder that a girl can ground a messed-up mind, especially one full of big self-centered ideas.
True Romance – You and me against the world, with guns. Like most movies on this list, I can’t quite explain what makes it so much better than any other in its genre, but certainly the following Christopher Walken scene with Dennis Hopper (the main character’s father) doesn’t hurt. The idea that love and family comes before EVERYTHING else is moving especially when put in such clear terms.
Taxi Driver – Another movie with De Niro, and another movie with a prostitute. I’m starting to think that formula is drugs + prostitution + love + blood = profound statement about human nature.
Brown Bunny – I would never recommend this movie to my friends because it’s basically 1.5 hours of nothing happening. Roger Ebert called it the “worst movie in the history of Cannes”. But to me it’s one of the most moving experiences I’ve ever had watching a film. It was the right time, the right mood, the right mindset for me. My girlfriend at the time was sleeping next to me, it was 3am, and I sat there patiently waiting for something to happen. I know I’m not alone in thinking this, as this movie is loved by many. If nothing much happens on screen for 20, 30, 40 minutes, you begin to put your own thoughts into the characters mind. Silence is powerful. But it does require patience.
Sweet and Lowdown – By far, Samantha Morton is my favorite actress ever since I saw her in the movie adaptation of Jane Eyre (1997) in high school. I think the book is terrible frankly, but her ability to convey emotion was stunning from that movie to her sex-driven tortured soul in “Under the Skin” to the simple quiet love of “Sweet and Lowdown” with Sean Penn.
Scent of a Woman – Pacino’s greatest performance. The tango scene alone is f’ing brilliant. It won’t make sense out of context, but if you’ve seen the movie, it’s one of the greatest 2 minutes of film ever (see below). This is the only movie on the list that does not actually involve a woman.
Secretary – I watched this movie twice in my life. First at around 20 and then again at around 27. In that time, I’ve seen a lot of weird forms of love and obsession, and went from finding the movie creepy to finding it a touching love story of two charmingly f’ed-up individuals.
I was introduced by a friend to the word hikikomori which is a Japanese term that refers to a person who seeks extreme degrees of isolation. Apparently, this is a widespread phenomenon in Japan.
After reading about it a bit online and watching some videos, this seems to be almost a part of their national identity, and is closely connected to the growing power of computer games to consume an individual’s life to the point that all other activities fall off the radar of interest. It’s a drug with the addictive power of hard drugs, but without the associated ability of those drugs to kill you.
I think many of my ex-girlfriends would characterize me as someone who doesn’t get out nearly enough. I think it’s important to hear that, and understand that, but it’s also important to be able to live life the way I want to without regret. I love good intelligent conversation with close friends. I love reading books that challenge me or fill me with awe. I love doing jiu jitsu and judo. And more than that, I love learning cutting-edge ideas and coming up with new ones myself in and around the field of computer science. Often times, all that somehow adds up to me having to say “no” to a lot of parties and social outings. This creates a perception of hikikomori, but I think that’s very far from the truth.
I’m not scared of life, of people, and of pursuing my passions with all the dedication I can muster.
But I very much find it fascinating that there is large mass of people who are pursuing their passions, and in so doing somehow gradually fall off the path that is healthy for their happiness and productivity, and find themselves trapped in the cage of their sterile habits and dim isolated existence. I suppose it is the danger that anyone with a singular passion risks. But a successful life requires successfully walking the line between crazy and happy.
I stopped by Rite Aid yesterday and observed the simple fact that Advil was 2.5 times more expensive than Ibuprofen (its generic counterpart).
I always get the generic brand. Well not always, almost always… Do not laugh, but when I hurt my ankle a year ago at a judo tournament, I bought the brand name Advil. Yes, I paid extra just for the placebo effect. However, for some god forsaken reason, it immediately felt good when I took it. It felt like it was “working better”, whatever that means in the case of a mild anti-inflammatory. Why?
I looked into this question online, and it seems that all legitimate government and scientific reports show no difference between generics and brand name drugs. Here is a simple representative article from the FDA: Facts and Myths about Generic Drugs.
So what is the difference? And if there is no difference, how the hell does our semi-capitalist system allow a product to cost 2.5 times more than another one that does the same exact thing and still survive as a product. What is at work here? Are we just paying for the power of the name? Is the placebo effect of a medicine for which you had to pay more that significant?
Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease. It spreads through the air, attacks the lungs, and is present in about one third of the world’s population. About 10% of those cases progress from latent to active TB, which has a 50% chance of killing you if left untreated.
Why am interested in this topic? It’s hard to explain, but I can simply say that I’m horrified by it, and the amount of people it kills in developing countries. Mountains Beyond Mountains first introduced me to the impact of this disease (and other infectious diseases) in the poverty-stricken nation of Haiti. One of the big “problems” is that people in rich countries are not dying from TB, and therefore, the amount of money invested in TB research and aid is minimal relative to other diseases such as AIDS and cancer. The result is that most drugs available for treating TB are expensive, with few “market forces” or R&D progress driving down the prices.
Multi-Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is particularly troubling in this regard. TB is remarkably good at evolving in your body to the point where it gains resistance to the first line of drugs: isoniazid and rifampicin. How do you treat it then? Well, you need:
An MDR-TB specialist, with careful attention to your unique “species” of MDR-TB.
A soup of very expensive “second-line” drugs that carry with them terrible side-effects.
A realization that even if you have unlimited funds, you’re probably still going to die.
The troubling question for medicine is what to do about MDR-TB in Haiti where people cannot afford to eat, let alone pay anything for any kind of drugs to help them. Treating an MDR-TB patient is 10 to 100 times more expensive than a TB patient that responds positively to the first-line drugs. So what do you do? Do you just let them die? And because TB is highly contagious, do you force MDR-TB patients into isolation, while not providing any medical assistance with any real hope for treatment?
These are questions Mountains Beyond Mountains asks, and as I sit here typing these words, I am having trouble not losing myself in the hopelessness of such moral questions about death and dying.
“Jury nullification occurs when a jury returns a verdict of “Not Guilty” despite its belief that the defendant is guilty of the violation charged. The jury in effect nullifies a law that it believes is either immoral or wrongly applied to the defendant whose fate that are charged with deciding.”
Good (in my opinion) examples of jury nullification:
Mercy killers like Dr. Jack Kevorkian
Minor drug offenders
Those harboring slaves in 1800s
This is a powerful mechanism by which a group of our “peers” can act as a direct judge of a law’s moral soundness. However, the danger of promoting jury nullification is that a jury could also use it to uphold immoral convictions. For example, a jury of racists could easily declare a white man not guilty for killing a black man, which sadly has a long historical precedent.
It’s a dangerous crack in our judicial system that could result in good as well as evil. Still, there is something very good about the people being able to decide questions of morality in such a direct manner. It certainly does bring to the forfront the flaws in our laws as well as our citizenry when they become too prevalent to ignore.