To be a vegetarian is to learn to use plants for one’s own purposes.
Marijuana, in this respect, has great potential.
The drug is typically conceived of as a mind-numbing substance, but recent experts (Andrew Sullivan, Vaughen Bell, and Jonah Lehrer) and recent studies (like this) argue that marijuana use unleashes streams of loose associations.
The study examines “semantic priming,” in which one concept quickly activates other related words. For example, the word “dog” would prime the reaction times for “Snoop Dog,” “Fluffy” and “Dr. Dog.” Conversely, “Dog” has no impact on the time to think about unrelated concepts like “Tea,” “Pens” and “Apples.”
Marijuana has the impact of hyper-priming:
“Marijuana seems to induce a state of hyper-priming, in which the reach of semantic priming extends outwards to distantly related concepts. As a result, we hear “dog” and think of nouns that, in more sober circumstances, would seem to have nothing in common.”
I think that this explains why marijuana can be a useful tool for a beginning poet. I think that poetry can expand the mind in the same way marijuana causes hyper-priming. As poets search for connections between words, some connections are found and reinforced. I will hypothesize that poets become “better poets” by expanding their connections through mental exertion. Marijuana seems to be a substance that makes poetic connections more strong for certain individuals.
Duke University’s Kuhn, Swartzwelder, and Wilson did a metaanalysis of Marijuana’s health impacts and found this information”
“A person who smokes marijuana every few days is probably never completely free of its effects on thinking and problem solving, living consistently in a somewhat compromised cognitive state.”
This may explain the phenomena in which “high thoughts” seem deep and profound at the time, but incommunicable to oneself or others.
Marijuana makes poets like Spiderman. Being high is the spiderweb that gently leads us from building to building. Spiderman’s targets that represent his world. For a poet, words make up world. Marijuana takes the ideas that are out of reach, and gives us a longer web. As the web comes together, things become new and difficult: we aren’t sure how to use it to catch prey.
Lehrer backs up my Spiderman theory:
“Marijuana also enhances brain activity (at least as measured indirectly by cerebral blood flow) in the right hemisphere. The drug, in other words, doesn’t just suppress our focus or obliterate our ability to pay attention. Instead, it seems to change the very nature of what we pay attention to.”
Marijuana changes the mind by hyper-priming the right hemisphere. The right hemisphere rules over poetic thought:
“Interestingly, there’s some speculative evidence that such distant intellectual connections are most likely to be generated in the right hemisphere. There is, for instance, that research on moments of insight that I’ve written about before. But there’s also some interesting data from patients with selective hemispheric damage. When people suffer an injury to their left hemisphere, the side-effects are obvious: they typically lose the ability to speak in coherent sentences, or suffer other dramatic language deficits. They neglect relevant details, miss appointments and struggle to get dressed. People with right hemisphere damage, in contrast, tend to experience much more subtle symptoms, such as an inability to “get” a joke or perceive sarcasm or enjoy a poem. All of these skills require a coarse-grained kind of cognition, an ability to look past the details and see the remote associations.”
In the right hands, marijuana is a Poetic Supercharger. I think that this can also explain the “memory loss.” Think of marijuana as a balloon. At first, it is sort of amazing to watch the balloon float up into the sky. The clouds are very nice. But as the poet harnesses his linguistic prowess, the balloon becomes a hot air balloon that can be controlled. As I understand it, Short-term memory is functionally the ability to remember a certain set of words over a short period of time., Marijuana impairs our ability to hold onto words. If the balloon metaphor is apt marijuana’s high lets go of our balloons (ideas) so that they can explore our mind (hyper-priming). At first, being high is overwhelming. After smoking for nearly three weeks, multiple times a day, I never feel out of control high. I always feel like I can harness my intellect and think clearly. Kuhn Swartzwelder and Wilson find that there are no established long term cognitive harms for marijuana use in individuals who start after age 18.
If your goal is poetic, then marijuana may make you a verbal Spiderman. But, with great opportunity comes great responsibility. Remember, Spiderman’s world comes with the Green Goblin. Our ability to fly from one idea to another may result in a building being hit by a Goblin bomb. We may end up with a impaired memory, but each remaining memory may probably impact more meaningfully. Perhaps marijuana is the choice Crème Brule and Grocery Store Birthday Cake. We give up the vast quantities of cake for a richer experience.