I thought I was pretty witty back in the day when I said that surrealism is the accurate perception of the world as it is. I wasn’t talking about elephants on stilts or melting clocks. I was talking about plain, ordinary reality. We cushion the blows of its weirdness through our relentless illusion and hope and general obtuseness, but it’s just all around surreal.
I live with three hairy dogs. They are large. The smallest is 60 pounds. I am a little person and the two I walk with most of the time come up to my waist. Yep. We trudge through life as if that were the normal state of affairs for every 65 year old lady. In fact, every single person trudges through their life as if it were “normal” but there is no normal. There is only relentless weirdness.
Here’s weirdness. We have a legal drug, booze. Booze is a cheerful glass of wine at Thanksgiving for some, the propulsion behind a deadly automobile for others, and death itself for others.
An estimated 88,0009 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women9) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States. In 2014, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 9,967 deaths (31 percent of overall driving fatalities). Source
But it’s legal. Anyone over the age of 21 can buy as much of it as they can afford and drink it as often as they wish.
My brother was a hardcore alcoholic who died in his 50s after a horrible life and tremendous physical debilitation and at an extreme cost to the people of the states where he lived. He often said, “If pot were legal, I wouldn’t be a drunk.” I would add, if pot had been legal, he might be alive now. That would be really nice. The other day I donated some money to one of my brother’s old friends who’s got meningitis and has no insurance. Her children wrote me a thank you, “Hugs to the Kennedy family.” Yeah. That’s me, Dusty, Mindy and Bear. I felt so sad at that moment. No one wants NOT to have their brother. But that’s booze for you. “You don’t understand, Martha Ann. I like being drunk.” Drunk to death. Fuck you, Jeff Sessions.
Marijuana, in contrast, is not physically addictive and has never (directly) killed anyone. There are a couple of people (literally 2) known to have died of marijuana use — being high brought to the surface underlying physical disabilities. AND my experiments with it made me think I was dying (or that someone was coming TO KILL me) all an argument for me not to use it, but here are thousands of people who actually derive measurable benefits from it. But it’s illegal, according to federal law. A short, logical explication of the dangers of marijuana use can be found here.
I find that surreal. It’s also surreal that I, after forbidding hundreds of college freshmen from writing a “Legalize Marijuana” essay am doing that right now so, moving on, with one more point. People have ALWAYS liked to intoxicate themselves. While early beer and mead were low in alcohol content as their main purpose was to provide pure, non-disease laden ways to prevent dehydration in a world of putrid water, there are enough drinking songs and odes to wine from all cultures and all times to prove people like being intoxicated. So, logically, is it better for people to be intoxicated on something lethal or something that’s not lethal? That I have to ponder that point is surreal.
There’s so much surreality in this world. It’s surreal that people have taken to painting rocks, people who never painted anything in their lives. It’s surreal that Sarah Palin was EVER a serious candidate for anything. It’s surreal that fascism is rearing its ugly head, it’s surreal that people don’t know what fascism is because, it seems, at some point, our education system stopped making kids watch black and white films of liberating Nazi death camps. I saw them twice a year. It’s surreal that there were Nazi death camps. It’s surreal that our recent presidential election was apparently hacked on all sides, a rain of dirty politics only possible in this era. It’s surreal that after finding Colorado too small, too confining I left in my late 20s only to return at the end of my life to a small Colorado town that’s stuck in the 70s. It was surreal that I went to Switzerland to stay in an 17th century barn (remodeled to an apartment) in the area in which my ancestors lived, and my hosts were from Australia. It’s surreal that I wrote a novel describing the lives of my ancestors before I knew they were my ancestors.
Well, the list goes on. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of surreality in your day to keep you occupied and perplexed.
On a cheerier note, a song that’s been in my mind. It’s weird. You might call it surreal.