Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: erenlai
Wednesday, 30 December 2009 06:50

Drugs, addiction and literature

It is now common place to link drugs to the world of Arts and Literature.From the 19th century onwards, many writers have taken over the subject to describe either its psychical or physical effects. French poet Baudelaire published an essay on hashish and opium in Les Paradis artificiels (Artificial Paradises, 1860) inspired by Thomas de Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. In the mid-20th century, writers from the Beat Generation in the US put the use and the experimentation of drugs at the center of their works, as for example with William Burroughs’ novels Junky and The Naked Lunch. Since then, the subject has also been exploited abundantly by film directors who have adapted novels such as Requiem for a Dream realised in 2000 by Darren Aronofsky from the eponymous novel by Hubert Selby Jr. published in 1978.

 
It is certainly very difficult and maybe impossible to objectively assert or analyse the relation between the taking of drugs and creativity, although many writers have evoked their own use of hallucinogenous substances to stimulate their imagination. Indeed, the use of drugs is known for its power of transgression, of modifying the perceptions and also sometimes making the body and the mind more efficient and productive. Drugs could tally with the fantasy of a creator who would not need to sleep or stop in order to achieve his work. For example, Jean-Paul Sartre was reported to having used mescaline and amphetamines by his companion Simone de Beauvoir (in The prime of life); he would have injected himself with mescaline while writing L’Imaginaire because he wanted to study and observe the process of hallucinations while being himself the subject of these visions. In fact, apparently Sartre was also distinguishing different uses for different drugs: he would take mescaline when writing literary works while he would take amphetamines for philosophical works. Pascal Nouvel, the author of Histoire des amphetamines (The History of Amphetamines, 2009) recalls that Sartre would have written La critique de la raison dialectique under the influence of amphetamines as apparently, for him, philosophy was the development of an idea that he already had; then the amphetamines would help him to produce more energy in order to develop this idea when mescaline would be more reserved for the stimulation of creation. Pascal Nouvel also quotes another original use of amphetamines by science fiction author Philip K. Dick. The latter took these drugs to reach a state of paranoia (also called ‘amphetaminic psychosis’) which would inspire him to reproduce this atmosphere of fear and paranoia in his novels.

 

These alterations and modifications of perception once under the influence of a drug are described by Baudelaire in his essay on hashish and opium, Les Paradis artificiels. In the first part of the book entitled “le Poeme du hashish”, he relates his own experience of hashish; in the second part of the book, named “the Opium Eater”, he analyses the book written by Thomas de Quincey (1785-1859), a British writer who related his addiction to opium. Baudelaire describes precisely the different steps of his intoxication, starting with the physical symptoms and the behaviour changes which result. And Baudelaire mentions a hallucinatory phase which he himself compares to poetic analogies, when the senses seem to take a more distinct power:

“It is, in fact, at this period of the intoxication that is manifested a new delicacy, a superior sharpness in each of the senses: smell, sight, hearing, touch join equally in this onward march; the eyes behold the Infinite; the ear perceives almost inaudible sounds in the midst of the most tremendous tumult. It is then that the hallucinations begin; external objects take on wholly and successively most strange appearances; they are deformed and transformed. […]The enthusiast eye of the hashish drunkard will see strange forms, but before they were strange and monstrous these forms were simple and natural. The energy, the almost speaking liveliness of hallucination in this form of intoxication in no way invalidates this original difference: the one has root in the situation, and, at the present time, the other has not." (’The Theater of Seraphim’, Chap.3, translation by Aleister Crowley, 1895)

But the final judgment of Baudelaire is not positive: after the acme of the drug’s influence, there is the ‘comedown’ which he qualifies as “terrible”:

“But the morrow; the terrible morrow! All the organs relaxed, tired; the nerves unstretched, the teasing tendency to tears, the impossibility of applying yourself to a continuous task, teach you cruelly that you have been playing a forbidden game. Hideous nature, stripped of its illumination of the previous evening, resembles the melancholy ruins of a festival. The will, the most precious of all faculties, is above all attacked. They say, and it is nearly true, that this substance does not cause any physical ill; or at least no grave one; but can one affirm that a man incapable of action and fit only for dreaming is really in good health, even when every part of him functions perfectly?“ (’The Moral’, Chap.5)

At the end, Baudelaire condemns this drug because it forces one to abdicate their will and takes away the control of one’s thoughts. Drugs may be a way to reach a certain ideal and to increase one’s imagination but this ideal remains “artificial”, “fake” as the creator should be the master of its own creation and realisation.

Here we can suggest an approach to the definition of addiction. If drugs usage is necessarily a transformation of oneself which is not necessarily a bad experience in itself, the negative ontological effect of using drugs could rely on its potential addictive power, as addiction would be the dissociation of the subject from its autonomy through the alteration and the submission of oneself. Heir of the Beat Generation, Hubert Selby Jr. describes in a very striking way the mechanism of addiction in his novel Requiem for a Dream. The book follows the four seasons of one year to depict the relentless decay of the four main characters: Sara, the mother of Harry, his girlfriend Marion and his best friend Tyrone. The latter are all young heroin users. The addiction of Harry is evoked since the very first pages of the book: in order to get money to go buy drugs, he has established a ritual during which he takes his mother’s television set to the pawn shop where Sara has to re-buy it. It is summer; Sara is a widow who spends her days watching the same television show and eating chocolates. She receives a phone call which announces to her that she may participate in the television show. She becomes obsessed with her appearance as she wants to wear a special red dress on the day of the show and, in order to slim fast, she starts a regimen of amphetaminic diet-pills. It is probably in the middle of the book that the reader becomes conscious of Sara’s addiction when she calls her doctor’s office to complain that she doesn’t feel the effects of the pills, then after the physical addiction comes the mental one almost inevitably follows.

All characters share the same craving for an ideal of happiness which they see as attainable at first. The youngsters have entrepreneurial dreams which define their ideal of success while Sara dreams of seeing herself on television. Harry’s leitmotiv is that there is never anything to worry about: whether it’s when they do not find their dose, when they get into trouble, when he recognizes his mother’s addiction she’s unwilling to admit it etc. But their passivity is what also condemns them; all four are waiting: Sara for the confirmation letter from the television show, the three kids for the stroke of luck which will decide their future. Their will is totally annihilated by the use of drugs and their habits, the automatism of their daily lives which is symbolized by the television set. Whether it is to relax after taking drugs or to feed one’s fantasies, the television is the symbol of this artificial paradise created by addiction. Actually, the author doesn’t only relate the addiction to drugs, he tells more the story of people who have renounced their will and, somehow, their ability of living together and acting their own lives. All their addictions could be exchangeable (Sara for example exchanges her bulimia for anorexia); the drugs are the means and the symptoms of the characters’ meaningless life, which reinforce somehow the idea that anything can be an object of addiction.

So one cannot say that literature, or art, have participated in normalizing the use of drugs as one can see that drug usage and addiction, whether the actor or the object of the writings, belong first to the social sphere: literature and philosophy might be able to help put into words the ‘language of drugs and addiction’ but it is also a matter of knowing what kind of society we want, how we want to consider the margins of our society, if we want to stigmatize them or to help the distressed instead.
 
 

Read a study on cocaine (in French)

 
 
 
 
 

 


Additional information
There is no doubt that rehabs for drug addiction can help treat drug addicted people from all walks of life.
 

Friday, 11 May 2012 15:30

Animal Rights in Contemporary Taiwan


(The Chinese reads: If you're not a teahouse cat, please don't sit on the scooter)

Huang Zong-Hui, Professor of Languages and Literature at National Taiwan University and animal rights campaigner give us a run down of the current state of animal rights in Taiwan:


Tuesday, 02 August 2011 14:53

Listen to The Moment: Minkoku Hyakunen

You-sheng Zhang and Da-wang Huang met each other in 2010. Both of them had their own noise sound works circulating among their friends and on the internet. They got tired of most political news, especially those about so-called “100-year-old ROC”, so they decided to organize a duo and to disband it after this year (2011 is the hundred year of ROC). 百年, pronounced in Japanese “Minkoku Hyakunen”, doesn’t talk about politics but performs with some ideas of politics. No stable tempo and pleasant melody, only fools playing fool noise.


Friday, 28 January 2011 16:00

eRenlai and life's unexpected troubles

Translated by Jason Chen

People hate running into unexpected trouble. It catches us off guard and makes us feel helpless. Hackers are the greatest threat to websites and, being an administrator of the eRenlai website, my most feared type of unexpected trouble.

We are now 10 years in to the 21st century. The internet has been in rapid development since the end of the 20th century, evolving from a simple channel of communication to something that has become inseparable to everyday life. On the internet people learn new information, express their opinions and voices, create interpersonal networks and activity centres, share their everyday life experiences and so on. Through web-based texts, sounds and videos, we have developed a new kind of life and alternative social circles: the different experiences available in this new sphere have become important elements for many of us.

eRenlai is a new life for Renlai. This website allows us to share more of our stories, videos, sounds and relevant information with our readers. We can also get feedback from our readers and use this as the basis for improving our magazine. This is why we really treasure eRenlai; we are always thinking about how to make it better and to encourage more feedback from our readers.

Despite our best intentions, unexpected trouble has hit eRenlai. One day we were suddenly unable to upload pictures to our website because the folder path was gone and some functions of the website were lost. We were shocked and had no idea about what was happening. Not only were we in panic mode, we were also worried that the website - which we put so much time and effort into building - was going to go bust. Luckily the situation didn’t get worse and at least all the already-uploaded articles were still there.

We urgently called the system maintenance engineer and he undertook some chaotic investigations. The definite cause of the website’s problems was apparent - eRenlai was hacked. Our first reaction were that “Why? How could this ever happen to us?”. Like all unexpected trouble, everyone wants to know “the reason”. However, finding out “the reason” after something has already happened does not necessarily help the situation and can even delay the time available to solve the problem. Trying not to panic or fly into a rage, we asked the system maintenance engineer to urgently fix some functions of the website for us so we could at least keep it running. However, we knew that even if eRenlai is restored the nightmare wouldn’t just stop there. Not only do the website functions have to be fixed, we have to so improve security and change everyone’s username and password to prevent something similar from happening again in the future. A week after eRenali was hacked, all the staff in eRenlai were still reeling from this turmoil.

Although this unexpected trouble only happened on the internet and it didn’t cause any physical harm to me, the lesson it taught me was tougher than if it had. When expected troubles come, one can only face them, accept them, try and solve them and then let them go. Just as someone should carry on with his or her life regardless of whatever may have happened, a website should not stop running because it comes across moments of anger or sadness. For eRenlai to get back running and become a bigger and more secure website is a responsibility we owe to our dedicated readers. When such unexpected trouble arises we should learn to look forward as this is the only way we can turn such an adversity into an opportunity!

Photo: C. Chuang

 


Thursday, 30 December 2010 11:27

Challenged but not disabled


I met Fr. Bob Ronald when I started to work at eRenlai in 2007. I was then the network animator of the website and he was our English editor. Although we shared the same office and we were seeing each other everyday, I realised only after his passing that I had just begun to know him.

Thursday, 25 January 2007 12:35

The Sun, the Moon and eRenlai

The sun radiates light, heat and energy. The moon receives light from the sun and radiates it on. As a living person like everyone else I am both a sun and a moon. As sun the light (or darkness) of my personality is visible to all. I radiate energy and purpose (or indifference and withdrawal). I create and share ideas and insights that are helpful or misleading. What I say and do (or what I hide and refuse to do) affects every situation in which I am a part.

Except when we are alone and completely out of contact with everyone else, we humans are inescapably men and women connected with others. We should also be men and women for others. As sun everything I say and do in the presence of others makes an impression for good or for bad, for better or for worse. I am not responsible for how others respond to my light, but I do have the responsibility to maintain the quality of my light.

The quality of my light depends in part on where the light comes from. I am not an isolated sun. I am moon as well. Much of what I reflect is passed on from what I receive from others. If I do not monitor and evaluate what I receive before I pass it on, then it is garbage in and garbage out.

Much also depends upon the quality of my reflecting surface. Even if I manage to filter out errors or emend them, but neglect to maintain the polish of the surface of my moon so it is pitted with imperfections, then no matter the quality of what I receive I am distorting it. What I radiate is colored by my temperament, modified by my beliefs, the information I have, my prejudices and judgments and my emotional state. Whenever the information upon which I act is erroneous or my beliefs or prejudices are off the mark or my judgments are clouded by emotions, then the light of my sun is corrupted and the moons who accept my messages receive flawed signals.

To maintain the quality of what I receive, I need reliable input. To maintain the accuracy of what I radiate I also need proper reflection, evaluation, self-control and guidance. If I align myself with the wrong guru or have no one to point out my mistakes then I remain a polluted and polluting transmitter.

This is where eRenlai Magazine comes in. As a source of meaningful, accurate, reliable information it purifies my input. Through its reflections, discussions and interchanges of ideas it rectifies my output. eRenlai will not tell me how to live or make any decisions for me, but it can increase my perception and understanding of reality and give me insights and options for making better judgments and taking more effective action.


Nets, Networks and eRenlai


A net is a contraption used by hunters to trap animals or fish. It is made of strands of rope intertwined and bound together at each junction. Laid flat it looks like a giant crossword puzzle waiting for the blanks to be filled in with letters. Set up where unsuspecting animals will run into it and get entangled in its meshes or dropped over hapless prey from above, nets are formidable weapons. Nets also have another function. When used as protection they keep what they cover from falling out or breaking apart.

Like chains, nets are only as strong as their weakest strands. If strands break down they create openings through which things may escape. The size of the mesh is also important.
The empty spaces must be smaller than what they must hold in.

Nets work because they are networks. They function as units. So long as every juncture stays firm and every strand holds strong, the network maintains its integrity and achieves its purpose.

Networks are models for human communication. Every one of us belongs to many networks, family networks, friendship networks, community networks, occupational networks, political networks, fields of interest networks, self-development networks, entertainment networks. Each individual is like the juncture in a net. As long as lines of contact are intact the network functions. Networks break down when would-be participants sever contact or the information passed is not reliable or deficient. Networks are tools that keep people together by being the conduits for the exchange of ideas. The value of a network can be measured in many ways: by the accuracy and significance of the information it passes and by the number of persons it reaches.

If someone wants to keep abreast of what is happening in the world or upgrade the quality of ideas exchanged or wishes to make substantial contributions to others or receive deeper insights and guidance for more effective interaction, then it is essential to have access to a high quality, well informed and reliable network.

eRenlai is such a network. Reliable experts, accurate information and analysis, meaningful reflections and opportunities for personal input make it a valuable tool for communication. Through eRenlai you too can make on impact.
 

Photo courtesy of Thomas Milloy


Help us!

Help us keep the content of eRenlai free: take five minutes to make a donation

AMOUNT: 

Join our FB Group

Browse by Date

« June 2019 »
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

We have 2821 guests and no members online