Questioning the Void: A Pre-dawn Cannabis Trance by Chris
The author just completed a degree, majoring in philosophy and creative writing, in which he learned many good and bad things about the world of higher education. He is also a musician and songwriter and hopes to “use his music and writing to help bring at least a small part of the world out of its unholy slumber. Not a call to arms, just a reminder: YOU DO HAVE TWO.”
This account was written a number of years ago, when I was around twenty or twenty-one years old. To this day it is one of the few times marijuana has carried me into a distinctly introspective, meditative state in which I feel as though I am my thoughts, floating about on a mental plane and completely oblivious to my physical presence. Since then, I have experienced and learned a lot more, but I have decided to keep this account un-embellished, simply because it depicts the reflections that affected me so deeply at those moments in time. To elaborate further, to add newer thoughts and ideas to the reflections, would, I think, take away from the feel and integrity of the account.
At around one o’clock this morning I smoked half a straight-green joint and then sat by my computer, listening to music (mainly Elliott Smith) and thinking relatively normal thoughts. After some time, in which I mostly just stared at the computer screen, listened to the music, and fiddled with things (not unusual, judging from my previous experiences of being stoned), I found myself sinking into a trance-like state of introspection and philosophical reflection. Without realizing it, my blinks grew longer and longer, until my eyes remained completely closed; this did not bring about sleep, however, but rather served to block out direct visual stimuli, allowing my mind, brain, mental faculty (whichever you choose to call it) to fall deeper into this euphoric, deeply-thoughtful state, unimpeded. Once or twice I snapped out of this state and found myself again staring blankly at the computer screen, wondering what it was that had left me feeling so deeply affected. My short-term memory was extremely inhibited, hence why I could not recall much of what I was thinking about when my eyes had been closed. However, when I did snap out of this state, I was immediately enticed back into it by the profound feelings of existential insight which had remained in my memory as residue. These feelings were so intense and inflicted such an impact on me that, despite their vagueness and the fear they aroused, I was inexorably drawn back to them.
I cannot recall how long I was in this state for, although I can recall—albeit with a high degree of ambiguity—the content of my thoughts. The magnitude of the ideas I was enquiring into, combined with the near-complete loss of short-term memory function, created an inner chaos which makes the thoughts themselves difficult to recollect.
What I did salvage was this:
I imagined myself, eyes closed, sitting on a chair in front of my computer. I then zoomed out of this picture, imagining the house around me. After this, I imagined the city, the earth, and so forth. Eventually, I arrived at complete incomprehension; for there was no answer to space in the picture I had created. I thought of one thing next to another, next to another, until there was no more room for things. But this could not suffice, for it failed to answer the question of space and the extent of space. If the world is energy, I thought, then all things are in flux within…within what? I thought. Within what?
One of the occasions in which I snapped out of this reflective trance, I noticed the amazing apprehension I felt when I considered returning to the introspective state. It was, in fact, more than apprehension; it was a kind of existential anxiety. To attempt to comprehend all things was not only fruitless, but had created the feeling of dread described extensively throughout philosophical/existential literature. What am I? If there is a world out there which cannot be comprehended or explained—which, at the time, seemed the only answer—then how can one deal with existing in it? Then came the question of existence.
Why do I exist? Why does anything exist? As I sat, almost catatonic, thinking so deeply about these existential issues that I was barely aware of being at all, I asked these questions. In a way, they can be re-directed; it can simply be asked, why does existence exist? What exactly is it to be something?; for aren’t we simply a number of intricate processes, all happening at once and hence all working together to form what people call an “I”? But each little process is nothing; I had created a schema in my mind which stated this. I could look at my arm and know blood was pumping through the veins within it—but how could this have anything to do with me? The notion of awareness threw me into consternation.
Any teleological explanation to life ceased to exist for me at this time. The word “purpose” meant nothing at all, for there was no such notion that seemed plausible. Again, I thought of every thing in existence, even contemplating those which humans are not aware of, of those things beyond space which are yet to be found, and they all contributed to the despair I felt at being a living thing, let alone one as complicated as a human being.
The idea of a divine architect crossed my mind at one point. But, I thought, if there were a divine architect, then what have they made, and how could they possibly have made all things? The idea of there being both “all things” as well as a “divine architect” could not logically coalesce in my reasoning. For how can “all things” be created, when at no point in time do “all things” exist? Furthermore, how could a creator create something with no bounds (which, at this time in my thought, seemed to be the case). If the realm of existence in its entirety is not boundless, then what is beyond its bounds? The answer was a question, and the question made no sense.
I became aware that the only way to attempt to explain such things was through contradictory statements. Yet my thoughts wandered on, visiting the confronting realms of death, of everyday life, of love and loss. The extent to which my mind was able to roam free cannot be adequately conveyed through writing. It is to be noted, also, that this was one of the few times I have been able to confront such disturbing concepts without falling into an anxious state, or a state of outright fear preventing me from addressing the matters at all. Usually, my being would have it that I react with fright and pain—ultimately, with mental immobility, as if to ward off the incomprehensible demons of intellect. But this time I faced them with respectful awe, still feeling the horror and absolute fear but able to see past them to the ideas at hand. To accept the situation.
Part of the success of this introspection and deep thought, I believe, is to be attributed to the lack of awareness I felt. When one is so immersed in ontological and metaphysical thought, when the eyes are closed and the body unmoving, it is easier to reflect on one’s existential state without distraction. I could see myself, in that chair, with the glow of the screen on my face; but more than this, I could envision all of the things around me, extending far off into the celestial sphere and beyond. These things were, of course, ever-changing and never could I see an holistic, stable picture of existence; the earth was a mere bubble of life within a system of things that I could only touch upon, which awed me to the point of heartache.
Obviously, the substance I had taken probably contributed to my state; but attributing the experience to it and it alone is insufficient, and to bring it into question is to create another train of thought which can be and has been discussed extensively elsewhere. The underlying theme of the state I experienced was one of human reflection, and reflection on human reflection. Why, as a species, we are able to do this is an everlasting enquiry; it leads to the same pinnacle of mystery that all other paths lead to. One cannot see this peak, however, as it is veiled by clouds. Deep reflection upon this reveals the true magnitude of the human situation.