Tag Archive | culture

What’s the buzz?

When you watch someone die knowing they were addicted to socially acceptable legal substances like alcohol and tobacco there is a hollow sense of irony. The questions I am left with are more about how substances are seen as harmful or helpful.

We like to feel good, we seek excitement, we like things that give us experiences, sensations and states that are enjoyable – we are drawn to them naturally. Funny thing is if you look into it, all species are into altered states. I’m not kidding. Young dolphins have been known to seek out poisonous puffer fish, hold them in their mouths then release them in order to experience the effects of the toxins. There are numerous examples in nature of this phenomenon of ‘getting out of it’.

It’s interesting to look at the history of some substances and how they have been seen by cultures and societies depending on their perceived usefulness. From shemanic rituals to religious experiences, traditional herbal medicines to pharmaceutical medical applications, there are histories and knowledges that have allowed some to come through seen as ‘good’ and some as ‘bad’.

You can do your own research about substances from all sorts of perspectives and evidence but the question remains about choice and control. I still struggle with the idea that we can watch people smoking and drinking, advertise alcohol, have it in movies and t.v. while those desperate to seek treatment for seizures with cannabis oil are denied access under our current law. It’s like our eyes are wide shut when it comes to rethinking drugs and alcohol.

But ultimately I think about my uncle who represented Wales in Trampolining in the 1960’s and how he was a thrill seeker. How he replaced one buzz for another but because they were socially acceptable and normalised few people probably expressed concern. I will finish with a question written by Carl Sagan 24 years ago about the war on drugs in America;

“is there something intrinsically immoral about feeling good by taking a molecule”

That question really does blow my mind.

Big shoes to fill or just find a better fit

I got thinking a lot after I saw this pop up on Facebook.

As long as human beings have been conscious of their own existence in the universe there has been wonderment about the meaning of life and the place we have in it. There are traditions, rituals and beliefs that stretch back to the ‘dawn’ of our species. Indeed, how our collective ‘sun came up’ is one of the most contested and debated ideas of all time. Religion has been around longer than science (I think), but for its short time in our cultural landscape, science has weighed in just as much into the debate and for some it has turned into arguing two sides ‘evolution vrs creation’.

But we cannot ignore the fact that a very large percentage of the worlds population follows one form of religion or another. I did a quick google search (as you do) and was pretty amazed at the incredibly diverse faiths, traditions, beliefs and religions of the world. Some have emerged in more recent times to dominate in terms of numbers of followers but within Christianity alone there are so many denominations it kind of makes my head spin. I suppose one of the things that really interests me is the way cultures shift and change through migration and colonisation, especially for indigenous cultures.

I was watching Avatar recently (for about the 10th time) and aside from the futuristic offworld giant blue people and crazy scary flora and fauna, the parallels of one group trying to impose its beliefs and values on another are pretty clear. There is a pattern we shouldn’t ignore or be afraid to examine because it might help us understand and possibly reclaim some different ways of relating to nature and each other.  Read More…