cellular decisions

Why does a junkie quit of his own free will ? You never know the answer to that question. No conscious tabulation of the disadvantages and horrors of junk gives you the emotional drive to kick. The decision to quit junk is a cellular decision, and once you have decided to quit you cannot go back to junk permanently any more than you could stay away from it before. Like a man who has been away a long time, you see things differently when you return from junk. [Burroughs, Junkie, p152.]

Obsession is like this. The core experience empties out, the signs reverse themselves. The object is de-eroticised. You put it down like a book you mean to keep reading but don’t pick up again. From now on you will be able to pick it up & put it down at will–that seems demeaning somehow, although you aren’t sure quite who to. But the worst thing about not being obsessed is that you have to find something else to do.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “cellular decisions

  1. you’ve written a description of the spiritual process-from one obsession to another until the last. Its written in our genes (karma) to be junkies.
    Let me go kiss my blank canvas…

  2. uzwi

    Certainly written into mine to be an obsessive. You wake up, as I think of it, & chaos & horror ensue, along with depressed levels of activity. Nasty combination. But the worst thing is you can’t choose the next obsession. You have to wait for it to arrive. & maybe this is it for you; maybe nothing else will come along. It’s like being a character of Robert Stone’s.

  3. Krishna

    >>But the worst thing about not being obsessed is that you have to find something else to do.

    What could be more natural than a hole in the centre of one’s life? There’s one in the centre of the galaxy, after all:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7774287.stm

    “Although we think of black holes as somehow threatening, in the sense that if you get too close to one you are in trouble, they may have had a role in helping galaxies to form – not just our own, but all galaxies.”

    There’s some deeply facile self-help volume just waiting to be written here.

  4. Understandably, I admit, I’ve been accused of being obsessive. I’ve never liked the word; it makes me feel small helpless and ashamed- and not, as John Lithgow said, in that good spanky way. When people gape in horror, wonder pityingly How do you DO that, I lighten the moment with Helen Hunt’s line: “I’m not nuts. I’m THOROUGH.”

  5. …a Robert Stone character…hmmm, that’s pretty vivid.
    I’ll take it, though. You just beat your brains bloody (excuse me, thoroughly) and then go at it again in some other body or place.
    …question: do they really gape in horror? Whenever I get the question about how long something took me I figure that the viewer is missing the boat. Who cares how bloody you are–look at the art.

  6. Some people quit junk through junk.

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/12/01/081201fa_fact_fortini?currentPage=1

    As for me, I’m not at all sure that obsession and addiction are the same thing. I’ve been addicted to cigarettes, and earlier in my life thought I was addicted to something much stronger. There was nothing obsessive about it. It was wonderful and then, for a long time, miserable. Being obsessed is something else entirely. Obsessions tend to involve acts, doing something. Addictions tend to involve doing nothing, and avoiding acts.

    Crude simplification, but there we go.

  7. uzwi

    But maybe they share some structural similarities ? & further similarities with conditions like anorexia ?

    If smoking can be described as an addiction–& can it ? –I was addicted for 15 years, but found myself able to give it up almost instantly when conditions prompted the “cellular decision” –despite being on 50 a day at the time. Whereas climbing–which for me had very strong components of avoidance–proved more difficult to give up than anything else in my life.

    Actually, these days, I don’t think I’d say I was addicted to either tabs or moves. Only that maybe there’s a larger set of behaviours, which contains not only addiction & obsession but eating disorders: any habitual behaviours which turbo up–via payback loops–into something the individual can’t control.

    But we’ve had this discussion before & I admit I’m only using Burroughs to make a metaphor. What do we think about constructions like “gambling addiction”, “shopping addiction”, & so on ?

  8. The tragedy of boredom… the inevitable consequences of the super-consumer capitalism in which we have the misfortune to be living (or dying)… And frankly, a lie. No one said those arsehole bankers were gambling addicts, though clearly they should all be signing up to GA. Or perhaps AA (arseholes anonymous).

    But I digress…

    What about ‘blogging addiction’?

    ho ho ho

  9. Took me awhile to realize that what the most horrified- pitying might be a better word for some- wanted to ask wasn’t how, but why. A friend who works at a gallery that shows my stuff is more outspoken: “You’re crazy. You’re just crazy.”

  10. Dave

    >>What do we think about constructions like “gambling addiction”, “shopping addiction”, & so on ?

    Constructions is right. Once this type of stuff is conceptualized as being an addiction there are equally constructed therapies to be thrown at them. Meanwhile real addictions stop being addictions and start being “diseases”.

    Whatever you call them, the feedback loops don’t change until approaching rock bottom motivates behavior in another direction. Depending on one’s priorities, I think being bored is close enough to rock bottom for some.

    As an aside, there’s a harness and a pair of 5.10s in my bag right now. The addiction seems to have struck about a month ago. I can’t snowshoe due to a torn meniscus, but I can go to the gym and obsess about what this will be like come spring:

    http://tinyurl.com/5w92bk

  11. why would anyone think the impulse to create beauty, and the will to carry it out, be considered crazy?
    and do they not understand that it’s a gift?

  12. uzwi

    Hi Dave

    Whatever you call them, the feedback loops don’t change until approaching rock bottom motivates behavior in another direction. Depending on one’s priorities, I think being bored is close enough to rock bottom for some.

    I seem to able to drag along the bottom, getting more & more puzzled, for some time, before something flips over & I “discover” a new behaviour. Weird process.

    But congratulations on your 5.10s, Dave! Long may you sail in them. Mine are with me as I speak, but the weather in the Peak is so shite I doubt I’ll be putting them on…

  13. Hey Mia- Feeling increasingly tangential, and I think I should have included some ssmilies (whoopss, a Gollumish missspelling)- Hadn’t intended this to be taken too seriously, or to rant on here about my work blah blah. To conclude quickly- The concerns, let’s say, that some viewers do express about my work usually have less to do with result than process- As you said, Mia, the will to carry out. It’s usually about something like my willingness to smooth out a passage like mist or sky by spending hours adding and removing many many tiny little marks. Or maybe the unwillingness to stop until I’m satisfied, or sufficiently despairing of success :)

  14. Dave

    >>congratulations on your 5.10s, Dave! Long may you sail in them.

    Thanks! So far I’m really enjoying climbing inside. I just climbed my first 5.9 route the other day…felt good. I can’t wait until the weather turns and it’s warm enough to go outside.

    Cool story: I leant Climbers to the coworker I’ve been going to the gym with. Turns out he lived in the UK for a bit. Even climbed a lot of the routes you mentioned in the book. Kind of made the world seem pleasantly small for some reason.