“The only past which endures lives wordlessly within you.”
Frank Herbert

God Emperor of Dune



“In the mid-1960’s, an Israeli neuroscientist named Raphael Mechoulam identified the chemical compound responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana … THC

In 1988 Allyn Howlett … discovered a specific receptor for THC in the brain – a type of nerve cell that THC binds to like a molecular key in a lock, causing it to activate … When a cell in a network is activated by its chemical key, it responds by doing a variety of things: sending a chemical sigal to other cells, switching a gene on or off, or becoming more or less active …

The cannabinoid receptors Howlett found showed up in vast numbers all over the brain … Curiously, the one neurological address where cannbinoid receptors didn’t show up was in the brain stem. which regulates involuntary functions such as circulation and respiration. This might explain the remarkably low toxicity of cannabis and the fact that no one is known to have even died from an overdose.

The scientists I spoke to were unanimous in citing short-term memory loss as one of the key neurological effects of the cannabinoids …

Yet the scientists saud that the THC in cannabis is only mimicking the actions of the brain’s own cannabinoids. What a curious thing this is for a brain to do, to manufacture a chemical that interferes with its own ability to make memories – and not just memories of pain, either. So I e-mailed Mechoulam …

Don’t be sure that forgetting is undesirable, he suggested. ‘Do you really want to remember all the faces you saw on the New York City subway this morning?’

forgetting is vastly underrated as a mental operation – indeed, that it is a mental operation, rather than, as I’d always assumed, strictly the breakdown of one … forgetting is also one of the more important things healthy brains do, almost as important as remembering.

The THC in marijuana and the brain’s endogenous cannabinoid work in much the samw way, but THC is far stronger  and more persistent … What this suggests is that smoking marijuana may overstimulate the brain’s built-in forgetting faculty, exaggerating its normal operations.

This is no small thing. Indeed, I would venture that, more than any other quality, it is the relentless moment-by-moment forgetting, this draining of the pool of sense impression almost as quickly as it fills, that gives the experience of consciousness under marijuana its peculiar texture. It helps account for the sharpening of sensory perceptions, for the aura of profundity in which cannabis bathes the most ordinary insights, and, perhaps most important of all, for the sense that time has slowed or even stopped. For it is only by forgetting that we ever really drop the thread of time and approach the experience of living in the present moment, so elusive in ordinary hours. And the wonder of that experience, perhaps more than any other, seems to be at the very heart of the human desire to change consciousness, whether by means of drugs or any other technique.

Some of our greatest happinesses arrive in such moments, during which we feel as though we’ve sprung free from the tyranny of time – clock time, of course, but also historical and psychological time, and sometimes even mortality. Not that this state of mind doesn’t have its drawbacks; to name one, other people cease to matter. Yet this thoroughgoing absorption in the present is (as both Eastern and Western religious traditions tell us) as close as we mortals ever get to an experience of eternity.

… I’m tempted to aree with Carl Sagan, who was convinced that marijuana’s morning-after problem is not a question of self deception so much as a failure to communicate … We simply don’t have the words to convey the force of these perceptions to our straight selves, perhaps because they are the kind of perceptions that precede words.”

from: The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan

As I read this I contemplated on one of the differences between Andreea & I. I am more of a thinker-ahead and planner while Andreea is more present and spontaneous. I tend to hold a lot of information and many threads of thought in my mind, Andreea is generally more forgetful. Andreea is also the one who enjoys more, who overflows with happiness and jumps from joy – things I get to experience through her rather than directly.

I was also interested in the comment on the brain stem – a part of the brain that does not have cannabinoids and is therefore not effected by THC.This got me thinking about Pranayama (the branch of Yogic knowledge dedicated to breathing). Breathing is a unique function in that it is both autonomous and consciously controllable. I’ve sampled cannabis a few times – I enjoyed it most the first time when I was away on a long (long enough to lose a sense of time in regular consciousness) vacation. Most of the other times it didn’t really effect me – my consciousness was tightly attached to my life circumstances where I didn’t feel there was space for letting go. However, in that same life, I had many more experiences of presence I arrived at during Pranayama practices (usually in periods of continuous practice).

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