Thursday, July 29, 2010
Substance and substances
"A thing is said to be free which exists by the mere necessity of its own nature and is determined in its actions by itself alone." ~Spinoza
This was Spinoza's definition of freedom. Odd that he used the words necessity and determined in his definition. Spinoza was an absolute determinist. He believed that if you knew all of the causes, had a God's Eye View of the universe, you could tell exactly what would happen. In his time, the word substance was used to describe the ultimate essence of a thing. For humans the substance was the soul. Through Spinoza's logic, he determined that there was only one Substance and he used the term interchangeably with the words God and Nature. The only thing in the universe that was truly free, was Substance or God. It was the only thing that was determined only by its own nature. Everything else was at least determined by their own nature, and the nature of the shared Substance. This definition of freedom does not bother me really. The biggest part of what determines me, is myself and i am not controlled by an outside destiny.
Any way, that is not what this blog is about. According to Spinoza one is less free the more things control or determine its existence. If you are also controlled by an abusive spouse or parent, you are less free than one who is their own person and free of control. The same can be said for the substances we become dependent on. To be addicted is to be less free, the fix becomes a controlling factor.
Living on the road at the Renaissance Faire i see a whole culture that values its freedom. Most of us out here came out here because we did not want to be controlled by the typical 9-5 life of American society. But yet, a great majority of this culture allows its substances to be like a boot on its neck. I am not even talking about the health effects at this time. It is hard to get free of something when you are spending 50-150 dollars a week or more on it. People do this with drinking, smoking, marijuana and a host of other things that become necessity. The substances that are imbibed become our masters and they become more important to the dependent than food. Even without legal repercussions, the wasted money and time take away from a life that should be creative.
It is interesting the amount of time i have listened to marijuana smokers tell me how creative it makes them. Meanwhile they smoke all day and accomplish nothing. The drug becomes a need. Much time is lost as is much heightened sense of the world around. The same thing happens with drinking. Most of us work two days a week on the road. Many of those dulled on substances waste away their off days and miss the astounding places around them. They are on the road, but all places look the same. Colorado looks the same as New York or Arizona from the inside of a booth watching a video game screen through a smoky haze.
And there are also the health effects. I will only touch on them because it is not my main focus. Many people who choose this lifestyle are very concerned with the way they eat and personal health. They spend extra money to have organic foods or choose a vegan lifestyle in the hopes of health. Meanwhile, they chain smoke cigarettes, usually organic, or drink to drunkenness. I will say the same as i say to my students, this is a joke. You can not be healthy if you are a smoker. That should be priority one. Also, giving up cigarettes will allow a lot more money to be able to afford more natural organic foods.
I value my freedom. I do not want to be chained down by the costs or anything else that goes along with addiction. To be clear, i am not anti-alcohol, drug or tobacco. What i am against is doing anything that limits your freedom. If you have a budget for your herb or your alcohol or your cigarettes that exceeds your budget for food, that is a problem.
I enjoy having a drink with my friends, even getting a little typsy once in awhile. But more i value my health and my freedom. I am a warrior. That is a whole life style. Not only does it involve physical training, it involves the things you put into your mouth, your spirit and your heart. There are many ways to poison yourself. Living in a cage made of alcohol, tobacco or drugs is one of them.
Everything in moderation. Even tobacco. To natives in America before Europeans arrived, tobacco was a sacred substance. They told their children it was powerful and big medicine. They had no smoking problem. If tobacco can be used as a religious experience it can be a healthy thing. Problem is, it is very powerful and we have made tobacco a taboo. She will suck you in. I say this only to emphasize, i do not have anything against the substances themselves, only the way we use them. Like William James i believe that drugs can be a legitimate form of religious experience, but not when they are used recreationly.
Embrace your freedom. Breathe the free air and go for a hike.
Have a good day and i wish freedom to all of you. Namaste.