Heed them.

April 11, 2011

The Fourth Drive and the Fourth Wall

"History shows that people have always used intoxicants. In every age, in every part of the world, people have pursued intoxication with plants, alcohol, and other mind-altering substances. In fact, this behavior has so much force and persistence that it functions much like our drives for food, sleep, and sex. This 'fourth drive' is a natural part of our biology, creating the irrepressible demand for intoxicating substances."- Ronald K. Siegel

In a society where food, sleep, and sex are for the most part easily attained by an individual quickly if he has half a brain, what can you expect him to do with the time in between? The short answer is "art" and the long answer is "art and drugs".

The connection between creativity and drug use is well established, and the quality of the connection is heavily debated. Whatever the quality of the connection, it exists for a reason. Sobriety hurts. You brain works the way it does primarily to keep you alive. Things like fear, anxiety and self-criticism are hard-wired. If you feel like shit when you're sober, it's not your fault. It's the fault of humans evolving over many millenia to survive. Being scared all the time is 'just how humans are', and that's why many humans choose to use drugs.

Drug use quiets or distracts the mind from normal everyday worry. You stop worrying about self-preservation, self-image, things you fucked up on or how to avoid getting screwed over by life, because you no longer care or no longer CAN care. Is it a surprise that many people find that this state of intoxication is the time they can 'really think'?

When I read about the so-called 'fourth drive' I was reminded of another 'fourth'- the fourth wall. In theater, the fourth wall is the imaginary wall between the audience and the performers. 'Breaking the fourth wall' refers to a scene during old-timey plays when the performer would speak directly to the audience, breaking the illusion that the scenes were 'real' in order to make a direct point. In a great article on drinking alone , a point is put forth that drinking alone can "open internal lines of communication" in the same way that drinking with company opens regular lines of communication. I suspect that that's true.

 The only commonly accepted criticism of the 'high' users get from drugs or alcohol is that it's 'escapist'. I agree with the point, but don't see it as a criticism at all. When a person can escape, they can see themselves, their lives, and their art, from the perspective of someone else. If they are a good person, they can look on themselves favorably. They learn, quickly or in time, to treat themselves like their own friend.

And when you're your own friend, you can delight in your work, or criticize your work without self-hate.

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