Friday, January 15, 2010

Getting High

There is quite a debate in this country about whether marijuana should be legalized. The basic arguments stem from the idea that this drug is no more harmful to you than is that of alcohol, or for that matter, cigarettes in general. So many people in our world crave the escape of getting high, whether to turn away from problems or just as a way to really “feel good” when nothing else seems to accomplish that for them. What’s wrong with getting high anyway, after all, isn’t marijuana a naturally growing plant? If nature makes it, how harmful can it be?

From a purely logical perspective consider that when in a state of chemically induced euphoria almost never does anything “good” actually happen to you. People make poor decisions when judgment is impaired, or perhaps more accurately, they make even worse decisions when under-the-influence. Sexual promiscuity is increased under-the-influence and seldom without making the experience memorable, let alone better. Impaired judgment leads to increased rates of pregnancy, and STD’s. Driving a car, operating heavy equipment, in short any behavior that requires concentration to remain safe normally becomes a virtual death sentence when carried out while being “high”. The best we can hope for in this state is a minimizing of the number of brain cells irreplaceably killed, and ideally a safe place to sleep off the after effects.

So assuming we have a safe environment that will minimize personal risk, and eliminate risk to others, is getting high OK under those conditions? The real question here is twofold. First, the reason we seek to get high should be examined. If the common answer is again – a way to escape our problems – we should stay sober. The problems do not disappear while we induce a chemical high to effectively forget about them. And as a result of our inclination to escape our problems we develop habits of avoiding them. Under these conditions, problems tend to get worse, not better. We would be far better off confronting our problems and learning to overcome them, than to seek the solace of an empty liquor bottle, or burned out joint.

Second, If we are just looking to get high for “fun”, it begs a different question. Why? Is the risk of killing brain cells and becoming chemically addicted to this substance worth the momentary pleasure it offers? Over time the human body does not react well to chemical stimuli. Alcohol destroys the liver, the brain, and increases risks for heart attack and stroke. Smoking is severely detrimental to health. Injections pose a huge health risk, eating the stimuli is about the safest way to introduce it into the system – but this does not negate its power on the body over time. We are effectively trading the health of later years for a brief moment in time here and now. Sound familiar? Isn’t this the argument that evil is constantly making to us. Don’t worry about later, live life for now. Who cares about the future? The problem is, this argument centers focus on self, and again away from others. This singular behavior is the worst of its kind. The biggest problem we face is looking inward for fulfillment, rather than finding it in service to others. Getting high fosters the idea of indulging self at the expense of others. We trade years for minutes in this way.

There is nothing wrong with feeling good. God wants us to feel good, and feel that way all the time, not just for a brief moment in time. But all the good feelings that come from following after God and learning about His character and love for each of us, has nothing to do with any form of chemical induced impairment. The joy and happiness that come from God, come to the clear-headed. You get to feel good without the side effects of forgetting everything about them right after they are done; or spending the next day throwing up. Again this is the beauty of following God. He leads us away from the things that would cause us pain and suffering. He leads us towards the things that would make us truly happy without the baggage of guilt, or worry of risking our very health and lives. And He does this for us EVERY DAY. We do not need to wait until a future heaven to start reaping the benefits of embracing good and rejecting evil. Those benefits show up right here, and right now.

The difference between God’s idea of happiness and evil’s – is the forfeiture of your conscience to achieve it. God offers fulfillment found in service to others. Knowing what impact you can have to help someone else, can bring you a peace the world can never touch or take away. The changes in your character that occur as you learn to care, are profound. They are deep. They are meaningful in a way that does not ever require shutting off your mind to hold them. The absence of self, is the beginning of happiness, not the end of it.

Evil offers you self indulgence, self preoccupation, and an insatiable feeling that no matter what you feed this beast, it will never be enough. If you have three girlfriends you will need five. If you get five, then perhaps seven will make it all better. If you make a million dollars, then perhaps with just another five million you can relax. If you smoke that joint, you will feel better, but only long enough to remember you need another one to stay this way. There is never an end to seeking self, and it is an empty, meaningless journey. Looking out for Number One, is staring at a face in the grave.

What a contrast the idea of service. The impact we make doing it may not be fully appreciated in our lifetime, but its echo is felt through the ages. Divesting of self and investing in others yields a return we did not expect – a change in the core of who we are. Getting high begins to pale in comparison with experiencing meaning. Getting high looks foolish next to true fulfillment. The real problem with getting high, is that the experience is just not good enough. Real joy is so much better than a fa├žade of joy. It does not matter to me whether marijuana is legalized or not. It matters to me if we allow our blindness to others to turn us into self-junkies (addicted to our own self interests and unconcerned about anyone else).

If you have spent your life looking for a way out, looking to fill a hole that just never seems to fill up, consider learning about who God is. Consider accepting the life He offers. Learn how much more to life there can be than the misery this world packages as “fun”. Learn about true joy, true happiness, and true contentment. This is what comes from following our God …

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