There are few mysteries in this world that cannot be solved by means of reason and reflection. By reason I mean the mental ability to logically understand a phenomenon. For example, if all birds have wings, and you see a bird in the distance, it is reasonable to assert that the given birds has wings. And also feathers. But it may not fly, since not all birds can.
And by reflection I mean using personal experience to form meaningful deductions. For example if every time I pet a cat I start to sneeze and break out in a rash, personal experience tells me that I am allergic. This is empirical evidence, the evidence of the senses.
Though the senses may sometimes deceive, they are much more authoritative than what your best friend's wife's nanny tells you, or what Donald Trump has to say on any subject. Another person's claims fall in the category of hearsay, and you can just naysay it. I had an instance of this the other day while discussing the topic of reincarnation with my friend DJ. He believes in reincarnation, and as proof he advanced the claim that many people exhibit talents as young children that they couldn't possibly have developed in their brief lifetime.
Take Mozart, my friend said, who began composing at the age of five. How could he write music at such an early age without bringing into his life prior knowledge of the art? Oh but Mozart's father, himself a minor composer, was an experienced teacher who often instructed Mozart's older sister while the three-year-old prodigy-to-be watched, and a year later Mozart himself began taking lessons. He had a year of music under his belt before creating his earliest compositions, which were likely very rudimentary in nature. But we don't know, because we weren't there.
"Show me your talents or tendencies from another life," I said to DJ.
He thought for a moment. "What about my foot fetish? I have always loved women's feet." I thought about this, remembering that when I had met DJ when we were twelve, he idolized Eddie Murphy, already able to skillfully impersonate the comedian's the delivery of many jokes. And I just so happened to have read once that Mr. Murphy himself had a foot fetish. "But I didn't know Eddie liked feet until the movie Boomerang," DJ replied. "And the movie came out years after I had been photographing women's toes."
I reminded DJ that the unconscious mind sees everything. "It is safe to say that you had heard or read of Murphy's fetish and admiring the man adopted it as your own." DJ wasn't convinced. So I went on: "In any event this is far more plausible than saying that you were an ankle aficionado in some former life you can no longer recall." My friend finally conceded the point.
Besides, even were reincarnation a reality, I do not remember life before my present one, and so I cannot speak to it with any authority. Had I lived before (likely as some emperor or sheikh, because everyone's former life is as royalty), failing to recall particulars makes that life as good as unlived. What does it matter anyway? Always reason from experience.
Doing so I may be able to understand why this past year or so I have danced from one vice to another. I must be in search of the perfect drug. In March of last year I stopped ejaculating for a period of two months leading up to my father's 77th birthday. Then in June I resumed sexual activity (I mean self-stimulation) but gave up coffee. I would have been a super clean liver had I not started eating fish and eggs, which for years till then I strictly avoided. Animal food finally didn't agree with me, so in October I gave it up - only to resume drinking caffeinated beverages. Around that time as well I found an unsmoked cigarette lying in the street, and taking this as a sign I took it home and smoked it. At least it was American Spirits; they are additive free and kill you less swiftly.
Around my mother's funeral in mid November I started drinking beer. Found some in the cupboard and gave a bottle to DJ to slake his thirst after an evening's work in the garden. Then I polished off the rest of the sixer at a rate of a bottle a day till my mom's memorial. After the service I shared a bottle of white wine with another childhood friend, Jason, and from Thanksgiving until the end of last week I drank pretty much every day, whatever I could find lying around. Beer, wine, champagne, vodka, gin, tequila or Scotch. Grappa too, and something I had never tried before, Kirsch, which is made from cherries. I didn't drink much, mind you. An average of 2 drinks per day, maybe 3, which I'd sometimes enjoy with a cigarette, maybe two. Many mornings I woke up feeling my age, with tired legs and a heavy head. And after a night of fitful sleep, which for a lover of slumber is too much to endure. So I gave up these habits.
A friend of mine suggests I try ayahuasca, a medicinal herb with hallucinogenic properties. "It'll help you reconnect with what's real. Find your purpose. Achieve your life's destiny," he says. "We spend so much time in concrete jungles behind steering wheels and wearing shoes that we have forgotten what it means to live naturally."
My friend is speaking from his own experience, which is good, but in assuming that my experience is similar or identical is where the fault lies. I drive once a week, spend most of the day barefoot, and most days of the week I attend to the garden. I meditate every day. In other words I'm rarely not in tune with cosmic consciousness or the higher mind. In fact, if I am not already in touch with myself, and with nature, I don't know who is. To ask some exogenous substance to supply me with my life's true purpose may be asking too much. It's true that I don't wish to go out and conquer the world, make a huge impact, earn a hefty paycheck, travel and explore. And from my friend's point of view it may seem I am lost. But my motto is been there, done that. At this point, at forty-four years young, I only wish to be. Is there something wrong with me?
By Western society's standards, there seems to be. The focus in America is outward-directed, to the latest gadget or app. It's a case of do or die. Whenever I see a friend the question they ask is always, "What have you been doing?" And I remind myself that we are human beings, not human doings. Maybe less action is best.
I'll probably end up trying the herb because there are few new experiences I shun. But I'll draw the line at snus and absinthe. Snus are a type of tobacco. They come in pouches which you insert between your lip and gum. Each pouch delivers tobacco in steady amounts for nearly an hour, compared to the short burst of cigarettes, and without any damage to the lungs. And unlike chew or dip, this oral tobacco doesn't require that you spit, making them appealing to female tobacco lovers as well as to men. I'll recommend snus to my smoking friends. Like most smokers, they are always ready to quit.
Speaking of uncharted territory (at least for me), absinthe is a high-alcohol drink with hallucinogenic properties. Marilyn Manson used to drink it but gave it up because it made him fat. A slew of writers and artists from Wilde to Van Gogh enjoyed the green fairy before it was made illegal. Watered down versions have recently been reintroduced in America, but if you wish to give absinthe a try opt for the Swiss versions, which you can get online and which still contain the compound (thujone) that gets you high.
At 200 dollars a bottle, absinthe is not cheap. Maybe I'll gift my father a bottle for his birthday. But I won't buy one for me. Experience is teaching me that the best high is naturally. Who says you need wings to fly.