To Be Blunt: Puffing and pondering about the meaning of life

first_imgAside from a couple dozen forums with titles like “When the weed so sativa you start having existential crises” and broad discussions on stoner philosophy, I couldn’t find much information about how pot fits into the pothead equation. With increased cognizance of our surroundings and the role we play in the world, cannabis can make clear — and proximate (therefore, scary) — the seeming insignificance yet concrete profoundness of our existence. Initial studies have also shown cannabis boosts divergent thinking, a type of measurable creativity that explores problem-solving and spontaneous thinking. Divergent thinking, often used in brainstorming exercises or other outside-the-box thinking, is controlled by the frontal lobe of the brain, which research has shown cannabis activates through increased blood flow.  This line never fails to take me out, offering a poignant, witty portrayal of the never-the-same-again philosophical and existential effects of cannabis. Undeniably, there’s something about smoking bud that makes you think a lot about a lot of things and scientists don’t exactly know why. So what, you smoke weed and suddenly discover the theory behind the origins and purpose of the universe? Definitely not, but not smoking weed hasn’t led us to the answer either. In my experience, and that of my friends’, cannabis unlocks different potential approaches to problems, as we are less hindered by uncertainty or the fear of being wrong and feeling unintelligent. While the substance clouds the mind, it also paradoxically clears it for more important thoughts to surface. But nearly every friend of mine that I asked told me that cannabis amplifies or ignites feelings of existentialism, a philosophy that purports humans have no preexisting purpose and therefore must choose how they establish their essence, or what makes them them, through acts of their own free will.  But while a study conducted in 2014 showed that originality, a type of divergent thinking, significantly increased after smoking, other studies are inconclusive. Another study by the University College London in 2011 found that already creatively skilled people may be insignificantly affected by cannabis’ creativity boost. So back to weed — while still not empirically proven, research has established some links between cannabis and increased creative thought. In low doses, cannabis can amplify ideas and improve focus; however, being high also makes people more susceptible to outside stimuli, leading to distracting thoughts and thus, in some cases, deep philosophical discussion. But wait! Before I lose you to a crisis, Sartre also believed in the power of humans to assign meaning to their lives — a liberating reality and one that allows people to live a life that is truly authentic and their own.  Simply put, there is no predetermined explanation to anything and it is up to each individual to find their purpose and meaning in life. We’re born into a largely indifferent world in which our actions have little, if any, inherent value. Not to be confused with nihilism — which states that everything is hopelessly meaningless — existentialism does seek answers; it just outlines the world in which we’re seeking answers as answerless, or absurd.center_img (Mya Davis | Daily Trojan) In essence, cannabis can help enable us to ask important questions: Who are we? Are we alone in the universe? Am I a good person? Where did I put my lighter again?  So perhaps part of the explanation is pop culture’s fascination and romanticization with drugs and its conflation with strokes of genius, driving the association between cannabis and wisdom. It doesn’t help that philosophy students are statistically more likely to take drugs than students in any other field. Natalie Oganesyan is a junior writing about weed culture and politics. She is also an associate managing editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, “To Be Blunt,” runs every other Friday. In this way, the stoner-philosopher trope has entered the mainstream. Shows such as “BoJack Horseman” and “Rick and Morty,” which have distinctive tones that find humor in bleakness and the world’s cynicism, have been co-opted by stoners for their own niche enjoyment. Even more serious shows such as “Black Mirror” are great philosophical think pieces that are enriched, and definitely made more astounding, by cannabis use. (Watch “Bandersnatch” three times in a row high, trying to reach every possible ending, and you’ll see what I mean.) In the coming-of-age comedy “Booksmart,” one of the main characters, Amy (Kaitlyn Dever), a studious, awkward gay woman (relatable) recalls her less-than-enjoyable first experience with weed. Researching for this column was difficult enough as it was; I’ve said it time and time again, but U.S. policymakers hate weed. So conducting reliable studies on the substance is out of the question until federal legalization. After hours of digging, no substantive research on weed and its connection to increased existential thoughts or feelings came up. “One time I ate a legal pot brownie when Model U.N. went to Amsterdam. And as soon as I got high, I just cried about the fact that one day my mom will die, so … ” Amy trails off as she rocks back and forth on her heels, eyes glazed over as she replays the horrific, yet hilarious, memory. Jean-Paul Sartre, who popularized existentialism, believed humans were “condemned to be free,” meaning the freedom people have to form their own morality is actually an impossible, dreadful task. Since nothing has meaning and no one knows anything, every authority figure you can think of to look to for answers is fake because there are no real answers.last_img