Would you prefer to be controlled by fear or pleasure? This was an assignment given to my daughter when she was 15 years old. She was asked to read and analyze two fiction books: 1984 by George Orwell, where the world is controlled by fear, torture and surveillance; and Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, where society is ruled by drugs, conformity and ultimate pleasures. Her task was to argue which regime was more successful in controlling its citizens.
Which would you choose?……
In light of events since I first read these books, I would definitely say Brave New World’s methods are more effective. Why? Because wherever fear and intimidation methods are used, as described in 1984, there will always be people who will rebel and fight against such tactics. Brave New World, on the other hand, with its more subtle approach to control, used behavioural drug therapies; sleep learning and reproductive technology to “induce” a better society.
We in Western society seem to be hurriedly embracing – at an ever-accelerating rate – drug therapies and addictive opioids that change human behaviour and feelings, as well as reproductive technologies that may at some point change our genomes. Additionally, many use illegal recreational drugs to enhance their pleasure or dull their problems.
But with unforeseen side effects and other consequences, all is not well. Many doctors are ringing alarm bells about our increasing use of, and dependence on, prescription opioids; and studies confirm their concerns. This month, The Vancouver Sun published a deeply-concerning article on a study done by the BC Interior Health Authority and BC Coroners Service that shows there are as many South Eastern BC residents dying from prescribed opioid overdoses as are dying from car crashes. Additionally, an August 2012 article from the Globe and Mail, points to a study identifying Canadians as one of the greatest consumers of painkillers in the world.
Nor is this opioid epidemic confined to Canada. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, an American neurosurgeon reports that many of us have become intolerant of even a small amount of discomfort. The problem with this is that, as we then resort to pain medication, we need increasing dosages to achieve the same result, not realizing the deadly outcomes. His research has led him to a documentary that was aired on CNN last Sunday, Nov 17th.
Many of us have experienced that desperate desire for freedom from pain and illness, grief or depression, and, the pursuit of happiness is a natural human desire. But is Huxley’s world-view really our only option in dealing with our health problems and stress, or our search for greater enjoyment? Do we honestly wish to give complete control of our lives to a drug?
Small signs indicate the answer, of course, is no. Amongst this alarming picture of our growing drug dependency there is a small but definite movement to find other ways to deal with pain, grief, sleeplessness and stress. Studies show that focusing thought away from the body and taking time to be still and quiet has a good effect on the body in many ways. We are beginning to understand that spiritual ideas play a larger role in our health than we originally realized.
In my case, a desire for freedom from pain and illness led me to research and try the ideas of a 19th century Christian thinker and healer, Mary Baker Eddy, who wrote about her spiritual search for health through prayer. She shared what she discovered in her groundbreaking book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, where she sees a very different vision of our possibilities than Huxley. Having searched for many years for freedom from physical pain and illness, Eddy’s independence was not won in a moment or in a week, but occurred as a result of her persistent exploration and practical application of thoughtful prayer.
In her book, Eddy wrote about Jesus’ prayers as “deep and conscientious protests of Truth, of man’s likeness to God and of man’s unity with Truth and Love” (meaning, God as Truth and Love).
This deep, spiritual protest regarding man’s natural status, showed me who I was, and that I have a drug-free dignity as well as a right to freedom from pain and anxiety.
We can take this idea of contemplative prayer a step further, as Eddy did, and see our health in a different way. Certainly there is evidence worth considering that has been passed down through the millenniums. Moving on past the human mind, that’s dealt with in meditation practices, to deep, thoughtful prayer, can and does change the way we actually experience health.
Huxley, who was no stranger to the perils and imprisoning effects of drug and alcohol addiction, lends insights that have an authentic ring to them, touching as they do on his own desire for freedom. He foresaw the terrible dangers of drug dependency, and gave us a glimpse of what society could become in Brave New World.
But is Huxley’s view inevitable? This current shift towards understanding the role that our thinking plays in our health is a step in the right direction towards a different brave new health perspective and a drug free dignity.
This article was published on Spiritually Speaking, in the Times Colonist, November 24 2012.