I went through a period of taking the drug ecstasy, aka X, aka MDMA, years ago. It did me far more harm than good, but I won’t argue with people who claim that studies showing it causes brain damage are flawed. Maybe, maybe not. Before going on to my main point I’ll just note, briefly, that most of what’s sold as X now isn’t X, and even if it is it may well be a tainted batch as it comes from a bunch of European criminals who don’t make it right (not that the “right” stuff is not dangerous).
Let’s put issues of toxicity and addiction aside. There’s another danger with drugs that induce powerful, ecstatic feelings, like ecstasy and, for example, crack cocaine (or smokable meth, or freebase or speedballs). I’m going to speak about this as plainly as I can. What happens is that your body and the wiring in your brain “learn” that high, and since the brain and body are designed to move toward good feelings, you’re left with a feeling that ordinary life doesn’t offer anything half so satisfying. Everything afterwards is in the shadow of the ecstatic high. Sex may seem dull without it; other ordinary good feelings sometimes seem truncated in comparison.
Does this mean that we are supposed to be always angling for those ecstasy highs, once we’ve discovered them? If we do, we’ll burn out. Also, I’ve by degrees learned that drug-induced ecstasies are sort of “one note”, monotonal. They have a “mere masturbation” quality, a “self titillating” emptiness about them, especially cocaine highs. But the exquisite, intricate feelings that come from what I think of as “being congruent” (and I use the word being, here, with multiple meanings) are ultimately more satisfying. My youngest son skateboards; when he does a complex skateboard move, orienting his hard-learned skill with the physics of the environment, he seems to get a deeply satisfying sweetness out of the whole experience. I’ve felt that sort of thing dancing at times, especially when young; and playing in bands, when I’ve hit the note where I want to hit it, been congruent with the band and my hunger for expression, the inner in perfect relationship with the outer, another, profounder kind of good feeling arises. There are deeper sexual/sensual communings possible, too, superior to ecstasy highs, which come from a kind of mutual “congruence of being”.
A special, highly rewarding congruence may arise partly from just an agreeable confluence of events. Once some years back I was driving on a sunny day with all three of my sons, on a country road. We were listening to music we all liked, and we were happy to be together, going somewhere together. The car’s motion was agreeable, the world seemed to sing to us along with the radio — and I’ve never felt happier. I know — it sounds as if I’m saying, “Just enjoy life! Get high on life, kids!” But I’m not. This “special congruence” only comes at times — and often has to be earned. It’s not just the good feelings of ordinary life. It’s a coming together of things that have a powerful, poignant effect, and it’s something to be looked for, over time. You have to be open to it, reach for it, with real mindfulness — it’s way deeper, way more complex than just getting high on ordinary life.
People stuck in the pursuit of artificially induced ecstatic states are, in my opinion, less likely — and ultimately perhaps less capable — of finding their way to these other highs, these complex satisfactions that arise from a right congruence with the world…