The Opiates In Life

June 20, 2010 § 4 Comments

photo by Caveman 92223 — On the 2010 US Tour

Recently I’ve found myself under the stranglehold of an old hobby – a pastime called Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, for the PC. A once considerable addiction that offered the escape of being a Jedi-for-the-hour. Self customize your Jedi robes, complete with force powers of choice, and gaudy lightsabers (your choice of colors). When I revisited this 5-years ago pastime, I thought to set myself a limit of 1 hour a day for each weekend day.

But as all failure-prone, self-control incapable human is, these tended to overflow into 2-hour sessions, and sometimes even Fridays.

I found my “revisiting of old toys” puzzling initially. Something that held my attention constantly at 18 still does at near 25? I could forgive myself if it were simply nostalgia, but it seemed more than that.

Until I came across Colin Marshall’s short writing on “Opiates”, which enlightened , along with my increased Twitter, Facebook and Youtube usage. Along with what he considers a list of twentysomething “opiates”- things we do/use to dull the pains of life, and takes us away from reality, Colin adds this:

It sounds as if I’m calling moralism, but I’m really the last person to do that. Nor, I should add, do I claim not to partake of these opiates my own self. What grips me with increasing tightness is the simple fear that they do what they’re meant to. Opiates dull pain. Lacking companionship, social, sexual or otherwise? Firing up 4chan ought to take your mind off it. Boring, onerous job to do? A nice chocolate-chip muffin ought to take your mind off it. Directionless life? Check e-mail; check Facebook; check Twitter; check Foursquare (can you “check” Foursquare?); that ought to take your mind off it. Caught a glimpse of the abyss? Buying that funny shirt ought to take your mind off it. But to the extent that I don’t feel pain, I’m not going to address its underlying cause.

Back during my service in the Army, one staff sergeant’s addiction to the distractions so readily available to him left a deep impression on me. As an army regular who’s been serving for six years, it was said that he spent his paycheck nightly on hard liquor and fast women while managing a girlfriend. During the day, he avoided work to spend time with World of Warcraft, had his avatars’ stats pimped out, that the line from him I’ll always remember was

“I wish my life was World of Warcraft.”

I never got to know him better, so I never knew what the underlying pain was.

Like Colin suggests, these activities are not a question of moral issues, good or bad, right or wrong, black or white. We’re all partake in them in some form or another, time to time. When asked the question “Why stay away from Facebook?”, the answer “Because it’s a waste of time” is hardly satisfying.

I think what opiates really do is take us away from reality, even if its just temporarily. And it dulls the pain. Pain that reflects some form of dissatisfaction with some aspect of daily life.

Then there’s the fear of ultimately passing on this acceptance and dulling of pain to everyone else around you, and pretend its okay. The fear gets stronger when you picture yourself with children and grandchildren, with what you have done with your life you have to tell them “you’re not supposed to enjoy your work life, its okay to settle for less”.

The danger of Opiate-addiction is the mid-life crisis, or the post mid life crisis. Colin calls this the “OH SHI-” effect, waking up at 70 years old, having done nothing with life beyond working for a living.

I think it will come much earlier than 70.

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