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Month: February 2014

The Meaning of Life

Life, in my experience, has no inherent meaning, and that is okay. No matter how serious, light, right, or wrong we all approach life, none of us make it out alive. I believe that sentiment came from Fight Club. I don’t mean this in a bad way at all. Life having no inherent meaning isn’t bad. It means life can become whatever you want it to be. Do you have a family that you love? Then you meaning in life is that you focus on letting them know every chance you get how happy they make you. Do you have a job that, while not affecting that many people you know, you enjoy? Then go to that job every day, bathe in that happy light you get going in, and make that your purpose.

I think somewhere in humanity, we decided to label the perfect life as a “successful life.” That seems really silly to me because success is an open definition. For some, making a set amount of money is success. For others, becoming famous is success. The funny thing is there are plenty rich and famous people who aren’t rich or famous through their success. Take Shia LaBeouf. He is Hollywood’s latest hate toy. His movies are, generally, considered dismal, and those that are good, he is considered the weakest link. As a person, he is even worse, going as far as plagiarizing, then plagiarizing his apology for plagiarizing. He also has a reputation of a short fuse, attacking people, yet there is no lack of films for him, allowing him to do exactly what he wants for the rest of his life, and allowing him to make enough money to do whatever he wants. In a manner, he is a success. I don’t think perfection and success should ever be the mark of a good life.

Through social media, I found a story about Justin Carmical, a popular Youtube video blogger, who took his own life some time in January. Doing some googling, which I think I mention in every single post, I learned a lot about the guy. He, while being outside of my interests, seemed to make it his goal to help people and make them happy in some small way. In his tribute video, he said one of the most sincere and beautiful things I have ever heard someone say “You’re not stupid. Okay? You’re not stupid. Don’t ever tell yourself that you are. You’re important. What you have in your head may not mean a lot to a lot of people, but it’s what makes you special. You are important. You mean something. And you’re going to go out there and you are going to do some wonderful things. But first and foremost, you’re not stupid.” The saddest part of this beautiful idea is that Justin seems to have been talking to himself. He probably had needed to hear these amazing words as much as any one else.

These two people show the extremes. Carmical had a very small fanbase, likely making very little money compared to Shia LaBeouf, but in his death, you can find people completely destroyed over the loss of such a caring friend. He made life what he wanted, and that was making life better for other people.

Life should always be what you make it. It should be fun, beautiful, sweet, loving, funny, caring, and amazing. For all I know, there is one life. You have one shot to make life anything special. In death, no matter how much money or how many people you have with you, you will die alone. I don’t mean people will leave you alone, I mean they will surround your physical body, but they cannot undergo the final challenge of life–Death– with you. That is all on you. All you have to comfort you are your memories. Making those memories filled with great experiences is my version of a perfect life.  Find your own through personal exploration, and the path to achieve that goal will present itself.

Addiction

Yesterday, the world learned the passing of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Considering his long history of drug addiction, it really came as a surprise to no one. In May, Hoffman revealed he had undergone drug treatment for 10 days after relapsing to snorting heroin. What this story reveals is the mind of the addict.

Drug addiction is not a specific problem as much as it is the expression of an addiction. An addict, no matter how many years they are sober, is an addict for life. With drug addicts, they are more obvious as many die from their escape. Corey Monteith was the most recent heroin overdose before Mr. Hoffman, though his death was similar to the way Mitch Hedberg died. Mitch Hedberg was a traveling comic, and heroin isn’t a common drug everywhere, forcing him to abstain for long periods. When he got his fix, he would consume his old amount, which would be too much after his tolerance level dropped, resulting in a fatal overdose. Heroin is one of a few substances that operates on the concept of diminishing returns. As soon as you try it once, you will never experience that level of perfection. This NSFW video explains it rather succinctly through my research.

As a student of life, I make it a point to research everything that I am uncertain of. Having never so much as seen heroin in pictures (I fear needles), I have a very cursory understanding of the substance. Through research, I have learned that this powerful drug has claimed so many lives that it was important for me to understand why. And the why was quite simple: Heroin dulls pain. As an empathetic person, I can almost fathom the level of emotional pain heroin addicts are trying to suppress. Actors and musicians are particularly susceptible to this since their creative nature makes them more likely to feel extreme levels of moods. The one thing that made them so very famous was their own downfall. Bradley Nowell is another example of how the drug claimed a life. In his sad case, he believed heroin fueled his creativity, and if he ceased using it, he’d lose his creative spirit. That is the death grip that addiction can have for an individual, and it truly makes me sad to think about.

So, surely, Hoffman’s death serves as another example as to how dangerous of a drug heroin is, right? No. Heroin, even in today’s society where we can search for treatment in the privacy of our own homes, is not the problem. Heroin, or the category of opiates, helps with pain management following surgery. Blocking/dulling the pain helps the healing process, which can be incredibly painful. The problem is this same use is where heroin becomes so prevalent today. Patients recovering from extreme surgeries take several prescriptions of oxycodone and hydrocodone, both of which can create a physical dependence after one bottle. Once they are cut off, those with emotional addictions tend to keep with it. When I had a series of surgeries, I was prescribed two types of painkillers (with no checks to see what I already had from a prior surgery). While I lack the addictive personality (though sweets may be my closest), I could feel the physical dependence happening very quickly. Had I been disposed towards addiction, the gate was opened, and I would be lost.

The problem we have to address as a society is we need to help the addict get treatment and help. We need to stop attacking the addiction if it is drugs or sex or stop making light of it if it is shopping or some other non-negative addiction. Humans tend to enjoy the easiest path, making anything that feels good to become a habit with ease. Phillip Seymour Hoffman shouldn’t be forgotten, and his death should be looked at objectively. How many of us know someone, either directly or indirectly, that has been the victim of addiction? How many of these addicts end up alone in their final hours? Instead of removing the method of addiction (ie. attacking heroin or drugs for the drug addict), we should attack the addiction. The drug is just a vehicle that will be easily replaced. If a junkie cannot get heroin, they will binge on alcohol or something to numb the pain. By removing the stigma and removing the barrier for entry for treatment, we will create a future where addiction isn’t something that people keep secret, like Monteith, Hedberg, Hoffman, and myriad of others, won’t be their own, sad demise. That is my real hope for our future.

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