March 26, 2020
The Educational Use of Psychoactive Plantsby Ballard Quass
Music Appreciation Class in the Year 2120
If there's one thing that the drug warrior steadfastly ignores, it is the power of many criminalized substances to sharpen the mind and increase appreciation of the world around us. That's why Thomas De Quincey indulged before visiting the opera, not in order to "party down" but rather to delightedly devote his full mental capacities to the orchestra; that's why Edgar Allan Poe's Augustus Bedloe indulged before exploring Mother Nature, not to "get high" according to the drug warrior's vulgar definition of that term, but to be sure that he delighted in each and every botanical wonder that came before his eyes, rather than stumbling through a world of vague greenery, which is all that generally registers in the blurry eye of the hurried "ennuye man of the world," as Poe would have put it.
This therapeutic propensity of Mother Nature's plant medicine is often so pronounced, in fact, that I believe we can look forward to a day in which society sanctions the strategic use of such substances for the express purpose of bringing about such otherwise elusive goals as "music appreciation," even in subjects for whom a minuet by Bach (let alone a concert by Mahler) might have hitherto sounded like a mere cacophony of purposeless audio waves.
The only thing stopping us from employing such pedagogical strategy (other than drug law, of course) is the unexamined notion that there is something wrong with using Mother Nature's plants to improve our cognition and enjoyment of the world around us. This belief, however, is nothing but a matter of Christian Science faith on the part of the drug warrior. There is, in fact, no rational reason why human beings should forego the benefits of Mother Nature's pharmacy. We certainly do not adopt that prejudice when it comes to physical health; to say that we should employ it in the realms of mental health and human consciousness is mere Christian Science prejudice.
Here's where the hypocritical drug warrior will wring his or her hands about the supposed potential for addiction in such a scheme, failing to notice that America is already the most addicted country in the world, not because of cocaine, opium and magic mushrooms but because of the daily use of prescription anti-depressants by more than one-eighth of the American population, some of which "medicine" has a recidivism rate equal to that of heroin. Indeed, so many American women are addicted to these emotion-muting drugs -- a staggering one out of four -- that we have a nation full of real-life Stepford Wives courtesy of Big Pharma.
Rather than blowing the whistle on this overmedicated dystopia, drug warriors spend their time lying about Mother Nature's medicines. But despite drug war hysteria to the contrary, the fact is that opium and cocaine are not addictive when used in moderation, whereas modern antidepressants are addictive EVEN WHEN THEY ARE USED AS DIRECTED. Besides, the most powerful music appreciation drug of all is probably a psychedelic substance, and psychedelics are about the least addictive drugs in the world. At any rate, the pedagogical utopia of which I write presupposes a world in which we've exchanged the Drug Enforcement Agency with the Drug EDUCATION Agency, an organization that presents only statistical facts about substance-use outcomes for every psychoactive substance in the world - including alcohol and anti-depressants, along with a list of not only the potential drawbacks of these substances, but their potential benefits as well.
Once America stops enforcing Christian Science Sharia, music appreciation class will finally truly be music APPRECIATION class.
EPILOGUE: I was recently watching a Great Courses lecture series by Professor Robert Greenberg entitled "Understand Great Music." As fabulous as his lectures are, Professor Greenberg says absolutely nothing during these lectures about the astonishing fact that many of Mother Nature's godsend plants seem custom-made to help us appreciate music, which is, after all, the very goal of the Professor's lectures. Surely he should at least mention this astonishing fact in passing. Unfortunately, Greenberg, like the rest of us, would never think of bringing up the topic. He's heard all the drug war lies about how Mother Nature's plants "fry the brain," never stopping to think that he was being blatantly lied to by Christian Science enemies of Mother Nature's godsends. (Freud used "coke," Benjamin Franklin used "opium," Francis Crick used psychedelics, and none of their brains were fried: to the contrary, their minds were focused and inspired by their strategic use of the substances in question.)
Nor will many of Greenberg's students "call him" on this omission (in fact, I'm the first and so far only one to even notice it, as far as I can tell). Yet I trust and hope that one day this omission will be "glaring" to all sensible people, that it will be natural to speak of using Mother Nature's plants to facilitate learning, to inspire students, and to give them a deep appreciation of the natural world around them. That day will only arrive, however, when Americans abandon the superstitious anti-nature drug war and start considering psychoactive plants objectively, and with a view toward how they can be safely used to achieve real-world educational goals, starting, first and foremost, with inspiring a love of music in formerly tin-eared students.