I don’t do drugs.
I don’t. I don’t even drink alcohol or caffeine.
The closest I’ve come to drug use was when I lived with a couple of stoners a few years ago. In the mutual interview process before they moved in, I was sure to mention that our house wasn’t a party house—that my brother drank but never had lots of people over, that neither of us did drugs, and that we weren’t interested in living with people who did. The soon-to-be housemates had been charming throughout our conversation, and they didn’t switch gears then. “No problem!” they assured me.
I soon learned that this is something that some drug users do. Their reality morphs and shifts depending on the situation, so they didn’t even feel like they were lying to me, just that I’d misunderstood them for some inexplicable reason.
Truly, living with those stoners was an education in purposeful vegging. They saw their role as vital. They believed that the world would be better off if everyone just smoked weed like them. When I tried to explain that if everyone was stoned all the time there wouldn’t be anyone coherent enough to work the Taco Bell that they liked to frequent at all hours of the morning, reality slipped again, and they insisted that I would totally get how it would all work if I would just get high.
Not a pretty picture. In fact, it’s a lot like how religion tends to work.
After all, a lot of religious-types are really good at shifting reality. For example, ask a traditionally Christian woman about the gender disparities inherent in her religion and you’ll end up on a logical merry-go-round:
God is everything.
God is a He.
Jesus teaches us that all people are equal.
And that’s pretty awesome considering He’s a guy.
Jesus is the son of God, but He’s also God.
God is everything.
But God is still a He, not a she or even an it.
God is certainly not a transgendered man.
Don’t try to define God: He is perfection.
That the statements contradict each other does not matter. It you don’t get it, you don’t have faith.
Which brings me to the “everyone should do it” thing that drug users do. Believers are notorious for this, only their high is hard to reach and rather elitist: faith is something that you have to want, but, no matter how much you want it, you’ll only achieve it once the deity chooses to bless you with it.
Religion and drugs. Both fascinating and both things that I love reading about but not partaking in.
Of course, I won’t claim to be clean. Drugs and religion are definitely linked, but art should be grouped with them too.
I’m not trying to be cute by comparing my career choice to chemical mood-enhancers and cults. This isn’t me going on again about how I have the coolest job ever. This is me admitting that art-making can be dangerous to the maker and often ends up being annoying to others.
For one thing, I definitely hide from the world in my studio, just like some people choose drugs as their sanctuary and others insulate themselves in a community and a text. Not everything that I do in the name of art-making is good for my mental state either. A lot of it is, but not all of it.
As for the changing of reality that drugs and religion do so well, why that’s the whole reason for art! What’s more, I firmly believe that the world would be a better place if everyone embraced their creativity.
In the end, I think that art differentiates itself from drugs and religion by encouraging exploration and critical thinking, but the striking similarities stand. It doesn’t matter so much what you choose: art, drugs, religion, they’re all about how you see your purpose in the world.