Children we have it right here
It’s the light in my eyes
It’s perfection and grace
It’s the smile on my face
Tonight when I chase the dragon
The water may change to cherry wine
And the silver will turn to gold
Time out of mind (Time out of mind) Steely Dan “Time Out of Mind”
“It takes the edge off stupid, all-day reality,”Nic Sheff “Beautiful Boy”
Last night I watched the film “Beautiful Boy” a heart-rending tale that is sadly so common, it’s almost cliche. Nic Sheff is the beautiful son who gets caught up in the world of drugs and breaks his father’s heart time and time again. Nic is the prodigal son of prodigal sons. The son in Jesus’ parable left once and came back. Nic leaves repeatedly, putting his father in an impossible situation. Does he turn his back on Nic to save his relationship with his wife and the mother of Nic’s step-siblings or does he continue to support Nic? At what point does support turn into enabling? These are questions no human being should ever have to answer. As I watched, I deeply identified with David Sheff, the father. I don’t know what it would take for me to say the words “No, you can’t come home. I hope you get your life in order.” I agonized just hearing him say it. I think any parent can identify with David, even those of us who haven’t had a child go through this hell and put us through it. I have a close friend who is an even worse situation with her son. She was on my mind the entire time I watched.
But, many of us say we can’t identify with Nic. What is wrong with him? We think he should just quit. Why did he do the drugs in the first place? We wonder why someone would even start. No one has ever met a thriving, healthy crystal meth addict. Nic said it beautifully, in just a few words. “It takes the edge off of stupid all day reality.” As I reflected on the movie, Steely Dan’s song Time Out of Mind popped into my head. I’ve never done heroin. I’ve never seriously considered it. But, I can understand why people do. This song resonated with me nearly forty years ago. Who wouldn’t want a time out from this reality, to escape to a world where water turns to cherry wine? Chasing the dragon is slang for smoking a mixture of heroin and other drugs.
We tend to look at drug addicts with judgment. But, they are doing what we all do. They are seeking transcendence. The explanations of how heroin, meth, etc. make you feel remind me of the feelings Near Death Experiencers talk about- an ecstatic, euphoric experience. We all seek this. The desire for Oneness is universal. This “stupid all-day reality” makes it difficult if not impossible for many of us to find. We have created a reality that is killing many of us because they can’t handle how incredibly stupid we have made it.
I think the actor who plays Nic did a fantastic job with his facial expressions as he’d shoot up. I could see the ecstasy on his face as the drugs coursed through his veins and lit up the pleasure centers of his brain. There are, of course, other ways to find the transcendence we all seek, to escape this “stupid all day reality.” Some of us look for it in success and money. Others become sex addicts. Alcohol is a socially acceptable way of escaping. And, there are healthier ways like meditation. For me, it’s family. And, there is serving others (which Nic discovers in the film). Let’s all do our parts to make this stupid all day reality less stupid so we don’t need to escape it.