"Alcoholism is in my DNA"
Describing something as being in your DNA is another way of saying that it is in your nature. You are describing your shape, as a square might say that it is in its DNA to have four corners. It is the fashionable way to say this, so that people understand you and take you seriously.
We all have a certain shape, or pattern, which leads to certain tendencies. When some people's shape is put into certain environments it will lead to certain outcomes. Put, for example, an extreme idealist into an extremely pragmatic environment - Martin Luther King into 1950s America - and he will 'cause trouble.'
Alcoholism - and indeed, all addictions - stem from certain types of people being put into environments that do not suit their shape. Within these dysfunctional environments they are unable to manifest their shape properly, much like a bird in a cage. This restriction comes to light in the form of dysfunctional - yet adaptive - behaviour: an addiction.
It is true then - in a roundabout way - to say that 'alcoholism is in my DNA' (or that you have a 'genetic pre-disposition toward addiction'). But such fashionable concepts only serve to fog the picture.
What you are really saying is that you are born to manifest a certain pattern - a perfectly functional and vital one - and that in your current environment you are unable to manifest that pattern properly: you are unable to flourish. The addiction is a coping mechanism, to allow you to survive in your current surroundings.
To go back to the example of our square. Let's put him in a world of circles: everything is rounded, flowing and smooth. Being used to straight lines and severe angles it is a strange environment to him, but he does his best to fit in. Soon enough, however, his corners cause problems: he catches on things, prods, punctures and tears. He attempts to smoothe off his corners and to become more circular, but he knows in his heart that he is fighting a losing battle. In the end he hits the bottle as a way to make it through the day. He tells himself: alcoholism is in my DNA. What he really means is: corners are in my DNA (and corners do not fit here).
The problem could be with your immediate environment - your job, your relationship, your social scene and so on; or with the general environment - you may feel at odds with the ideas and values that your society places importance upon.
In this sense, there are no 'addictive' things: there are merely things that are very effective in distracting us or comforting us; in altering things substantially enough so that we do not feel the rub. They take us out of it, make us forget it; balance it out for a while.
Addictions always point towards a friction between the individual and their environment. For things to flow smoothly, either the individual adapts to the environment or the environment adapts to the individual. Something must give.
The current fashion is to make the change in ourselves - to square the circle. Yet in doing so we sacrifice our shape. We hold a part of ourselves underwater in an attempt to drown it, to stop it from surfacing and causing trouble. Yet at the same time we are stemming a vital energy. If you are meant to be a square then you ought to be a square. You just need an environment in which being a square is okay.
It is down to us to decide whether we look to make the change in ourselves - with whatever sacrifices this entails - or whether we look to make it in our environment. Perhaps being a square isn't okay. In which case, too bad for squares.
In truth, there are no universal right or wrong solutions. There are merely a choice of outcomes. We must decide which solution best answers the problems we currently face, as individuals and as a collective.
Which leads us to ask: when addiction is such a widespread phenomenon, does it serve us to continue to look for individual solutions? Or are we, in taking such a close view, missing the bigger picture?
Digging Deeper: Addictions
In times gone by, people of a certain nature would take a penance. The penance was a promise made to a higher power - to God. It was the ultimate promise, because God was always there, always watching. As long as you believed, of course.
Many of us still take a penance, although God has, generally speaking, fled the scene. We make New Year's resolutions. We promise not to do this anymore; or to do that more often. We beg forgiveness, insist it is the last time; it won't happen again. We even have apps to help us with our penances.
God may be gone, but we are still human.
Who do we make our penances to these days? Who is our higher power?
For many of us our higher power is our lover, or our family. We strive to become better for them.
For many of us there is no one other than ourselves. With no higher power - nothing in our lives bigger than us - we have only ourselves to answer to.
The promises we make to ourselves can never be as effective as those we make to a higher power, because the need to make a promise also points toward a need to break it. We are always a battleground of warring forces. With only yourself to answer to, how can you trust that the right side will win?
The promises we make to our earth-bound higher-powers - lovers, friends - can never be as powerful as those we make to those powers that lie beyond the earth.
It needn't be God. The key to a true penance is transcendence; is in making a connection with something universal; unchanging; absolute. A penance is a form of idealism, and in making it we must connect with something truly idealistic.
This is what they understood in times gone by.
When an idea is thought of, it is created: built from bricks. In time it is demolished and become bricks again.
But the bricks always remain.
If you had the right view, then you would see that the bricks themselves are also breaking down into smaller bricks. Breaking down and reforming.
The bricks are like a soil, from which everything grows.
The pool is infinite.
The universe is always one thing tumbling into the next thing, one form becoming another. It is a constant interchange, an unending rhythm.
Only the Right Distance and the Right Time gives us the impression - a momentary snapshot - that it is this thing or that thing; a person, or a chair.
A lifetime can be a snapshot of this sort. But always beneath this impression, the thing - the organism - is changing; growing and shrinking, flourishing and decaying. At either end of its cycle it tears at its definitions; is not quite what it is - the half-formed nature of the fetus and the hollowed out shell of the nearly-dead.
But look close enough - or far enough away - and this thing ceases to be at all. Zoomed in, we are atoms. Zoomed out we are specks.
And speed time up, or slow it right down, and again we cease to be.
Sped up we are sparks. Slowed down we are statues.
The Right Distance makes us what we are.
The Right Time keeps us what we are.
We are programmed with the Right Distance and Right Time. Put another way, we are programmed to interpret the infinite tumbling mass of the universe in a certain way. That way is the Right way.
Long-sighted <------------> Short-sighted
Imaginative <------------> Realistic
What can be <------------> What is
Generalities <------------> Details
Thought <------------> Action
Radiation <------------> Gravity
Inflation <------------> Deflation
Breathe In <------------> Breathe Out
Diffuse <------------> Pointed
The pendulum swings equally both ways
Day follows night
Each complements the other, as dark complements light.
As a whole, we need an equal amount of each, for balance, for health.
But which side do we collectively place emphasis upon? And which do we turn our backs upon?
We are ill.
What are the symptoms? What are the causes? What are the remedies?
We identify the problems because the solutions lie in their opposites. Symptoms are simply imbalances. To address symptoms is to readdress the balance: in other words, we even up the scales. When we identify problems clearly, we also identify their solutions.
Q. Who are we?
We are all born somewhere between the two poles of pragmatism and idealism. None of us is entirely one or the other. We each contain a unique mix of both. Some will be more idealist than pragmatist, some more pragmatist than idealist. Those nearer to the middle of the scale will not readily identify themselves as either, and to them such labeling may seem unhelpful or untrue. They may say they are both, and it depends on the situation. This is because, being nearer to the middle, they cannot readily identify themselves as being nearer to either pole. They are lukewarm. Sometimes they think they're hot, sometimes cold. It depends. This is natural and normal.
It is those nearer to the extremes - pragmatism on one side, and idealism on the other - that will find truth in these labels. They feel the difference more readily.
We must understand our nature - and, importantly, understand that it is not only valid, but vital to the wider scene.
From there, we work to understand everyone's nature; and see how all fit into and complete a jigsaw.
Q. Why are we ill?
A. Our climate is toxic. In other words, it is critically imbalanced.
First we must understand that we are in a climate that is biased towards pragmatism. Commerce is a system predicated upon pragmatism. Not only that, but idealism is actually a threat towards its existence. People can think idealistically - they may even be able to act idealistically within certain carefully defined parameters - but Idealism cannot be given an equal placing at the table. It is a threatening substance and must be carefully controlled. When people think too idealistically they are unable to act as pragmatically - one negates the other. In the eyes of commerce, idealists think too much. Doing is better than thinking.
When the system that surrounds us - which dictates how we should act and think - is geared towards the pragmatic mentality, those of us that err more towards idealism will suffer many a blow at its hands. We will be continuously persecuted: misunderstood, overlooked, belittled, humiliated, bullied. Various words will be chucked our way in a general effort to get us to fit the status quo: naive, dreamer, unrealistic, vague, etc.
Unfortunately, many of us will not have the perspective or the tools to defend ourselves from this onslaught, and we may give in to the pressure to conform, learning to quiet a fundamental part of ourselves in the process. This is a travesty because in surpressing our idealism we are going against our nature.
In an environment of stifling pragmatism we - as idealists - are not only entitled, but obligated to demand more idealism from life. This is our message for the world, the one we were born to carry, and it is especially vital as remedy to the toxic imbalance of commerce. Commerce at its height is nothing more than rampant pragmatism: the short view carried to its lethal extreme. We are, as a whole, gagging for the long view. That is where idealism comes in.
The pendulum has swung too far the other way. Things are too flat, too crushing, too dead. We need more magic, more intensity, more peaks, more spirit, more romance. And not in the lives of characters in films or books; or celebrities - not second hand. In our lives. We are entitled to these things; more than that, we are ill through lack of them.
Q. How do we get better?
A. Look after - defend - yourself. Once you are healthy, help bring balance to the wider scene. In other words, allow your idealism to flourish and to reinvigorate your environment.
The pragmatic environment is one that works to ground things, to deflate and anchor them. In such a climate, the idealist - whose nature is inflation - must be very careful to conserve and to restore his energy, otherwise he risks becoming as deflated as the world that surrounds him. A measure of pragmatism is healthy for us - it stops us from drifting too far, from becoming lost in the clouds - but too much is toxic.
We need restorative baths of idealism. Currently we may get these through watching certain films or reading certain books. In surrounding ourselves with characters that reflect this aspect of ourselves, and situations that allow it to flourish, we recharge our batteries. The danger here is that idealism becomes confined to fiction; a nice dream. We must restore ourselves in other ways, in ways that allow idealism to flow within our own - real - lives. This may mean orchestrating situations that kindle the flame. These can, and have, taken many forms: a Sun Dance, a Vision Quest, a sit around the campfire, a sweat-lodge, sharing a pipe, star-gazing, meditation, silent contemplation, silent non-contemplation, dancing, fighting, making love, being creative, storytelling, dreaming, creating, communing, questing, adventuring. Call them 'rituals', or 'ceremonies'. These are just words, for important things.
The first step is in understanding that idealism is not something to be ashamed of; or to grow out of. It is not something that only exists in films or books. Idealism has always flourished in fiction - but our age has made the mistake of severing the link between fiction and reality. Whereas in bygone times fiction would have flowed into reality - informing thought and action - now it serves as little more than a novelty: as way to pass time until we die. Messages no longer pass through the cell wall of culture and into the body of the collective. The walls have closed up: cultural forms have become prisons. But the natural home of idealism is where it has always been: within our day to day lives. We must make room for it.
Do not be afraid to be laughed at, or vilified. To offer an analogy: in an environment of hatred, those who express Love will be seen and treated as oddities; this does not make Love something to be ashamed of; and it certainly should not discourage us from expressing something that we know in our hearts to be good. It says more about the toxic nature of the environment than it does about the validity of Love. The same applies to Idealism. It is a necessary and important aspect of being human. Let it flow.
If you are an idealist and any of this resonates with you, then you with have an inkling yourself of how to give life to that important aspect of yourself. It starts in self-defence; in sticking up for your idealism and not allowing it to be crushed. Let them sneer. Become a laughing stock. But know that there are many others like you. And that your candle, as insignificant as it may seem when surrounded by such overwhelming darkness, is part of a dawning light. It will grow. Trust yourself, and believe in yourself. ------------>------------>------------>------------>------------>------------>------------>------------>------------>------------>