sick of the Pixies
Sunday, February 20 2005
Ah, there's nothing like smoking a little pot by yourself and then kicking back in the bathtub with a book like Jared Diamond's Collapse. This is what I did while Gretchen and the guests were off eating lunch and then seeing an Agatha Christie play. I wouldn't normally smoke pot in the middle of the day, but there it was, the paraphernalia left over from last night, and its contents had not been completely incinerated.
Mostly when I smoke pot, particularly by myself, I experience two almost contradictory feelings. The first of these is a feeling that I'm weak and vulnerable and I should just sneak off somewhere and be by myself. Bathtubs are a great retreat in situations like this (and by "retreat," I mean something much more defensive than the meaning implicit in the way this word is repeatedly used on HGTV). The other pot-induced feeling is that I'm formidably creative and imaginative, and this is not just a feeling instilled meaninglessly by the drug: it's the actual things I think about while under pot's influence that make me believe this, and I continue believing it even after the effects of the pot have evaporated. I take the side of many traditional cultures throughout the world with my opinion that occasional (as opposed to habitual) use of certain drugs is good for a creative person. The human brain is a wildly complicated and astounding organ, but it easily develops stereotyped behavior ("ruts"). This is great when you're learning piano, but it becomes a problem when you're trying to make sense of information. If you always process information in the same way you'll miss important things, things that might enable you to make the big connections that human progress depends upon. This is one of the reasons why so many important discoveries are made by people who are new to a field of knowledge.
Truth be said, I can't remember having any major insight today. I just remember being blown away by what I was reading, particularly the chapter about a culture that persisted for 3000 years on the Polynesian island of Tikopia. The 1200 people on this tiny 1.8 square mile island have been functionally isolated from everyone else on the planet for all of that time, punctuated by very rare and dangerous voyages to and visits from its nearest equally-marginal neighbors, some 85 to 140 miles away. With people living in this kind of isolation, their condition and their culture have an eerie pathos to them (the islands are a close metaphor for the Earth's condition in space). On an island as small as Tikopia, the ocean is as everpresent as the sky, and its residents refer to everyday objects in terms of their relative distance to the shore. An example given by Tikopia expert Raymond Firth (as cited by Jared Diamond) is, "There is a spot of mud on your seaward cheek."
Today's biggest insight was actually a realization I had about myself. At some point I noticed that I was consistently turning off or switching my music every time the Pixies appeared in my internet music stream. Evidently I'd become sick of this seminal modern rock band, but it had taken me awhile to consciously realized it. Now that I'm thinking about it, though, I realize I can't stand them. Every time I hear Frank Black's over-eager voice something in me wishes that monkey would just hurry up and go to heaven. I used to like the Pixies, and on occasion I even played them deliberately. Until recently I considered their song "Digging for Fire" one of my all-time favorites. But something must have changed not so very long ago.
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