March 26, 2017

Experiment Everything

Travel. Do drugs. Face Death.

Travel
Image by fdecomite/Creative Commons via flickr

“Try everything at least once…anything that you’re curious about, give it at least one try.”

There’s nothing new with that bit of advice. If you start typing it in as an online search, Google will fill out the remainder of it for you. There’s the age-old adage of “don’t knock it ‘til you try it.” Even Solomon of the Old Testament, with all of his wisdom and wealth, lamented that there is nothing new under the sun. Nonetheless, it’s advice I’d give my children. If today were my last day on earth and I had to pass on one tidbit of wisdom, I’d want them to remember this for the sole purpose of enhancing their enjoyment of life.

I shouldn’t have to caveat this, but just to get it out of the way, if your curiosity would cause you to harm someone else, put you at serious risk of arrest, or if there are many legitimate examples of how it could go horribly wrong, it may sound hypocritical, but use your best judgment. Perhaps I’d even advise you to avoid it. To those who still attempt to scratch that itch and come out a free man and/or not chasing that dragon for the rest of your life, I salute you.

I grew up in church, and I’ll never forget one youth pastor’s response when asked how he could know whether or not he would like alcohol since it was something he’d never tried. His response was, “Well, I’ve never got my head run over by a semi, but I’m positive I wouldn’t like that either.” There’s so much wrong with his answer–the most problematic being that if you’re going to compare anything you’re unsure of to something you’ve never tried (in this case having your head smashed in), then you’re never going to step out and experience something new. You never get to truly live. Your entire life will be confined to one little bubble that you’ve somehow determined was good enough for you. And, to me, that’s a travesty.

The following are three off-the-beaten-path things I’ve experimented with that completely changed who I am as a person.

1. Travel

Mark Twain is famously quoted for having said “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

I read this after my passport was so full of stamps that I had to order additional pages. I immediately knew what he meant. My travels around the world have caused me to have a completely different view of humanity. Different than what I was raised and conditioned to believe. I’ve partied and broken bread with people from different cultural and religious backgrounds whom I didn’t know, whose languages I did not speak, and whose gods, customs, and cultures were as far different from mine as mine might be from yours.

I’ve spent days sightseeing remote locations in Asia with tour guides who didn’t speak a word of English, and yet I was able to see some amazing things, have some awesome experiences, and exchange pleasant smiles, often communicating with nothing more than a few simple hand gestures.

I found a commonality in man. For the most part, we all want the same thing: We all want good food, good wine, good lovers, good music, good times, and a long life full of good friends. We all celebrate the joyous occasions and weep bitter tears when life deals us a hand we feel is unfair.

2. Do Drugs

In my opinion, the war on drugs is as misguided as the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and its continued existence is nothing more than an excuse to continue to fund fractions of the FBI, DEA, and other state and local government agencies. In summation: It’s bullshit.

I dabbled with marijuana in my teens. I lightly experimented years after having separated from the military. In mid-2015 I tried dabs (fuck dabs) from a bong and swore to every omniscient being that I would serve them until the day I died if only the feeling of spiders crawling up my arms, and the temptation to strip naked and walk home would just go away. The feeling didn’t miraculously leave instantaneously, but thankfully I didn’t land on the front page of the local tribune. Thus my continued alcoholism and atheistic beliefs.

While on vacation in late 2015, a friend of mine whom I had known for many years and consider a brother, asked me to try “molly” (or “ecstasy,” or MDMA) with him. He had been drunk with me on many an occasion, seen me blatto many times, and was confident I’d be able to handle it. I was nervous. I kept thinking about the dabs and the spiders, but I trusted my brother.

I remember everything about that night. I remember a sensation unlike anything I had ever felt before. While this wasn’t the defining emotion of the evening, I will never forget him watching over me and talking me through every new sensation. 15 minutes in: “Now you’re going to feel nervous”. 25 in: “Now you’re going to feel a tired slump as if a truck hit you”. 45: “Now you’re about to feel slight euphoria”. 90: “Now you’re about to feel major euphoria”.

Three hours into my first roll (in drug parlance, a “roll” is an ecstasy experience) and I was in love. It was as if the entire universe made sense. We dropped one more cap and then went to a club. It felt like I was in a Wes Anderson movie because doors seemed to be magically opening for me. The lasers and lights in the club were hypnotic. I’ve been happy the majority of my life but this was euphoria. This is what being born again should have felt like. I wanted to share it with the world. I wanted to call and leave voicemails to all my exes, and was strongly and rightfully, advised against it.

Time flew by so fast that I remember being disappointed when the club lights came on. I took my first dose at 8:30pm, the second a bit before midnight, and now the club was closing? What happened?

About six months later I rolled with my friend a second time. This time we were joined by a new lady friend. This was a more intimate affair in his house. Electronic music played and the only lights were from the moon and hallway bathroom. The dosage was higher and I remember my friend again talking us through it. I remember laughing when I realized that what he said would happen actually happened. Before the MDMA kicked in, he told us there’s going to come this beautiful moment where we’re all going to be so high that we’ll all be talking, yet none of us will be having the same conversation. When the high hit, it hit amazingly. As we stood in his living room grooving to the music, there were many “huhs” and “whats” in response to anyone saying anything. I asked aloud many times, “did I say that or was I just thinking that?”

Everything–every sensation and sound–was in a blissful vacuum surrounded by beautiful people dancing to beautiful music. To this day, when certain electronic songs echo that vacuum effect, I can’t help but smile because I know exactly where that artist is trying to replicate that sensation from.

Le Rouge Verbier 5th Anniversary album art

Highly recommended.

Since then I’ve continued to experiment with other drugs. Coke, ice, weed, alcohol–but none of them give me that feeling that molly gave me. I can appreciate other drugs and their effects (trying to talk slowly while coked out is a particular hobby of mine) but Molly will always be my girl.

I know some people who don’t like Molly. I know some people who prefer weed (I don’t; makes me sleepy), others who prefer coke, some who prefer alcohol, and yet others who have tried them all and still prefer sobriety. Which do you prefer? How would you know if you’ve never tried any of them?

If you’re an adult, I encourage you to do drugs. Experiment with them. Find out which ones you like and which ones you don’t. Just don’t do them in an attempt to fill a void in your life. Don’t turn drug experimentation into an abusive relationship. Use them to complement your life—not to try and fill a void in it.

3. Face Death

My biggest fear of death is not knowing what comes next. You’re not being real if you tell me you know for sure what happens. You may have faith and hopes and beliefs of what comes next, but there is no way of knowing for sure. Still, I forced myself to, admittedly mildly, face death and walk away not only unscathed but better for it.

While on one of my many travels abroad, I decided to try bungee jumping. “After all,” I reasoned, “it’s only 50 meters.” 50 meters sounds small to an American. 50 meters looks like an easy jump from the ground. However, 164 feet (16 stories) looks very high from the top down. As the lift was raising up, I kept expecting it to stop, but it didn’t. It just kept going higher and higher. Having arrived at the top, I did what I’m sure 100% of the people before me did despite the instructor’s instructions: I looked down.

bungee

By JT

There was no l’appel du vide. There was no temptation to live on the edge. Just sheer fear and wondering whether or not I could survive the humiliation and gawks of the locals if I chose to ride the lift back down. As the operator began to grow impatient with his counts to three resulting in me not jumping, I decided to say “fuck it” and go. As I stood on the edge and leaned forward, my newfound courage quickly deflated as I began the fall. The video footage of my jump shows me reaching back desperately, trying to grasp at anything that would save me.

Before I actually realized I was falling, my head dunked into the water and I was bouncing back up into the air. A very primal “yeeeeeeeeeeeah” escaped my lips as I shot back skyward.

When my feet touched the ground I wanted to hug everybody. I did hug everybody. I hugged the guy that pulled me back toward the ground. I hugged the guy who bound my feet together. I hugged the guy who unbound my feet apart. I hugged the cashier. I felt like I had conquered the world. As far as my adrenaline-addled brain knew, I had. It was a very surreal experience, “cheating” death. I haven’t tried replicating it to this day but I know I can, I could, and that I have.

Those are the three experiences outside of the standard life experiences (children, relationships) that have impacted my life. There were others. Drunken nights in strange countries. Waking up next to a stranger in a bed, a house full of strangers in strange beds, on someone’s couch… next to a stranger, having children (new strangers), scuba diving, being hired, getting fired… the list goes on. As infinite as the list is, these are the three that impacted me the most.

My hope is that you will have similar experiences.

If I could offer one last tidbit. Be safe. Even when facing death, don’t let your opportunity devolve to a point where someone else can use you as an example not to try something crazy. Thinking back on that night I first rolled, I remember how my friend refused to take his eyes off of me for very long. Even when he’d run into the store for more cigarettes, every few seconds he peaked over the aisles to ensure I didn’t wander off in some drug induced euphoria. So go crazy. Just go crazy with people you trust. People who will look out for your interests and not their own in the event something does go wrong.

If everything I typed still hasn’t convinced you, just remember, nobody is going to be laying on their death bed glad that they never satisfied that curiosity for themselves. Their only regret will be that they didn’t try something they’ll never get another opportunity to experience. I know my own regret with Molly is that I can’t see her more often…but that’s fodder for another post.

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  1. No shrooms at the inn

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