Addiction and Human Inertia

24Apr07

human inertia, from the blog Yeah, Whatever

do you believe in addiction?
at times i have,
and at times i have not.
now i want to redefine it, at least for myself.
i believe addiction is primarily human inertia.
let me explain…

i do not believe we are mere physical creatures,
directed solely by physical forces.
neither do i hold to the conviction that our will reigns supreme.
i believe we are peculiar creatures of mind bound to matter.
each pulls on the other deeply.
true, most will agree to such a statement.
however, many will assert the ultimate dominance of one over the other.
let us use simple (if it be so) unhappiness as an example:
the “optimistic” mind over matter brigrade will tell you
that you are ultimately free to choose to be happy.
they will insist that no matter the circumstance,
one is always able to choose one’ own attitude.
(others call such people the true pessimists,
for they imply unhappy people have chosen to be so.)
on the other hand, the more skeptic and scientific minds will say
that many people cannot be faulted for their misery
as they are wholly incapable of happiness due to their physical state.
it is these who believe in addiction as it is typically understood.
i believe this ideological conflict is all blind men groping elephants.
i suspect the ethereal and physical share both power and blame.
driving a car is a simple analogy.
if i choose to accelerate to 60mph on the highway, am i free to do so?
yes! (let us leave aside, for the moment, external factors like traffic.)
but not in an instant.
my freedom is restrained by inertia,
and perhaps also by the state and quality of my vehicle.
the same factors equally bear upon my freedom to stop or turn.
i am able to choose freely, but not to execute them instantly.
there are restraints of inertia, skill, and the state of the vehicle
there are costs of time and energy.
and there are consequences.
all must be accounted.
so too is the freedom of man.
i believe addiction is primarily human inertia.
take a famous old addiction: alcoholism
physicians seek for a physical cure. (our body defines us)
religion demands a decision to be cured. (our will defines us)
psychologists prescribe an emotional cure. (our experience defines us)
in each stereotype, the cause and cure are incomplete;
the picture of humanity is lacking key dimensions;
and too often, the inertia of man is little mentioned.
that is not to say that these three are at all unhelpful!
quite the contrary,
for if the man is the driver and alcoholism is the car…
it is religion which exhorts the man to use the brakes,
it is the physician who ensures the brakes are in working order,
and it is the psychologist who helps the man learn
to avoid the gas pedal and steep downward slopes.
the analogy of car and driver is adept,
and i could flesh out a full and detailed allegory,
but i think you get the idea.
we are free,
but we operate in a world and a body which restrain our freedom.
a man addicted is a man whose inertia prevents
the immediate execution of his will.
he cannot be dismissed outright as either unwilling or unable.

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