Pollan M. The botany of desire. New York, NY: Random House, Inc.; 2001. 113-178p.
Terms of interest
Terms of interest
Pyrrhic (p115): A metrical foot of two short or unaccented syllables
Animism (p125): Belief in the existence of a spiritual world, and of soul or spirit apart from matter; spiritualism as opposed to materialism
Panacea (p140): A remedy, cure, or medicine reputed to cure all diseases
Entheogen (p144): A psychoactive substance used for the purpose of inducing a mystical or spiritual experience
Banality (p168): Anything trite or trivial; a commonplace
Definition source: http://www.oed.com
Elementary school having just come to an end, summer on the horizon never looked so beautiful. I was aware that many other children slept on the idea of freedom, and woke charged at thoughts summers’ unaccountability. I was not one of these children. My father was on his way to pick my brother, a select friend, and myself up for the start of our tradition-like camping adventure. Some of the fondest memories I have as child. Although I never made the connection at such an age, I remember the ever so particular focus upon my fathers’ eyes the day he picked us up. It was a look I was particular accustomed to on many of our big adventures. It was a look of exuberance. My father was high. To this day I have met few people so in love with nature, addicted to its mystery and beauty - Intoxicated. By no means am I saying that I am for or against drugs, or that my father is some kind of “special” example that will change whatever opinion you have on the matter. I just know that I grew up knowing of many associations between plants and people that not every kid did. As I grew up, and was completely aware of the many emerging realities woven into my adolescent years I had never been aware of, I was always safe. I was never in danger of becoming a “pot head”. To be honest I never even thought of it as something kids did, I had no interest. It wasn’t until high school, as somewhat of a late bloomer, that I finally became tempted by what Micheal Pollan, calls “human desires”, in his book The Botany of Desire. With loving and caring parents, even when I learned of drugs in school, I never once viewed anyone in my life, which may have smoked marijuana, any different. Maybe some children could have been disappointed in their parents with their newly found, all knowing, opinions, but not me. I was too busy living a wondrous and lively childhood. Something I never could have experienced without a Father to encourage me to “stop looking at the lines in front of the vehicle while we drive”. I may have wasted many years learning to try and take in, and appreciate, the world we live in if it hadn’t been for him. No father is perfect but a father that loves his children is a good one. I believe this is what Pollan is getting at in his chapter on Cannabis (marijuana). When you have an opinion independent of your government things may seem a little skewed.
The culture of North America likely has a distorted perception of marijuana. Our culture, what so many believe, is a reason to be against the use of marijuana. What we see now only represents a fraction of the history people have surrounding marijuana, it has been engrained in our past for thousands of years. One of the most interesting things about this fraction of history is that, as Pollan says on pg. 129, “For modern prohibition against marijuana led directly to a revolution in both genetics and the culture of the plant. It stands as one of the richer ironies of the drug war that the creation of a powerful new taboo against marijuana led directly to the creation of a powerful new plant”. The idea of a species adapting, and converging in synchrony to one another seems almost poetic, when ignoring the reality behind why such a movement may have occurred. I found it particularly strange, however marijuana and people converged to present day, that marijuana does not affect our spinal cords. A deleterious effect produced by an affected spinal cord would have been difficult to select for with people having a fondness for its sinsimella. Although it could have happened, it almost seems as if the plant made some kind of judgement call, “choosing” to work with us and not against us. The idea, however, is not that surprising after all Pollan describes, on pg. 139, a universal want to alters one’s experience of consciousness. How interesting it is to think that marijuana is rooted in the human desire for pleasure.
Although I found the entire read very enjoyable, on pg. 41, when Pollan describes transparent drugs, drugs that “leave the users space-time coordinates untouched”, I was exceptionally interested. I really began to understand that many of these alkaloid-based intoxicants were only dangerous at large doses. I realized that, aside from cultural associations, maybe all that distinguishes between drugs such as caffeine and cocaine are the relative dosages at which they are ingested. Despite being no less than oversimplification, I began to wonder what effect cocaine would have on society if 0.05 of a gram was in every large cup of coffee getting pumped out of the worlds coffee corporations. Despite being an unconventional thought, and just a little bit ridiculous, I honestly don’t think coffee drinkers would act a whole lot different. We have all achieved that feeling of well-being from a morning coffee a size too big.
Anyway, amongst the beautiful comparison of memes to genes and light jabs at religion, I more than enjoyed the read. I loved that Pollan was able to make me reevaluate the very foundations of which our culture, and government, currently has built on drugs. I think that it would do everyone a little good to read Pollans chapter on marijuana.