Let’s Get Chemical

“Let’s get physical, physical…Let me hear your body talk,” sang Oliva Newton-John in 1981. Well, we’ve went a step beyond that. Now the national zeitgeist says “Let’s get chemical, chemical…Let me hear my body talk.” And you know what it’s saying? It saying what the Beetles sang in 1968: “Back in the USSR; you don’t how lucky you are.” American won the Cold War economically and turned the USSR into capitalists; the USSR won the war theologically and turned us into materialist.

First, journey back with me to those thrilling days of yesteryear when technology was first coming into its own….actually when it was first invading the domain of the biological. The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism tells of the celebrated “’rest cure’” that was developed by American physicians circa 1906. The patient was isolated for weeks or even months. He was forbidden to read or write, and given a milk only diet.

Why all the fuss? Why the demand for the much ballyhooed ‘rest cure’? Technology. “This extreme treatment was among the proliferating regimens developed in response to the stunning increase in nervous disorders diagnosed around the turn of the century. Commentators and clinicians cited a number of factors related to the stresses of modern civilization: the increased speed of communication facilitated by the telegraph and railroad; the ‘unmelodious’ clamor of city life replacing the ‘rhythmical’ sounds of nature; and the rise of the tabloid press that exploded ‘local horrors’ into national news. These nervous diseases became epidemic among ‘the ultracompetitive businessman and the socially active woman’” (328-9).

The answer to something mental happening to your body was something physical. Not in our century. Michael Pollan is the author of How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. He said in an NPR interview says that there have been no big breakthrough in treating depression since Prozac in the 1990s. He went on to say that the side effects of today’s antidepressants are too extreme. His answer. Well, it’s in the title of his book. It’s psychedelics.

Trials are already underway. This is the new frontier, but it’s as old as the Russian Revolution of 1917 and Jefferson Airplane of 1967. If all we are is biology and biology breaks down into chemistry, then pills are the answer. And these psychedelics work in the way no antidepressant, new or old, can or could. Psychedelics work fast. The downside: they’re unpredictable. Just ask Alice. You will know when the white knight starts talking backwards.

Chemicals are where the Russians turned to for athletic prowess and the USSR turned to change behavior or thinking that the State deemed either terroristic, unpatriotic, or unreasonable such as: believing in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, and the life everlasting. Chemicals are where Jefferson Airplane told us to go in 1967: “One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small.” And at the end of the day the answer to dying, addiction, depression, and transcendence, all of which use to be the domain of religion is chemical not theological.

“Remember what the dormouse said/ Feed your head, feed your head”? But today, you don’t do this through words spoken into your ears but through pills taken by mouth. Go ask Alice; she knows the answer is to get chemical because then you can hear your body talk. And that’s all man who is born incurvatus in se wants to hear anyway.

About Rev. Paul R. Harris

Ordained pastor of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
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