Sunday, 22 February 2009

Art and artifical highs.

There has been a long association with great art and illicit drug taking. One can think about the work of Nostadamus. While Nostradamus was having his 'visions,' he was also experimenting with mind altering drugs. More recently, Aldous Huxley famously experimented with mescaline while writing 'The Doors of Perception.'(A title taken from William Blake.) This work influenced a whole generation of musicians- most notably The Doors. Within sixties American counter culture, Timothy Leary's phrase, "Tune in, turn on and drop out!" epitmoised an attitude to the world that indivualized life experience. The pain and the horror of the larger world became cut off in a desire to fulil a semi-articulated dream. At bottom, what this amounted to was the insistance that one lives and takes ownership of one's own life.

Apart from the moral or legal implications of such activity, there is a correspondence to drug taking and the creation of art. This is not to say that great art can only be made under such influence. Some of the greatest novels have no doubt be written with a sober mind. Rather, there is a movement within the individual towards perfection in both cases, a craving to catch sight of beauty for even just a moment. There may also be associations here within a religious context. Lot's wife was warned not to turn back while fleeing from the city of Sodom.

The downside to this is that drug taking creates artifically what great art achieves through effort, dedication and craft. I am reminded of the U2 song, "I Still Haven't Found What I Am Looking For." The following line sums up nicely the dangers of the artifical high. "I held the hand of the Devil. It was warm in the night. I was cold as stone."

To perfect also means to disregard. It means to forget. Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt remembering whence she came.

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