Patricia Tabram - a cause celebre for pro-cannabis campaigners - had been warned earlier today that she might face jail for her second drugs conviction and had defiantly spoken of how she was not scared of prison...In the event, after an adjournment for pre-sentence reports, Judge Forrester also decided this afternoon not to imprison Tabram, who lives in a bungalow in Humshaugh, Northumberland. The community work will be unpaid. The sentence was made up of 175 hours' unpaid work for cultivating four cannabis plants and a further 75 hours for possessing powdered cannabis which she used for cooking. Judge Forrester told her she must also pay £1,000 costs.
And certainly, with all of the problems in the world (and with everything being pointless) threatening to take away the freedom of a harmless pensioner seems a very disproportionate punishment, given the crime. I've talked about drugs before on this blog, but it is interesting that some of the personalities that I've discussed recently have also enjoyed cannabis. From Susan Blackmore:
Some evenings, after a long day at my desk, I'll slip into the bath, light a candle and a spliff, and let the ideas flow - that lecture I have to give to 500 people next week, that article I'm writing for New Scientist, those tricky last words of a book I've been working on for months. This is the time when the sentences seem to write themselves. Or I might sit out in my greenhouse on a summer evening among my tomatoes and peach trees, struggling with questions about free will or the nature of the universe, and find that a smoke gives me new ways of thinking about them. Yes, I know there are serious risks to my health, and I know I might be caught and fined or put in prison. But I weigh all this up, and go on smoking grass.
And on Carl Sagan:
...it might come as a bit of a surprise that Sagan was an avid smoker of marijuana. Some might even call him a pothead. In his definitive biography of the celebrity scientist, Keay Davidson reveals that Sagan started smoking regularly in the 1960s and that Dragons of Eden -- which won the Pulitzer -- "was obviously written under the inspiration of marijuana." Davidson says of Sagan: He believed the drug enhanced his creativity and insights. His closest friend of three decades, Harvard psychiatry professor Dr. Lester Grinspoon, a leading advocate of the decriminalization of marijuana, recalls an incident in the 1980s when one of his California admirers mailed him, unsolicited, some unusually high-quality pot. Grinspoon shared the joints with Sagan and his wife, Anne Druyan. Afterward, Sagan said, "Lester, I know you've only got one left, but could I have it? I've got serious work to do tomorrow and I could really use it."
And so if intelligent adults like Sagan and Blackmore enjoyed this vice, isn't it okay for anybody else? One of the things that drives my existential angst is the fact that happiness is to some extent a drug called happiness. Since I'm still reading 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea', I'll let Dennett chip in:
Scientists found receptors in the brain that are highly specific for morphine, which has a powerful painkilling effect. Reverse engineering insists that wherever there is a highly particular lock, there must be a highly particular key to fit it. Why are these receptors here? (Mother Nature could not have foreseen the development of morphine!) There must be some molecules produced internally under some conditions, the original keys that these locks were designed to receive. Seek a molecule that fits this receptor and is produced under circumstances in which a shot of morphine might be beneficial. Eureka! Endogenously created morphine - endorphin - was discovered. (p. 233-34).
Over at Sans God, Scott's latest post has discussed the fact, that a rat offered morphine or water will take the morphine every time. Seeking happiness is just like a junkie seeking his fix; and in fact, taking drugs is just one way of attaining that high - religion, science, love, and finding a personal meaning in life are others. On my meanderings through cyberspace I discovered an interesting essay on the meaning of life, by philosopher Ted Honderich:
This whole subject of the meaning of life, for most philosophers, is a tedious one, partly because it is philosophically easy. It is not hard to leave behind. Respectful as I really am of some of those who have stronger religious aspirations than me, it has never seemed to me that the factual question of the existence of God is difficult or serious. We need not think more about life’s lack of meaning, save, so to speak, for the good meaning each of us can try to give to it—projects and goals in which we have already succeeded or still have a happy chance of succeeding....I remind you of my watching brother Robert paint his shields for the restaurants, and the intrinsic interest of my travels with Elvis. Of First Love and all who came after her, of excitements and happinesses with every one. The fineness of my son’s being born, the size of the audience for my inaugural lecture, the satisfaction of being the Grote, and of my mightily solving the consequences-of-determinism problem, as in moments of self-toleration I know I did. Gladness in wine, and, as Helen used to call it, the buzz of a fag.
And so like others, Honderich demands that though there is no meaning, you might as well get high on life. But in this pointless universe, under our illusion of consciousness, what is it really to strive to fill my happiness receptors with happiness molecules - however I choose to get them? Even if being a happiness junkie is all there is, it's still no 'great' thing. I'll close with this amusing passage, I found in the Principia Discordia:
"O! Eris! Blessed Mother of Man! Queen of Chaos! Daughter of Discord! Concubine of Confusion! O! Exquisite Lady, I beseech You to lift a heavy burden from my heart!"
WHAT BOTHERS YOU, MAL? YOU DON'T SOUND WELL.
"I am filled with fear and tormented with terrible visions of pain. Everywhere people are hurting one another, the planet is rampant with injustices, whole societies plunder groups of their own people, mothers imprison sons, children perish while brothers war. O, woe."
WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH THAT, IF IT IS WHAT YOU WANT TO DO?
"But nobody wants it! Everybody hates it."
OH. WELL, THEN STOP.
At which moment She turned herself into an aspirin commercial and left The Polyfather stranded alone with his species.