In his essay “Why Do Men Stupefy Themselves?,” Tolstoy concludes that it is not the taste of liquor, hashish, tobacco, or other narcotics that is so appealing. People consume these substances to stupefy their brain and dull their conscience. It is true that violent crimes are often committed by the inebriated. More generally, millions of people seek to escape their everyday moral qualms, with a bottle of liquor.
|Degasʼ portrayal of joyous drinkers.|
Conscience is the moral dimension of consciousness. People often drink to dull the self-consciousness that is the cause of their self-doubt. Then they can do that which they normally fear — ask someone on a date, make a sale, request a raise, or enter into battle. In the film “Lost Weekend” (1945), an alcoholic writer drinks to overcome his writer’s cramp. He believes that it is his critical self-awareness that is interfering with the flow of his creative energies. He attempts to overcome that interference by dulling self-consciousness
Is it true that consciousness interferes with creative endeavor? Tolstoy disagrees. Addressing writers who claim that they need drugs to overcome their inner-critic, he states: “It means either that you have nothing to write, or that what you wish to write has not yet matured in your consciousness but is only beginning dimly to present itself to you, and the appraising critic within, when not stupefied… tells you so.” (“Why Do Men Stupefy Themselves?” by Leo Tolstoy. Translator: Aylmer Maud. Wikisource.org.)
Our analysis of the appeal of intoxication is not, of course, just addressed to writers, but to everybody. There are a variety of cures for alcoholism, smoking, and drugs. But the most lasting cure — and the one that fosters emotional and spiritual development — is the one that gets to the root of the problem. Rather than seeking to stifle the inner-critic, and consciousness itself, we must come to terms with it. Only then can we reach new levels of consciousness. This is not a psychological problem; it is a philosophical one. Dr. Dillof can explore, with you, these deeper questions.
Dr. Dillof offers philosophical counseling, by phone and in person. For information, call him at: (502) 458-7171 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The telephone can allow for an intense conversation. Why, then, drive to a session — in the rain, snow, cold and dark — spending money on fuel?
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