“A popular misconception is that depth of experience is something to do with intensity of experience. …It is only on the foundation of a clear, relatively integrated mind that experience will penetrate deeply.”
This from A Practical Guide to Buddhist Meditation by Paramananda.
I find that arc of thought particularly resonant for me now. It is such a part of American culture, youth culture, as well as the culture, and also personal intense engagement, of drugs and alcohol. We tend toward the intense, exciting, and anything that will provide the short adrenaline rush, then confuse that experience with that which is profound.
I think back to my childhood and Evil Knievel, a man who spent months between jumps doing who knows what, and then with great fanfare and long-drawn-out hype, jumped a motorcycle over a line of buses. That – then – was considered something to be praised, looked up to, and even emulated with a bike, a wooden jump and a couple of the neighbor kids.
Entertainment is like that as well. The thrills we get at a horror or suspense flick, the tears from the jerker, the laughs from comedies, rocking out to Foghat live! tantalize us certainly, sometimes blow our minds, but ultimately it dissipate and leave us depth-wise exactly where we were. We toss words like brilliant around – “Mad Men is brilliant!” It’s really good television and it’s entertaining, but brilliant, brilliant might be reserved for the reflection of a mountain on a still lake, the profundity of which is lost on only the most jaded or empty of souls – while there’s no clear agreement on what’s brilliant on HBO right now.
That is not to say that we should look down on those experiences. On the contrary, they’re fantastic, we enjoy them, we come out the other side feeling rejuvenated and thrilled and, in the very short run, altered ever so slightly.
But the truth of the matter all of those experiences while providing a brief intense, adrenaline rush are truly shallow to the person, to the soul. Void of depth.
The more I drink, the shorter the intensity lasts, until another drink is added upon that one in a desperate and failed attempt to repeat the intensity, and so on. The moments of bleary-eyed brilliance become fewer and farther between. The trip is over sooner and I don’t travel nearly as far as I once did – or think I did.
Clarity of mind goes deep and lasts. It opens us up to transcendent understanding that will never come from a bottle, a smoke or snort, all of which ultimately act against it.