In the recent Mad Max movie (which is TERRIFIC, by the way, and you should go see it IMMEDIATELY) there's a bit where the evil warlord sprays his warboys' mouths with silver paint before they go into battle. I've seen a lot of nice theories about what this means: it's related to the chrome of the vehicles in the post-apocalyptic desert demolition derby, it's his way of depersonalizing and marking them, and so on. It took me a little bit to realize that some people didn't know this was probably also a method of getting them high, because why would you know such a thing if you didn't have to? ("Is it a special kind of future paint?" "No, you can do that with spraypaint today." "Today?" "Yes." "....Oh." Trust me, that's not a conversation that's fun for anyone.)
T recently rode the bus back to Seattle after a job interview in Renton and there were these two people wayyy at the back of the empty bus who kept screeching and shouting (his words). Finally he looked back, and it was two huffers -- they were sitting there taking turns spraying paint into a bag and breathing in the fumes (BEST WAY TO KILL YOUR BRAIN EVER, seriously, it makes crack look like candy) and to add insult to injury....the paint was not silver.
(ME: Was it silver? Was it silver? T: NO. ME: ?!?)
T told his seatmate, who was asking what the fuck was going on back there, what exactly the fuck it was that was going on back there, and the seatmate then went up and complained to the driver, who said something like, What do you want me to do? Who do you think is driving the bus? which the seatmate found annoying, but I thought it was HILARIOUS.
WHO DO YOU THINK IS DRIVING THE BUS, MAN. NO THEY DO NOT PAY ME ENOUGH TO GO BACK AND DEAL WITH TWO PEOPLE BATSHIT ENOUGH TO HUFF PAINT ON MY BUS IN THE MIDDLE OF A DAMN WORKDAY. NOW SIT YOUR ASS DOWN, I NEED TO MERGE.
Altho whenever I see people doing shit like that, I feel kind of pained and humbled, because they're desperate. You have to be fucking desperate to sit there and breathe fumes from a bag, in the middle of the day, on a bus. I got off the ride before it went that far for me, but plenty of people don't, because they can't. They don't have the "willpower" or the support or the money or the job or the family or the fucking magic beans that would let them change their world that little bit enough that they could stop. They would if they could, don't get me wrong, it's not enjoyable, sitting there huffing paint in the back of a bus. It looks from the outside like it's enjoyable enough to make them throw everything else away -- why the hell else would someone do such a bizarre thing? outsiders think -- but that's because people don't understand what's going on, unless it's happened to them, and get it exactly backwards. The old joke is that you drink to erase the pain caused by your drinking, but that's actually a real cycle and once it starts up you need the strength of Samson to break it.
It always makes me think of the swerve in Lucretius, which I learned about at St. John's when I was eighteen years old and too young to know what the hell it was really about. The clinamen is a tiny motion, barely an event, impossible to predict: "at quite uncertain times and at uncertain intervals they swerve slightly out of their course — just enough for one to be able to say that there has been an alteration in their movement"; the only thing separating it from non-existence is the fact of its existence, like Newton's derivative. That swerve is what saves us from nothingness, where atoms "would all fall downwards like drops of rain through the depths of the void; no collision would take place, no one atom would strike upon another; and so nature would never have produced anything at all." People have argued for centuries about what this really is, but since I'm an alcoholic and an addict I know, so I will tell you: it's the difference between me and those people huffing on the bus, if there is one. I didn't deserve to get it any more than they didn't deserve to. I hope they can still find a way to get it, somehow. I wish I could give it to them, that somebody could.