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Jay Lake
Date: 2013-05-13 05:10
Subject: [cancer] All my trials and tribulations, sinking in a gentle pool of wine
Security: Public
Tags:cancer, cultural, health, personal, religion
Sometimes being a clean-and-sober atheist kind of sucks. Take this little cancer hobby of mine, for instance.

People of faith have a higher power to turn to, both for aid and comfort in their times of trouble, and as a causative agent to help explain and justify their experiences. People who drink find another approach to escaping the troubles of their lives. Likewise my stoner friends. All of those behaviors are for some people paths that for a while help abstract them from the trials and tribulations of their everyday life. They can go some place where the pain either has less meaning, or is completely transformed.

I'm not a faith holder. I'm not wired for it. I'm too literally minded, too invested in the empirical universe, to hold a mythic truth without experiencing serious cognitive dissonance. There are times when I recognize this as a loss on my part. Comfort denied is comfort delayed, after all. But faith comes at too high a price for me to willing to pay. I won't betray my reason, not even for the example of the best of faith holders. And frankly, the fact that most faith holders visible in American culture are far, far from the best of faith holders does nothing to set an example for my reconsideration. In other words, religion is not my opiate. (As for real opiates, the less said the better. I am boggled as to how anyone can do that vile shit recreationally.)

Likewise drinking. Alcohol just makes me stupid and loud. I don't like being stupid, not one tiny bit. And I certainly don't need to be any louder. Furthermore, the temptations to even minor misbehavior while drinking are strong for me. I can be mean or petty without even realizing it. Kindness is a social virtue I value far too highly to trade it away for a buzz.

Pot, too. Marijuana just makes me stupid and slow. That's a slight improvement over booze, in that I'm less likely to say or do something regrettable, but I still don't like being stupid at all. And slow isn't really in it for me, either. I live in my head way too much to tolerate that.

The only other class of drugs I ever tried was hallucinogens. I dropped acid once, and ate mushrooms once. I liked each of them so much that I realized instantly I would never be able to indulge again. I wouldn't have the willpower to stay off them, and I didn't want to spend the rest of my life tripping balls in a refrigerator box under a bridge somewhere.

Never coked up, never smoked crack, never shot heroin, et cetera. I think I did ecstasy once, but mostly that gave me an erection the size and density of a two-by-four which would not conclude in any satisfactory method whatsoever, despite enthusiastic assistance.

As a result of all this, for many years, reality has been my drug of choice, with an assist from fiction. The trials and tribulations of my life have been faced with a clear head and open eyes, and no higher power than myself to turn to for either comfort or to assign responsibility to. I have always faced the world on its own terms and mine, owned my responsibility as best I could, and taken the steps to move on when required.

Cancer, especially now at the beginning of my end game, has been one of the greatest trials of my life. Believe me, I really do understand why people self-medicate or turn to God or half a hundred other solutions. I can't. So I don't get see all my trials and tribulations sinking in a gentle pool of wine. They ride me now, they will ride me into the grave.

I see cancer. Cancer sees me. No one and nothing stands between us.

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User: asakiyume
Date: 2013-05-13 12:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think people who are honest with themselves fall through, or pierce, levels of self-created illusions about life, and eventually land at some resting spot of what they really believe, which isn't always what they want to believe, but it's what they do believe. People being so very different, one from another, I guess it's not surprising that that fundamental baseline is different, and you get profound atheists and profound theists, and profound other-things that don't fit into that particular bi-polar construction.

What do you think of Carl Sagan? Did he write much from his last days? Or maybe other people's thoughts, even if their worldview is similar, isn't so helpful? Maybe some really fun movies, or road trips, or other forms of fun, human lived experience is better.

How do you feel about singing the blues?
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User: angiereedgarner
Date: 2013-05-13 13:04 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I figured out to do a lot of live music. One night a week of jazz to clear my head, and then other kinds of music (for me? blues, bluegrass and one night of whatever) to suggest new things to put in there. The trick was to find some places comfortable enough. I actually refer to my weekly jazz night as "church."
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Debbie N.
User: wild_irises
Date: 2013-05-13 14:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
This is just a side note about your experience with hallucinogens. I'm not clean and sober (more so than not, but not purely), and I never tried hallucinogens. On the other hand, when I was in college, simply hanging out with the speed takers gave exactly the same reaction you had to hallucinogens. I could see how much I would like that, and I knew I would never stop. So I never started. There's an alternate world down that path.
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User: saveswhat
Date: 2013-05-13 15:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
One experience with hallucinogens seems reasonable to me because once the mind has experienced a new way of seeing things, it seems to me that it will always be able to conjure up that sort of thing. Has that been your experience?
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Jay Lake: graffiti-shirley_you_jest
User: jaylake
Date: 2013-05-13 15:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yeah, pretty much. I seem to be naturally wired for hallucinogenic thinking.
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Magenta: Witch's Hat
User: magentamn
Date: 2013-05-13 16:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Witch's Hat
Have you read Huxley's "The Doors of Perception" or "Island"? Interesting thinking on use of hallucinations in a therapeutic context, including dealing with end of life issue. I have heard Huxley took acid the last day of his life, which alas, was rather overlooked in the media because it was November 11, 1963.
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User: martianmooncrab
Date: 2013-05-13 16:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Take this little cancer hobby of mine,

I keep telling you, you need a better hobby.

Having to take daily meds to make life somewhat more malleable, and pills for pain when it gets undoable, the effects of alcohol (and the taste! its no longer there) plus allergies... sigh. Life sucks a lot. I have a pantheistic view, but I dont do much more than acknowledge them. There is a certain flow to life, like a river for want of a better concept, and you are shooting the rapids right before the really high falls.
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User: alumiere
Date: 2013-05-13 18:36 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Love this. Thank you.
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User: Jeff P
Date: 2013-05-13 19:04 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I envy you your ability to think clearly about yourself and the world so as not to need any type of assistance.

I, too, spend a LOT of time in my head, but for me it's not a good thing. It's pretty compulsive and I'm missing way too much in the here and now. I've tried therapy and medications. Nothing seems to work except 12 Step (faith) and meditation (present reality). And even those are a struggle.

My best thinking always ends up with me in a ditch. I need an end run around it, and turning things over to a higher power gives me that.
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User: mmegaera
Date: 2013-05-13 22:21 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:True Gold
As for real opiates, the less said the better. I am boggled as to how anyone can do that vile shit recreationally.

Oh, ye godlings, yes. Granted, the worst pain I've ever been in has been the couple of days immediately post-op for gall bladder removal and shoulder surgery, neither of which was that bad, but I'd much rather hurt than have my digestive system completely shut down. As for pleasure, ??????? what pleasure? All I did was sleep.
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User: mcjulie
Date: 2013-05-14 14:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
For what it's worth -- as a young adolescent , I discovered that my religion didn't help in times of trouble (my grandfather's cancer death) well before I lost faith completely. In fact, that complete non-delivery-as-promised was probably one of the factors in why I lost faith.

But I don't know that I ever actually had faith the way adult people of faith understand it. As a child, my faith was that the adults around me knew something I didn't know, re: faith, and this seemed like a reasonable hypothesis given the things they knew that I didn't re: driving automobiles and going to jobs and (shhh! sex!) that I didn't know. So I had faith that it would all come clear to me someday. They knew something I didn't know, that made them certain, that gave them faith, and someday I would know it too.

But then, when I really could have used the comfort of faith, nothing happened.

Books, on the other hand -- books have always been an aid and a comfort. Books delivered on the promise that religion made. Fiction is the best drug.
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Jo Rhett
User: jorhett
Date: 2013-05-14 20:34 (UTC)
Subject: on the irrelevant
I do believe I've been around you under a few circumstances when you were buzzed on wine, and you've never been anything but a complete and total gentleman.

...or perhaps I was more buzzed than you, ah who cares it was fun :-)
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