carbon

We're all going to die someday. Very few of us will do so in accidents, suddenly and without warning. Most of us will go slowly, our bodies and brains used up, worn down, depleted of their vitality and the greater part of their usefulness. One or another degenerative disease will likely warn us in advance of our coming demise. There aren't many surprises behind that curtain.

There aren't many surprises because our bodies and brains are ours to use up, wear down, and deplete in the ways that we choose. Sounds bleak, but those choices are what makes life exciting and worthwhile. We get to decide what experiences are worth the debit on our health; what pleasures merit ticking down our lifespan in tiny or not-so-tiny measures.

Some of the ways in which we destroy ourselves are obvious, and vilified with increasing vehemence the more we understand their effects. Alcohol. Tobacco. Saturated fat. Sunshine. Some are less apparent, and much less nefarious - but they still share a destructive quality. A sedentary lifestyle contributes to heart disease, but high impact exercise and sports will erode your joints, or worse. Fitness buffs don't quit these activities, however, when they see and feel the consequences of them on their bodies. Sooner or later, reading takes a toll on one's eyesight. But bookworms don't surrender their library cards with the acquisition of spectacles.

And what about stress? What about sixty hour work weeks and the collected effects of years of sleep deprivation and emotional pressure? That's a choice, too. That's a choice to sacrifice certain aspects of one's physical and mental well-being, in pursuit of wealth, early retirement, prestige, or whatever else one considers important. That's a body being used up.

Childbirth. Breastfeeding. Childrearing. All take an enormous physical and emotional toll on a woman, who commits to them because she deems the rewards of motherhood to be worth its costs. That's a body being used up.

Antibiotics. Antidepressants. Artificial sweetener. Better living through chemistry say our corporations, but our corporeal forms often say otherwise. Bodies being used up.

We do things to and with our bodies throughout our entire lives, in hopes that health and happiness will be the payoff. We make these choices according to our experiences and expectations. But at the end of the day, we're all carting around the same rather faulty model, no matter what our individual expiration dates are. We all have one heart, one liver, two eyes, some teeth and bones and grey matter, and a lot of delicate skin. And it's all going to end up the same way. We're all carbon.

I'm using my body up, too. I stay up too late. I drink too much coffee loaded with too much sugar. A few times a week, I beat my knees to hell as I run across town on hard city streets. When I'm not in running shoes, I'm usually sporting unsupportive Converse that do nothing for the longevity of my vertebrae - or high heels that flat out wreck them.

I do these things fully cognizant of their repercussions, because when I weigh those repercussions against the unpleasantness of not doing them, I don't have to look at the scale for long. A life deprived of the things that make it enjoyable isn't much of a life at all.

A few times a year, I use my body up in another way: with the use of MDMA and psilocybin. In fact, in exactly a week, I'll be busy doing just that. I'll be doing it because I enjoy their physical and emotional effects immensely - but also because I value mind-expanding experiences. I'll feel an incredibly intense sense of well-being and peacefulness about my own life and the world in general. I'll feel sensual and blissful and be enraptured by my physical environment. My senses will be overloaded in the best way with stimulation, and I'll feel more alive than I ever have. I'll see colors and patterns that I could never replicate with a thousand years and a thousand crayons, or even describe if I tried. And sound will become multidimensional in a way that defies logic.

And all of this will tax the hell out of my body and brain, for about half a week. Then I'll come home and return to my physically active, non-smoking, relatively stress-free and healthy life.

This is my choice. And I don't think that the ways that I choose to use my anatomy are any better or any worse than the ways anyone else chooses to use theirs. Life becomes more beautiful and interesting as we learn about ourselves and the things that make us tick. Isn't our willingness - our need - to seek those things out what makes us human?

Every so often, despite my best attempts to explain the context and circumstance under which I use recreational drugs (i.e., safe and limited), I am met with judgment and moral condescension. I don't mind so much because hey, I get it. I'm a D.A.R.E. kid. But I wish those people would stop to consider the ways they're using their bodies up, too.

We're all carbon, but no one said we have to be carbon copies of one another.