There is a beautiful song by metallica - FiXXXer from Reload. Yeah a lot of harcore metallica fans piss on reload. But i dont know, this song is something else. It talks about how pints of gin numbs you to the pain and falls you back in love with life...
Always used to wonder whats it in alcohol that brings abt that mysterious change in us.
Guess i managed to get a lil close to that. From what i could make out, first step is to realize a few facts about our brain.
The human brain is an awesome CPU. And it is tremendously capable of multithreading.
You are riding the bike from home to office. There is a thread running in the brain which entirely takes care of everything from balancing the bike to handling it, filtering through the bewildering array of morning traffic noises, sensing if there is a horn blasting close to you, alert if you are straying to close to a mad rick, checking for signals, needling potholes, and so on. you are hardly aware of all this happening inside your brain - This thread just runs in the background. At the very same time you might be running tens or hundreds of threads, each for one issue like worrying abt the mail which you forgot to send yesterday, wondering abt how to fix that troublesome bug in your software, pondering when to ask for leave, hoping your boss is on leave today, whether to have breakfast or not, whether there are cops around the next junction,so on and on. In short your brain expertly juggles between a hundred lines of thought, yet it takes care of the present - that of riding the bike through devilish traffic and steering clear of each and every pothole.
And strange thing is that, the thread which takes care of your present - your riding the bike - has to do the most amount of work and faces the biggest problems. Yet your brain runs that thread in such a way that you are hardly aware of the brain putting in so much effort; You are in another world, worrying about the past or thinking about the future.
In short the brain is a terrific CPU which can take care of the present without the person being conscious of it, and run 100 other threads which take care of different items important to your survival.
The term survival is the key word here. The most important one and the fundamental base of this discussion.
The brains capacity to take care of the present and run hundreds of survival-oriented threads are the key to the fact that man evolved and developed so much.
You can ride all the way from home to office without being conscious of the present even once; Your brain gives you the freedom - rather forces you to - worry abt the past and future and try to solve your existence problems meanwhile.
This specifically is the single factor which gets rid of pleasure from your world; You are not free even for a second to take a break and enjoy the present. Its as if your brain tells you - forget the present tense , forget abt riding the bike,shifting gears, enjoying the morning sun, feeling the acceleration etc, i will take care of them - and concentrate on how you can solve the problem that await you in office or worry abt those mistakes which you did yesterday and suffer thinking abt them so that it will be a lesson enough for you to not repeat them.
Of course there is a question: Suppose at that instant there are absolutely no main issues or problems? I mean assume that we are in that extremely rare situation of having no problems as such. So one might think that since the brain has no issues to juggle around with, it will be free to break fully into the present. Not so. We are so used to running different issues in our brain and handling the present in the background, its more or less the same thing that happens even now; Even though there are no issues and you are free to enjoy the present, your fundamental nature is to push the present into the background, then dig up some trivial stuff from the past or yank out some possibility from the future, and then run some threads to analyze them. Thats what happens and as usual the present gets buried behind the curtian.
The brain is a master learner. The day you got your license and started riding your bike , that day would have been the best. You are new on to the road. You are not familiar with accident. You are not familiar with lurking cops out to rob you of money. In effect you ride the bike and enjoy it hundred percent because there are no other threads running in your brain. You are free to enjoy the present.
But the day a cop catches you, or you have a nasty accident mebbe due to no fault of your own - that day your brain stores it into memory. Its highly efficient; From that day onwards, you have another thread running in your brain; one to take care of cops or to take care of accidents. There goes half of your pleasure, because now you are much much less free to enjoy the act of riding.
Threads for cops and accidents are just two examples. For each of the bad incidents in your life, your brain pulls off a learning act and creates another thread.
In effect, a grown up person carries in his head multiple lines of alert threads, each to take care of a certian thing that had gone wrong in his past and may go wrong again.
Think abt a child. why do you think a child can enjoy this world so much. Simple because its brain is free. The brain is still beginning to learn and has not started stuffing itself with lessons and reminders and threads. He is free to enjoy the present and the beauty of a sunrise of the scent of a flower. While a grownup passes by the same scene, with hardly a notice of anything, just because his brain is busy carrying out a tremendous amount of work, manipulating and juggling so many issues from his past and future.
But look at the other side, the reason, the effect. The child on its own, without its parents or someone to look after it, wont last two days in this world. While that grown up who passed by is a highly developed and evolved entity which can take care of itself and manage almost every emergency that is thrown at it. That specifically is the price which the child has to pay for its capacity to be in the present and enjoy beauty.
And the most important point - As the brain slowly begins to get overloaded due to its 'learning', it develops an awesome ability to take care of the present without consious effort - so that the person can manage the other extra burden.
Now where does alcohol come in. What does it do to give you that freedom, to give you a sort of break; Why do drunk people behave like kids; Why do they rip through the roads like maniacs, totally blissful, unaware and unthinking of every pothole cops and accidents. Even though you have a policy of not drinking and driving, why do you suddenly feel so confident abt driving once you are drunk. Why are you least bothered abt spending money when you are drunk.
Why do you get drunk and enjoy so much sitting among friends and laughing at jokes and talking every sort of crap while you would have done the same thing the same morning among the same people with same jokes and didnt feel that to be much special.
Well its obvious. And simple. Alcohol shuts down those threads we talked about.
In other words alcohol kills your survival threads. And your brain goes from a multithreaded state to a single-threaded one.
No wonder you care two hoots abt riding rash while you are drunk - There is no thread running in your brain telling you that riding fast is dangerous, there are cops around the corner, there are potholes etc. No, your brain is now single-threaded and your whole brain is free to enjoy just one thing - that of riding the bike.
Have you ever noticed that you are a better rider when drunk. Sure your friend would have mocked you when you made that statement. But thats true in fact - up to a certian level of intoxication - just because your brain is free and the whole of it is ready to do those complex calculations of balancing a two wheeler machine through traffic and responding to every emergency. That immense but detached alertness you feel during drunken driving has a solid reason.But only upto a certian alcohol level. And the line is very thin.
To summarize, you have a highly efficient brain handling hundreds of issues at any point of time - even though you may not be aware - and so overloaded that you just wont enjoy the present. Now you take a bottle of alcohol and dump it into your stomach and the stuff creeps up and within the next 30 minutes hammers down each of those threads, converting the hyper-active survival-consious brain into a single threaded CPU which is entirely at your disposal for thinking about or enjoying whatever you want or are in.
The concept of Pain is interesting. Have you ever noticed that when drunk you are not very sensitive to pain. Ever noticed that you felt nothing when you burnt your hand while trying to light a cigarrette between those pegs. And the next day the the damn thing was so bloody painful.
The reason again is the single-threaded nature of a drunken brain. Why does normally pain feel so terrible - because and just because there is a thread running in your brain which knows that pain is a signal of physical damange to the body. So the moment a pain enters the system, this thread goes to high priority - when you suffer pain, this thread immediately starts a non-stop pinging, telling you that this is painful, stop it , stop it, stop that thing whatever it is that causes you pain.
It is the continous barrage of this pain-thread that makes you feel that pain is something horrible and something from which you have to get out as fast as possible.
And alcohol manages to shut down this thread too, more or less. If you burn your hand while drunk, all you feel is a dull sensation of something happening to your hand. There is nothing in your brain to jump up and start shouting to you to stop it as soon as possible.
And now i really wonder whether thats the only difference between pain and pleasure. that thread which goes hyperactive the moment pain starts.
The end result is, a single-threaded brain doesnt know the difference between pain and pleasure. because there is no other thread to tell the brain what is what.
You would have noticed the pleasure you get you get when you do something, totally
involved - even though for a grownup human, its difficult.
When you are 100% involved in something, then you are single-threaded; There is only pleasure. You are 100% into what you are doing and there is nothing else to disturb you and if you look at it closely, you are in fact at peace or bliss or whatever you may call it.
And why do you think Metallica said alcohol makes you numb and fall in love with life again. Because whether you realize it or not, the life as you call it is spend more or less fully in either planning for the future or worrying and learning from the past. Hardly does a human exist in the present. Irony is you need the help of a hard poison like alcohol to break into the present, and pay a price of dead brain cells, a fried liver and pair of wasted kidneys.
And finally the best example for assering that for a drunk single-threaded brain, even pain can be pleasure - look at those idiots who sit in front of a big bottle gulping down pegs and worrying abt that girlfriend who is getting married next week. What they say is we drink to forget the pain. Yet they drink everyday and just sit there thinking continously abt that screwedup girl. In fact they are purely enjoying themselves. If undrunk they just cannot cope with the reality of she getting married - because then the brain translates it to pure pain. Because the good old brain is running threads which reminds him of all the effort energy and money he wasted after her. So the feeling is pain. The moment pegs go down, the brain clears off to a single-mode and the person is free to keep on thinking about the girl and in fact enjoy and even moan and cry and weep like a moron, but enjoying even that, every second of it.
People are jerks...