imagrownup

by @kelsocks

Category Archives: Science, Philosophy, Society

You’re Rubber, I’m Glue….Bitch.

Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.
Winston Churchill

Not to brag or anything, but I am preeeeetty good at talking shit.  It just kind of happens when you combine average intelligence with a certain level of observational skill and firsthand experience of people being sucky. This isn’t a skill I’m proud of or anything, but I used to think shittalking was fine as long as I reserved my judgments for things worthy of criticism.

Recently I had a change of attitude, but you’ll have to follow me on this train of thought. I was considering how we are only capable of processing and interpreting the outside world in terms of our own understanding of it, which is based on knowledge and experience.  We are the lens through which we view the rest of the world.

I can’t remember who I was talking (or thinking) negatively about when it hit me that  I had been upset about something I knew I, too, was guilty of on occasion.  From there I ran through a list of all the people I’d been critical of recently and the nature of what my problem was, and blammo– these were things I’d done in the past, was currently doing, or potentially might do in the future:

I was annoyed when a car cut me off in traffic.

I had been upset with a girl for bending over backwards to please a less interested guy.

I mentally rolled my eyes at someone for vaguebooking.

One of my friends was too wrapped up in her own personal drama to listen to my problems.

I laughed at a sloppy drunk chick for making a fool out of herself in public.

I railed against Americans for being lazy, fearful, self-medicating overconsumers.

And finally…

I told a friend he would get more converts to his political cause if he didn’t act like such an abrasive asshole. Ha! (If you’ve been my Facebook friend for a while you’ll understand why that’s rich.)

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of similar criticisms- big and small, justified and unjustified– that pop into our heads.  I realized that all these criticisms I was making were reflections of my own shortcomings.  I was able to adeptly rip people to shreds because I had firsthand knowledge of these flaws in myself.  This hypothesis was bolstered by looking at how the people I admire most as “genuinely good people” rarely speak ill of anyone.

I think it’s safe to say I’m not the only person for whom this phenomenon holds true.  Like Julian “I’m Perpetually Late to Gigs Because I Don’t Respect My Fans’ Time” Casablancas (sorry, it jut spills out sometimes) sings, “We’re so quick to point out our own flaws in others.” In criticizing, it’s as if we hope to distance ourselves from our own flaws.  It’s like saying “Hey, look over there! That’s where the problem is, not here” or “I couldn’t possibly be guilty of that because I obviously disapprove of such behavior.”  It’s a deflection.

Aside from just being a dick move, this behavior is problematic because when we hide from our shortcomings, we can’t fix them.  So now every time I think something critical, the next thought is “What am I really upset about? Is this actually something I don’t like about myself?”  It’s a worthwhile exercise.  Of course this doesn’t hold true for every situation (I’m not critical of seal furriers because deep down I secretly want to club baby seals to death), but it is worth exploring in your personal relationships.  Changing my pattern of thought from criticism > dismissal to criticism > red flag > self-examination has been helpful for me, maybe it can help you too.

 

**Special thanks to Mr. David Hook for his drawring skills!

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Number 40 (or 40 Lessons In 40 Posts)

In celebration of my 40th disjointed post, here’s a disjointed list of 40 things I’ve learned since starting this blog (the author recommends enjoying while drinking a 40):

40- I’m going to die sooner or later so I need to hurry up and do all the awesome stuff I’ve ever wanted to do. 

39- Being physically fit will make you happier, and the inverse is just as true.   Luckily, exercise is an antidepressant that will fix part of the problem instead of just treating the symptoms.

38- Quinoa is as delicious as it is difficult to pronounce: Very.

37- Humankind is inherently good.  At least based on how everyone rushes to make way for ambulances.

36- Humankind is inherently evil.  I forgot it’s against the law to obstruct emergency vehicles, so people have to move whether they want to or not.

35- Humankind is hard to figure out.  Fuck it.

34- Making memories is widely underrated. Did making two costumes and driving 8 hours to a music fest for Halloween weekend substantially complicate my life and require a great deal of time, energy, and money to execute? Yes. Was it fun as fuck? Definitely. Studies have shown that the happiest people are those who purchase experiences instead of things, so go do stuff.

33- Those Sally Hansen stick-on nail polish strips are awesome.  They should invent a way to create custom designs. Maybe sell blank sheets of polish that people can decorate and peel off..? I don’t know, I’m just spitballing here but someone should get on this.

32- I’ll miss being forced to read books I wouldn’t normally encounter. Por ejemplo, Joseph Conrad is a pain in the ass to read but brilliant when it comes to using language and exploring existential crises and moral dilemmas.

31-  Cities are beautiful, dazzlingly complex embodiments of the best and worst of man’s accomplishments. And living in them is fun.

30- Find people you can be yourself around.  It makes everything easier.

29- Weird kids turn into awesome adults. They also have hilarious weird kid anecdotes.

28- You can gain a lot from spending time with people different than you. Like, for realz.

27- Skydiving is awesome. Do it.

26-Institutions of higher education just want your money, but you can still have a valuable learning experience if you take advantage of the opportunity.

25- Almost everyone is lonely.  Some are better at hiding it than others, and some don’t think about it because they’ve filled their time with enough people and things to distract, but everyone wants to feel connected.

24- My joints are feeble as shit, and dealing with athletic injuries is really annoying so use good form, y’all.

23- Throwing ice cream is fun. Fact.

22- Everyone deludes themselves from reality in some capacity. Whether it’s justifying past decisions, rationalizing present circumstances, only seeing what you want to see in others, self-medicating, or self-theologizing, most people prefer their own version of things to the truth.

21- Consistently generating content is hard. 

20- I need to find a reasonable income if I’m ever going to afford that great white shark cage diving trip.

19- It is important to know when to hold and/or fold ’em.  A few little risks here and there in the name of fun is one thing, but actual danger is not worth the consequences. Shark dives don’t count, they’re mostly safe, although honestly if I’m going to die I wouldn’t mind getting eaten by a shark.

18-Lachrymose is a good word.  It means tear-inducing/weepy, FYI.

17-If everyone is cool, no one is cool.  Being hip is a mass produced cultural trend, so basically everyone is average. Which is redundant.

16- There are artificial estrogen-mimicking chemicals in air fresheners.  [source] Probably to keep women in constant nesting mode buying products like more air fresheners…

15-Routines are incredibly efficient. Not having a routine is the opposite of that.

14- Nobody’s business is anybody’s business. 

13- Our generation didn’t create the fucked up world we’re inheriting, but it’s still our responsibility to make it better.

12- If hell exists, it’s probably run by towing companies.

11- Dancing is undervalued. 

10- A lot of people seem okay floating from one societal threshold to the next without worrying about why they’re doing what they’re doing.  You can get a lot out of self-reflection and evaluating your motivations.

9- Balance is the key to just about everything.  Yin and Yang had that shit down.

8- Thinking up 40 things I’ve learned recently is harder than I expected. And most of this shit sounds like clichés. But clichés are clichés for a reason so…

7- Water your friendship plants regularly.  Some are delicate violets and others are durable cacti, but it’s important to take care of them.

6- Putting creative work on display is an embarrassing but necessary evil.  I hate rereading old posts but fear of embarrassment is a too common roadblock to creation. Everybody sucks at first, you just have to keep going.

5- The War of Art is an incredibly useful book. Everyone, especially creative types, should read it.

4- Laughing is the best. More, please.

3- We naturally gravitate toward the things and people we need in order to grow. Just like plants!

2-Better to look like an idiot trying something new than to never try anything.

1- Settling is for suckers. Don’t do it!

Lessons From The Missing Piece

Shel Silverstein is one of my all time favorite children’s authors.  His absurd wit, childlike illustrations, use of language, and deep philosophical themes combine in several timeless stories and poems that are still relevant to adults. A fantastic example is the story The Missing Piece Meets the Big O.  I wrote a paper about this book for one of my first college English courses, so the following is essentially a paraphrase of that paper.

In case you forgot (or haven’t read it), The Missing Piece Meets the Big O is about a wedge-shaped character called the Missing Piece who is looking for its corresponding shape it imagines has a void the exact size of itself where it can fit in.  The first line reads, “The missing piece sat alone… waiting for someone to come along and take it somewhere.” Over the course of the story, it roams around looking for the perfect match with the right size hole to fill. It joins up with one piece, but soon outgrows it. Several failed attempts to find a match later, the Piece meets the Big O who has the ability to roll around on its own.  The Big O rejects the Missing Piece who becomes inspired to try rolling alone, too. After a while, The Missing Piece flops and rolls until its edges wear down and it becomes round like a circle.  Only then is it able to reunite with the Big O so the two wholes can happily roll along side each other.

By now, the true meaning of The Missing Piece Meets the Big O should be obvious to adults (and honestly probably impossible for a child to comprehend).  It’s about growing out of the naïve view of love as the coming together of two soul mates like puzzle pieces who compensate for each other’s voids.  At the beginning of the story the Missing Piece is lonely and thinks he needs to fill the void in another person who will “take it places.”  Through its journey we see several archetypal relationship situations: the couple that grows out of each other, the pairs that are simply bad fits, attempts by the Missing Piece to make himself more attractive to a mate, those with too many pieces missing (too many emotional voids to fill), or those that “didn’t know a thing about fitting” aka how to have a meaningful relationship.

The allegory demonstrates how we must be whole before we can be happy and sustain healthy relationships.  It’s our own responsibility to take ourselves places instead of relying on someone else to do it for us or fix us.  Otherwise, when we fill our voids with each other, we make our happiness dependent on them and often fall into the trap of codependence.  Codependent relationships are unhealthy (with the exception of parent-child relationships) because they’re based on need, not want nor choice.  Two people grow so entwined in each other’s existence until the thought of separation is too painful, yet neither is happy or whole because they’re sustaining themselves off each other– draining the life out of one another. It becomes a situation where they are together because they need to be because the alternative is unpleasant, not because they want to be.  As soon as one party no longer needs whatever the other was providing– be it companionship, sex, money, transportation, or whatever– the codependent relationship falls apart.  The Missing Piece should be a reminder to us all: to be happy with another person we must first be happy with ourselves.

Freedom of Speech in Comedy

Why do we laugh at such terrible things? Because comedy is often the sarcastic realization of inescapable tragedy.

-Bryant H. McGill

As the purpose of comedy is to correct the vices of men, I see no reason why anyone should be exempt.

-Moliere

Rhetoric does not get you anywhere, because Hitler and Mussolini are just as good at rhetoric. But if you can bring these people down with comedy, they stand no chance.

-Mel Brooks

Recently I heard someone say flat out that there were at least two subjects they would never make a joke about.  My gut reaction was a suppressed eye roll followed by disappointment that this individual couldn’t understand how comedy is a healthy way of confronting the worst parts of existence.  If we can’t talk about these things in the pleasurable medium of humor, how much harder will it be to talk about them coldly and seriously?  Laughter helps us cope with tragedy. Have you ever seen someone so furious, crestfallen, or full of despair that all they could do is laugh at their situation? It releases tension and brings us back from the edge (serotonin or whatever).

As I mentioned in my post I Fucking Love Cursing, I believe that when we designate certain words, or in this case subjects, as off-limits and unmentionable, we cede them control over us.  If we’re afraid to talk about them, then these concepts have the power to hurt us.  That’s why Harry Potter doesn’t pussyfoot around like the rest of the wizarding world by allowing the taboo of Lord Voldemort’s name frighten him. Adoy! Furthermore, the more taboo a subject is, like say erectile dysfunction or girls pooping or (ready?) abortion, the more shame is experienced by those whose lives are affected by those subjects.  Another example is how shame-based religions that refuse to address sex in an honest, healthy way can create sexually dysfunctional individuals that are afraid of the subject (That’s probably the point, but I digress…).

Comedy is not only indisputably intertwined with tragedy (there’s about ten million BrainyQuotes on the subject), but it’s also sewn into the fabric of truth.  There are different reasons things can be funny, but one thing for sure is that we like relating to jokes.  How many times do we basically think “that’s so true!” in reaction to a good comedian?   We like it when they talk about things relevant to our lives, and sometimes there’s a lot of terribleness in people’s lives– so why ignore the truth? We also use jokes as a way to say what we really think under a the guise insincerity.  Just think of the ol’ sassy-remark-followed-by-“just kidding.”

The primary requisite for comedy is observation.  Comedians look at the world and point out the (many) ridiculous things about it which can be a huge benefit to society if it inspires them to think differently or if it gives a voice to the voiceless. Names that come to mind are Bill Hicks, David Cross, Louis CK, Tina Fey, Dave Chapelle, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Rob McElhenney and the Always Sunny writers, and a shitload of Saturday Night Live.  They can reach people and make them think about issues because when we’re relaxed and enjoying ourselves we’re more willing to hear an opposing viewpoint than if we were being sternly debated.  Humor helps people lower their guards and open their minds.  It can make a huge difference; just consider how SNL’s portrayal of Sarah Palin affected the entire 2008 election.

Consider the welfare state.

In sum, comedians should be able to talk about whatever the hell they want with one stipulation: it should be funny.  I realize what’s funny is subjective, but the goal should be to amuse, not to hurt.  No flat-out-meanness or irate rants without a sense of playfulness.  My dad once told me a quote and although I have no idea where it’s from (and Google isn’t helping), I think it nails down this issue completely: “The only joke that’s in bad taste is the one that isn’t funny.”

Occam’s Razor Is Here to Slice Your Delusions

If you’ve never taken a basic philosophy course, you may never have encountered the principle of Occam’s Razor.  William of Ockham’s idea can be summarized by the phrase “Plurality should not be posited without necessity” or in other words, “simpler explanations are, other things being equal, generally better than more complex ones.” [source]

Occam’s razor: the simplest explanation is usually the best. 

This can be applied to all areas of life.  Consider this example:

Jane goes to get a beer from the fridge.  When she opens it, she discovers there aren’t any beers left.  She could swear there had been some left from the week before.   She can choose from an array of options to explain why there is no more beer left:

  • She drank all the beer but forgot about it (due to all the drinking).
  • Her roommate drank the beer at some point as her roommate tends to do.
  • The maintenance guy snuck into their apartment while they were sleeping and drank the beer.
  • The beer dissolved into thin air despite the laws of physics.
  • Invisible fairies stole the beer.

Obviously some of these reasons are more probable than others and therefore are better explanations for Jane.  The simpler explanations (the first two) are the most elegant solutions.

This also applies to more complex scenarios. For instance, John might justify his own financial or relational misfortune by constructing elaborate imaginary forces working against him.  Maybe the simple truth is that John sucks, and stuff doesn’t work out because he won’t do what it takes to get a handle on his life. Boom! Sliced! Occam’s razor is here to simplify your world.

Humor As Your Worldview

Humor is the affectionate communication of insight.

-Leo Rosten

Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.

-Mark Twain

Comedy has to be based on truth. You take the truth and you put a little curlicue at the end.

-Sid Caesar

I think comedy is about empathy.  I can’t laugh with people I don’t like.

-Ricky Gervais

Do you think this is funny? If you do, you'd probably have a few things to talk about with anyone else who finds it funny too (hint: not this gal). Side note: how did Christopher Lloyd get tangled up in this mess?

Ever notice how the people you laugh with the most tend to be the people you have the most in common with?  Our sense of humor stems from how we view the world– our values, beliefs, assumptions, culture… pretty much everything. It’s also a lens through which we see that world.  When we laugh, we acknowledge the same perspective on an issue or observation.  Humor can bond us together.

Because there are so many different kinds of people, not everyone finds the same things funny.  The more personally specific a joke is, the narrower its appeal. But how rewarding is it when we encounter someone else who finds the same obscure thing amusing? That’s basically the definition of an inside joke.  Think of all the inside jokes you have with your siblings and closest friends. For me it’s one of the most rewarding kinds of personal connection.  I know that when I reference Jiggy Nye, Merrylegs or Ken V., there’s only a handful of people in this world who will know what I’m talking about, and that makes it special.

But beyond the concept of inside jokes which stem from overlapping experience, when people find the same thing funny (for the same reasons) it means that everyone involved has the same framework of perceptions/evaluations/knowledge about the world (or at least finds them reasonable and/or relatable).  Consider the Ricky Gervais quote from above.  If comedy is about empathy, that necessarily means comedy is about “the ability to understand and share feelings with another.” The common ground is necessary for the joke to appeal to a group.  This is why some people are offended by certain jokes: because they don’t agree with the principles behind it, they can’t allow themselves to empathize with the humorist’s perspective, ergo they don’t find it funny.  Because of this, sense of humor can be an excellent barometer of how much you have in common with another person.

Consider a scene from season five of 30 Rock.  Surprised to hear Liz plans on breaking up with her longterm boyfriend Carol, Jack exclaims, “You two seemed so happy. The other day I saw you in the lobby laughing together..” to which she explains, “A guy on crutches bit it in the revolving door and he was so scared…” The primary characteristic of Liz and Carol’s relationship is that they’re extremely similar, hence why they laugh at the same things even if it is a bit cruel.

This leads me to my next topic: a dark sense of humor. I know I have it, and most of the company I keep has it. Some of the best comedians have it, too.  But unfortunately I see a lot of people confuse this brand of comedy with just being negative.  If a sense of humor is a manifestation of a person’s worldview, then a dark sense of humor which confronts the undeniable and abundant darkness in the world is the most in touch with reality.  According to the most reliable source on the internet, Wikipedia, black humor is an offshoot of “gallows humor.” Gallows humor is defined as:

 …the type of humor that still manages to be funny in the face of, and in response to, a perfectly hopeless situation. It arises from stressful, traumatic, or life-threatening situations, often in circumstances such that death is perceived as impending and unavoidable. (source)

Thus, it seems that a dark sense of humor follows from the acknowledgment and acceptance of the uncontrollable things in life i.e. our own mortality.  Personally I think that’s beautiful, and I’ll be laughing at my own decaying body all the way to the grave.

Aside:

Black humor is also a great genre of film/TV.  For excellent examples, see stuff by the Coen brothers, Wes Anderson, Tarantino, Simon Pegg/Nick Frost collaborations, I ❤ Huckabees, Beetlejuice, Trainspotting, Dr. Strangelove, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Little Miss Sunshine, and lotsmore.

bonus:

http://www.hulu.com/embed/sy9JKpz0JBjsuVfox0bvjQ

“THANKS, INTERNET!” -Cats

Some things in this world go together so well it’s a wonder they were ever considered separately. One of these timeless couplings is a personal favorite: Cats and the Internet.

Corollary to the rising popularity of the internet has been the rising popularity of public cat fanaticism.  I argue that this is because the internet has allowed the mass proliferation of positive portrayals of cats. Prior to this phenomenon, cats in pop culture were treated with neutral and often negative attitudes. In mainstream cartoons, cats have historically been manipulators, troublemakers, sneaks, and bullies who pray on innocent birds and mice and cause harm to nobel canines (see: Lady & The Tramp, Sylvester, Tom & Jerry, etc.).

Now cats are all over the place, and internet culture thrives on cats. It’s practically a hipster thing now. Just see any of the following gems:

I Can Has Cheezburger
Maru
Cats For Gold
Cash Cats

How can we explain this sudden shift in popularity? Consider the difference between “cat people” and “dog people.” Generally speaking, and this is definitely generalizing like a mofo, cat people (and cats for that matter) are associated with introverted qualities, while dogs and dog people are more extraverted [source].  While neither is superior, it is much easier to get friendly with extraverted types than the introverts who require more time and personal interaction to become comfortable with.  Therefore, it’s easier to quickly and positively evaluate dogs/dog people than cats/cat people.  But because of the internet (via silly videos and adorable memes), people have seen a side of cats they may not have known otherwise.

Do I sound like I’m full of shit? Well, psychology research on the effects of the Internet have shown that it does help shy, inhibited children socialize more effectively, so there is substance to an argument proclaiming the positive effects of the internet on socially retarded people/animals. Boom. [source]

Most of the time when you hear someone explain why they don’t like cats, their list has one or more of the following reasons: “they’re mean,” “they don’t do what they’re told,” or “had a bad experience.” To be fair, the exact same descriptors could be used about people.  Luckily we know that cats, like people, can also be playful, loyal, and even consoling:

So, as a cat person and a socially retarded person (the line is blurry), I’d like to thank the internet on behalf of cats for boosting their social acceptance.

Three Random Health Misconceptions

1. If you want to lose weight, just do a lot of cardio.

Not entirely true. While cardiovascular exercise does burn calories, doing it exclusively is not the most effective way to get and stay in shape.  Building muscle is also a critical way to increase your overall caloric burn.  Having muscle requires more maintenance (glucose, oxygenation, etc) so the more you have, the more you burn.  Also, just having a muscular framework behind any fat makes people look more lean and in shape because it holds everything up in a more flattering form.  If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t forget to strength train.  [source]

2. Take Vitamin C when sick to improve your immune function.

Not really true.  Vit C mania started in the 1960’s largely due to Linus Pauling who believed the vitamin, taken in large doses, would have an array of health benefits.  Unfortunately, its benefits have been largely overblown.  After numerous studies, there is no compelling evidence that high doses of Vitamin C have a positive effect on the prevention, duration, or treatment of colds.  The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C is 75 mg or 90mg for women and men respectively, while tissue saturation occurs at 200mg (i.e. anything over this gets expelled from the body). Both of these numbers are far below the 2-3000mg doses in Emergen-C and other immunity boosting treatments, so don’t waste your money. [source]

3.  You shouldn’t snack between meals.

False.  If you only eat three meals a day, your blood sugar fluctuates more steeply. If, however, you eat lightly and  regularly (every 2-3 hours), your metabolism burns at a steadier rate which has a better effect overall.  When you wait a long time between meals, your body goes into starvation mode and slows down your metabolism– it’s a survival response.  When you experience hunger your body adjusts to burn less and store more, which is the opposite of what you want if you’re trying to stay lean.   [source]

Fear, Comfort, Conrad

For better or worse I took a semester long course on author Joseph Conrad.  Anyone who has encountered his writing knows how difficult he can be, but it was worth it because I was exposed to stunningly poignant literature.  I figure there aren’t a lot of people reading Conrad in their free time, so I wanted to share a significant passage.

In one essay, Conrad praised author Henry James’s dismissal of conventional methods of plot resolution.  Said Conrad:

“Why the reading public, which, as a body, has never laid upon a story-teller the command to be an artist, should demand from him this sham of Divine Omnipotence, is utterly incomprehensible.  But so it is; and these solutions are legitimate inasmuch as they satisfy the desire for finality, for which our hearts yearn, which a longing greater than the longing for the loaves and fishes of this earth.  Perhaps the only true desire of mankind, coming thus to light in its hours of leisure, is to be set at rest.

He basically says that people want cliché happy endings in stories, even if they’re unrealistic, because they appeal to our desire for finality.

This last line struck a cord with me for several reasons.  A few months ago I read a book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.  The point of the book is to help people distinguish and overcome the fears that hinder them from achieving their full potential.  This fear, called “Resistance” in Pressfield’s book, fills us with doubts, rationalizations, procrastinations, and anything else that becomes an obstacle between us and our goals.  Pressfield shows how resistance can be a barometer of how much we care about something– the more fear we have, the more rewarding it will be to overcome.

Conrad’s observation about mankind’s quest for rest corresponds to Pressfield’s concept of resistance.  A longing for comfort necessarily means avoiding the discomforting fear of change and the unknown.  Man would rather endure less-than-ideal circumstances, simply because they’re familiar, instead of venturing for something better.  Though Pressfield discusses this in terms of people achieving creative potential, Conrad extends this idea to all facets of life.  Man so deeply yearns for rest that in his journey to satisfy his ambitions, aspirations, and desires he will quickly settle for the bare minimum because it’s the easiest way to resolve the discomforting instability of life.  It’s lazy and cowardly.

How many people do you know that you would describe as “comfortable,” “stagnant” or “in a rut”?  Are you one of those people?  Is that how you want to live your life– in the name of comfort?

I see it all around us.  It’s as if there’s an unwritten checklist of things to accomplish in order to “succeed” at life (including but not limited to graduate from college, marry, have kids, fight in suburban war, etc) and everyone’s goal is to meet these requirements because they think it will make them happy.  They think that will get them closer to the kind of resting place Conrad wrote about.  But more and more we see the disappointing truth: people who raced towards these goals without thinking WHY they should want them wake up later wondering what the point was.  Their list is checked off but now they don’t know what to do.

Something I’ve been working on in my own life that I would encourage in others is disappointingly cliché: face your fears.  As simple (and annoying) as that sounds, really ask yourself whether you want to be the kind of person who wakes up 10, 20, 40 years down the road struggling to suppress all the regrets of things you’d wish you’d done differently.  Don’t be fooled thinking you’ll somehow stop caring down the line. The rationalizations that keep us comfortable feel okay now but they can never fully dissolve our true hopes, desires, and ambitions.  Is that the life you want?  One that’s “good enough” or “not too bad”?  No thanks.  This applies to all areas of life, from career and relationship choices to stuff as benign as recreation.

I would much rather attempt to have the best life I can, and maybe accumulate some scar tissue and embarrassing stories along the way, than be paralyzed by the fear of discomfort.  Isn’t the point of life to experience it and not just make it to the end unharmed?  After all, we don’t grow when we’re comfortable (hence the term “growing pains”).  Comfort zones are like base in a game of capture the flag.  You’re safe from harm, but you will never achieve anything, not even the fun of playing, if you stay inside it the whole time.  So be brave!  As the great Steve Guttenberg once said, “No risk, no reward.”

Prohibition Is Stupid

Prohibition, the act of forbidding something like drugs or alcohol, doesn’t work.  Here’s why:
Humans have always enjoyed finding ways to mess with their cognitive functioning.  They like getting high and drunk and have been doing so for thousands of years.  This isn’t going to stop.  Because some people take recreational substance use too far which can lead to harmful consequences (health repercussions, interpersonal problems, physical destruction, etc…), sometimes authorities take it upon themselves to “save” the masses from themselves by outlawing certain substances and threatening punishment for anyone who disobeys.  Even though these authorities might have good intentions, they inadvertently build disregard for the law because people who enjoy these substances responsibly understand that no one is actually being harmed- it’s the victimless crime.  If people think an illegal activity isn’t inherently wrong and if there is low risk of getting caught, they will do it anyway, hence why so many people break the speed limit.  Further disregard for the law builds when the withholding authorities make distinctions between different classes of substances, rating some more or less immoral.  For example, alcohol is known to be more harmful across a wide spectrum of factors, yet it’s still legal while something as benign as weed could land you in jail.  How can a government that claims the need to ban something like weed (which has relatively no bad side effects besides laziness) because it’s “a threat to society” still allow alcohol to be sold?  These kinds of irrational contradictions destroy the citizens’ trust in the institution.
Let’s say it doesn’t matter if citizens take laws seriously (even though it does).  Prohibition still causes more problems than it’s worth.  Outlawing a substance that people will continue to do automatically delegates the trade in that industry to the criminal class.  Because they’re criminals, violence and corruption reign.  The fabulous War on Drugs started in the 1970’s has cost the US billions and billions of dollars, and most of us can see it hasn’t worked at all.  In fact, illegalization has paved the way for a permanent criminal underclass.  Especially tragic are the millions of kids who get busted in their teens and end up career inmates just because of some drug charges.  Parallel to the crack down on drugs is the exponential surge in the  prison population.  I suggest everyone do some research on the US prison-industrial complex to see what a convoluted, inflated, destructive juggernaut its become.

So here’s what prohibition does:

  • builds disregard for the law/authority
  • fails to stop people from getting ahold of the substance
  • increases criminal activity
  • increases violence and corruption
  • wastes billions of dollars
  • destroys the futures of millions of young people, especially inner city youth who turn to selling drugs as one of the few accessible means of income
  • inflates the prison-industrial complex

One would think the actual Prohibition Era in this country would serve as a reminder to what happens when you make recreational substances illegal.  During that time, crime increased drastically when the mob became the primary alcohol retailer.  This is so obvious but worth reiterating: making booze illegal didn’t stop people from drinking it.  When prohibition was finally overturned, the economy soared because legitimate markets got involved and the monopoly of criminal organizations was dismantled.   We would see a similar phenomenon if the US ended the war on drugs.   Violent cartels would instantly be obsolete– that’s exactly why drug lords always move to KEEP drugs illegal: it benefits criminals.

Furthermore, as I mentioned in the intro, people will always find a way to mess with their brains.  If you took away all the common ways to get high or drunk, there would still be millions of people looking for a fix.  Many would attempt creating new drugs and finding other methods of getting intoxicated. So what’s the point of getting on a moral high horse about saving people from substances if they’ll always find a way around it?

Finally, from a philosophical standpoint, people should be able to whatever the hell they want to their own bodies if it doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s rights.  True, people should not be allowed to drive, operate heavy machinery, or do surgery if they’re blitzed out of their minds, but there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to go home at night and unwind however they see fit.

With the all the damage to society, the economy, public opinion, and future generations, the cost of prohibition is simply too high.