Michael Sandel's plea in The Case Against Perfection for openness to the unbidden, as a counter to the coming seductions of genetic engineering and biotechnological reconstruction, somehow led us the other day in Bioethics to a conversation about recreational drugs. If you climb high enough into the "mountains," said one of us, the new view may be transformative.
Others were more concerned about the disruption and degradation likely to follow the climber back down. It's still part of the deeper mystery and tragedy of life, as James said, that so many of our peak experiences are unsustainable and eventually destructive.
That conversation was still echoing in mind when I came across this item in yesterday's Almanac:
W.H. Auden’s writing habits were simple: he woke up, had strong coffee and toast for breakfast, smoked cigarettes while completing the New York Times crossword puzzle and reading the obituaries, and then got to work. He had a liking for tripe, tongue, brains, polish sausage, Smirnoff martinis, and cognac. He enjoyed the freedoms of American life, especially during the 1960s, when he experimented with drugs. He tried LSD once and said, “Nothing much happened, but I did get the distinct impression that some birds were trying to communicate with me.”It seems that Auden's better drugs were the legal ones, beginning with caffeine. Noted.