Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The question to ask

After a lifetime of weird and, even, epically stupid decisions, I have recently reached the conclusion that one should always ask oneself, “Am I stoned?” And, in the aftermath, give the answer some time to develop.

Think of all the situations when that question is/was/will be precisely the right one to be asking oneself before proceeding with whatever seems to be next on the agenda. As a for instance, consider what might be the reality when one is, say, considering a rather hard surface below and pondering the question, “Would falling from this height kill me?” Wouldn’t that be the moment to ask oneself, “Am I stoned?”

This question is more generic that it might seem. After all, it subsumes all the more particular types of questions that get asked by both interveners and bystanders. “Are/were you drunk?” comes to mind, but care should be taken to consider the terms of the question as broadly as possible.

Regardless, we are talking here about asking oneself the question, “Are you stoned?” with a great deal more frequency and in a much wider range of situations than those moments when the question might otherwise be asked. And, in that spirit, never mind the answer, which could cover an almost infinite range of possibilities, like, say, “Don’t know, but I can tell you that I. Am. Completely. Ripped;” to “Maybe I better call the dentist. I’m in a lot of pain;” to “Yeah, I’m stoned, but I still believe the more important question is, ‘Can I survive a fall from this height to the ground below?’”

To repeat, the important thing is the question, “Am I stoned?” which should be asked by oneself of oneself a great deal more often than it is in reality. The answer is almost always less relevant than the question except in regard to legal matters and insurance issues.

Related story, I think. A few short weeks ago, I was in the hospital with a concussion after falling—catapulting, really—off my bike and doing a helmetless face plant on the street. Concussed, I went to the hospital where I dimly remember being asked, “Were you drunk?” and in near-instant follow-up, “Were you stoned?”

These questions seemed focused on liability and criminality. In any case, I do remember thinking something along the lines of “Why do you care? I don’t.”

And, although I hesitate to add this last bit, my father was an insurance lawyer to whom such questions meant a lot in the narrowest possible way. Dad was also the tree from which this apple happened to fall, albeit not without the sort of bruising that accompanies falls. Inevitably the experience of falling away from old dad, and the injuries that accumulated in my subsequent lifetime of weird and, even, epically stupid decisions, also taught me that one ought to embrace one’s bruises.

I recognize that this is piling on so-called “lessons of life,” and we most certainly should return to the question, “Am I stoned?” Nevertheless, the tangential point bears repeating. Embrace your bruises. They are you, and you are your very own particular reward.

At any rate, the question I am proposing that one regularly ask oneself, “Am I stoned?” is intended to provide a fresh opportunity to consider the moment that will inevitably follow the asking. If you are stoned, in the broadest possible sense, and you are mindful that you are, you might possibly make the next moment more objectively memorable than you had anticipated.

As I write this, images of loved ones and friends, here and elsewhere, flicker across the memory screen inside my head, the screen that at this moment is showing, in something like an endless loop, a piece entitled The Life of Jeff. And so, I ask myself, “Am I stoned?” in the fervent hope that the answer is take the next moment and mold it.

This is the moment of your next step in a direction you were always headed. Doesn’t matter if the path you followed to get here was straight (more or less) or, if you were actually, and most of the time, aware of choices you were making, or, in the alternative, delusionally ignorant of the choices you made along the way. This is you, regardless. This is you arrived at this moment, however much you may have stumbled to get here, and the step you take next is yours to decide. Now, answer the question, “Will I survive the fall from this height?”

Dedicated with gratitude to Dr. Phil, and to my sister, Dale.

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