Ritual of Oak

"Be humble for you are made of earth, be noble for you are made of stars." – Serbian Proverb

Month: March, 2016

Get Blunted

Pollan M. 2002. The Botany of Desire. Random House. Toronto, Canada. 113-179p.

I thumbed open Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire eager to begin this weeks reading. Flipping through the yellowed pages of my dogeared copy I briefly reminisced on the things I’d already learned about the apple and the potato. How mankind had come to find desirable features in plants and learned to exert influence over them. As the pages fell softly to either side I drew in the title of the chapter of the reading.

Desire: Intoxication

Ok, sure.

Plant: Marijuana

Oh no.

Of all the plants in the world there is one that I have heard decried and deified to such an extent that I’d rather never hear of it again. Cannabis sativa x indica is that plant. The denunciations of authority and the proselytizing of the enthusiast. The wild inaccuracies and obvious ignorance on both sides of the equation. I just never want to hear about it again, or smell it again, goodness. That being said Pollan has demonstrated the capacity to make topics that seem dry burst to life like Death Valley experiencing a super bloom. So I figured I’d give it the old college try. I took a deep breath and dove in.

The observation that Pollan had that I resonated most with was the idea of marijuana altered consciousness being a somewhat reducing effect. The idea of forgetting the already perceived. To re-experiencing the mundane as something fantastic (pg 162). It’s intriguing to be faced with the idea that science doesn’t know what causes an individual to experience the sensation of being “high”. That the closest that we can come to an understanding of that concept is in the realm of poets. Neuroscience is pushing towards that field of knowledge but it is by all means a fledgling field with much to discover. The effects of marijuana on brain chemistry and the way it affects consciousness is surely low on the list. As the field lengthens and deepens though it will be very exciting to see the scientific explanation for a phenomena widely experienced in our society.

I learned a lot about marijuana from this reading, and I still find myself full of contempt for the idea of speaking about it. The legalization topic which Pollan blessedly stayed away from is the primary source of my distaste. Many long nights of listening to friends speak on the pros and cons of legalization have completely drained me of the desire to see any change occur.

Mostly though, I really just don’t want to have to smell it.

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“One medium refill please, black.”

Hanson, Thor.  2015.  The Triumph of Seeds.  pg. 143-160.  Basic Books, New York, United States of America.

640px-Coffee_Flowers

(Coffea arabica https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffea#/media/File:Coffee_Flowers.JPG)

I really appreciate that every time I’ve picked up Hanson’s The Triumph of Seeds I’ve been in the middle of consuming one of the seed product that he goes on to talk about in the reading. In this case, once again, it was my dear friend Coffea. A decaffeinated cup, as my roommate and I haven’t found the time to swing to the grocery to buy a new bag of the good stuff, but coffee nonetheless. The ritual suffices when the caffeine can’t make an appearance, and today I’ve learned that I have a name to thank, at least partially, for the prevalence of that ritual. When Gabriel-Mathieu de Clieu brought his little coffee shrub over the Atlantic to the Caribbean he brought with him the possibility of my daily cup of coffee. Which is another thing that I really appreciate.

Coffea developed a neat trick during it’s evolutionary history in the production of caffeine. Not necessarily a unique defense mechanism, but seemingly a fairly robust one. Like other alkaloid producing plants such as chili peppers this defense mechanism served an ultimate double purpose for the coffee plant. While many species were repelled by the caffeinated bean allowing for the propagation of Coffea in the wild, one species of particular import took notice of the plant.

It was us.

For many other species on Earth this ended up being a “bad move” on the part of evolutionary selection. Humans have had a nasty habit over the course of their dominant role at the top of the food chain of accidentally pushing species to the brink of extinction. On more than one occasion we’ve seen species right out the door. That being said some species have benefited greatly from human “intervention”. Coffee sits up there with corn and wheat in terms of its human facilitated spread over the globe. I have never once been to a town in North America where I couldn’t find a cup of the ubiquitous black nectar.