Know your threshold….
Maggot Brain, the classic title of the Funkadelic album. Gives reference to decay, bad drugs, something ripping through your thoughts and flesh, leaving a trail of unusable membrane, but actually it wasn’t even about that. The album was a breakthrough in 1971, and, had elements of rock, gospel, soul, and psychedelic music. But the album cover serves as gateway into what this blog is about, and that is, know your threshold.
I recently read an article about Silicon Valley and the use of LSD to enhance cognitive thinking. Amazingly, these brainiac have “discovered” something that many jazz musicians back in the 40’s and 50’s had figured out, in particular, Charlie Parker, that the use of this drug enhances creativity. It is said that Steve Jobs, and many billionaires from the land of chips and source code have used the drug and has helped them make major breakthroughs that both you and I have benefited from.
If you don’t know who Charlie Parker is, stop reading this, either your cognitive ability is incapable of understanding the pure raw talent the man possessed( and LSD wouldn’t help you to understand it either), or you grew up in the rap era and never got out of it, or, you have too many Tennessee Ernie Ford albums and you curse the day 33rpm came out and long for the days for 78 rpm again. Anyway, Charlie Parker was the greatest alto saxophonist who had ever lived. His candle burned bright, but unfortunately, he flamed out on March 12, 1955. It is said a loud clasp of thunder roared when he died. But this is not a full fleshed out story of Charlie Parker, it’s a story about knowing your threshold.
You see, Charlie overstepped his threshold. Charlie did drugs. He did so much drugs that he even sold his saxophone to a pawn shop in order to get a fix. At first, experimenting with LSD to get to another level of musicianship that few can reach, the drug took a hold of him, or, his body developed a need for the drug that superseded his ability to realize the damage he was doing to himself and others around him. Street drugs along with alcohol produce a catastrophic effect and a vicious cycle. The alcohol damages the liver, which causes you to either drink more or take drugs to take the pain away. Essentially, you start self medicating, all the way to your grave.
It is said that Charlie Parker practiced 3 to 4 years straight, from 3 to 15 hours daily. That’s a lot of practicing, especially when you don’t have a venue to play in, and, you’re creating a movement that would change musical history. By 1950 Parker had collaborated with Max Roach, Bud Powell and Dizzy Gillespie, which cultivated the bebop era. Because I play trumpet I have a special place for Dizzy, self taught, he had a command of the trumpet, especially the upper register, that has been unmatched on planet earth to this day. Anyway…
Soon, Charlie was addicted to heroin. Its effect was devastating on him, causing him to miss gigs, paydays, and recordings. He also supplemented his drug habit with alcohol, which did nothing for the creativity heroin or LSD gave him, but momentarily satisfied his addiction. He finally succumbed to his addiction at the age of 34, in the suite of the Baroness Pannoonica de Koenigswarter, ( wow, what a title). In my opinion, Charlie Parker didn’t need drugs at all, he achieved his expertise by hard work and a gifted ear for “real music’.
Throughout history man has had a quest to be better, pushing the threshold of human limitations and cross the boundaries that seem impenetrable, despite much hard work put into trying to achieve excellence. Right now, some student at one of these so called elite colleges, is downing a red bull, and swallowing a concoction of pills, some legal, some requiring a prescription, to get ahead of the game. It is within that process that you may lose yourself and your ability to stop and be in control of your actions. But it all depends on several factors, and addictive disposition, to understand what you’re using the drug for, and the ability to stop cold.
My brother was in that category, that addictive disposition category that is. Trying to help a friend stop drinking, he ended up drinking himself, right into his grave. He had a low tolerance of alcohol resistance, and with a combination of drugs, slowly killed himself over a 7 year period. The same can be said of the LSD users in the California Silicon Valley. Now I know, they are probably thinking, “I know what I am doing, I can stop at any time, I’m too smart to have a problem this stuff”. Well, perhaps they are, and I don’t doubt that many have found that magical way of using the drug to breakthrough and make millions and billions for their organizations, and themselves. The trick to taking psychotropic drugs are, purity ( not cut up with junk that can ruin your system), an environment that allows you to have multiple stimuli ( friends, food, work, play, etc…) that allows you not to focus on just taking the drug, and most important, legality.
Sex and love are another item on this list. She’s fine, beautiful, shapely, gorgeous, and, has all the attributes that “society” has set for a beautiful woman. Or, is she? Is she “right person” for you? Can you deal with such a woman, at times, shallow and surface, yet irresistible? Is she too much for your senses to handle? Empty in the sheer art of elegant conversation and incapable of bombarding your mind with meaningful and thoughtful forward thinking women. Are you so obsessed by her that she is beyond your threshold? ( can you hear me OJ?). Is she like a drug, you know she is not good for you, yet, you keep going back to that fruit, temped and enticed to eat it, knowing and not knowing of the consequences that may be in store for you. Or is she even something more exotic, beautiful and esoteric, lovely in ways that are indescribable, leaving you incapable to describe your pure magnetic desire for her. In fact is, all you want is her… ( Hmmmmm) You might say, “How do I know that I’m beyond my threshold?”. My answer is, easy to say, but hard to do, it’s called, having the ability to observe yourself. Self observation, is one of the many qualities to separate ourselves from all the other mammals on the planet, yet hard to implement.
When you look into that mirror every morning, what do you see? Do you see a bright fresh face, confident and ready to attack the world, ready to go out to get that next challenge? Do you see a mundane, ground down, worn out husband, wife, or partner, unappreciated yet ready to do battle in an un-thankfull world? Do you see a junkie waiting for the next fix? Do you see glassy eyes, hung over person, ready to start your day at 3pm? Is alcohol your first drink of your day? Or a big glass of water to get your brain going. Or perhaps it’s more subtle, long and unbelievable hours studying, catching fire by working and studying, trying to maintain that 4.0 gpa? Or, perhaps you’re in a rage, mad at the world that no one understands what is the issue, and thus no one understands the center of the universe, your universe, which is…. You.
I read an article, back in the 80’s and it was about Valium. Now the person who wrote the article was having surgery, and once she was injected with Valium, it took her to a place before, to never, never land. She said she doesn’t want to walk around with that feeling, but understood how someone could be addicted to be in that special place of “no worries” and “no pain”. I experienced that same feeling. I was given a spinal during surgery for a hernia, and was awake during the operation. The doctor put a small curtain up, and I began to ask him questions on what he was doing. “What are you doing now doctor?”, I said while laying there as he picked up a surgical knife. The doctor explained, politely, but with some angst, he was focused and in the middle of doing his job. Two questions later, he looked at the anesthesiologist and said, “Give him some Valium”, in a stern voice.
At that point, Valium was added to an already mixture of saline fluid that was flowing into my arm. “It will be a slight sting at first, then you won’t feel anything”, the doctor reassured me. That’s exactly what happened. Once that fluid past into the major portions of my body, I was done. I didn’t care about the surgery, nor to ask anymore questions. I was happy, laid my head to the side, and felt euphoric and peaceful. It was one of the most amazing feelings I have ever had. Do, I want to walk around with that feeling all of the time? Hell no, but it did give me a greater understanding of addiction, and what someone who is “caught up” on drugs wants, which in the case of Valium is, to take you away to a place of “you don’t care”. It was a wonderful feeling, but, I did not get hooked on Valium. The reason why? I know my threshold. I see no need to walk around with that feeling, nor do I want to “feel it” for the sake of trying to reach a high I could never obtain again.
But LSD does not have the addictive effects of heroin or cocaine. But because these drugs are all category 1, they are not of any use according to drug law enforcement. So testing, or at least, “real test” is illegal. There is probably something to LSD and its ability to enhance though processes, to which we will never know, or we never test. So I’m saying a lot of this to say, “Stay in your lane”. Stay within the realm of your possibilities. I’m not saying don’t push yourself, in fact, push yourself as hard as you can. Know your limitations, an your breakthroughs, and most of all, know thyself…