“Baaro Qen Wetalish!”

September 12, 2008 at 11:00 am 15 comments

I’ve been a “chaat”, or “khat” as it’s being referred to these days, fan for as long as i can remember. True, my aunt, whom we pestered to give it to us (mostly for the sugar or Mirinda she took it with) used to turn funny every time she missed a chaat-chewing-session! A state she was revived from after my mom and her other sisters called God’s name over her and begged someone or other to forgive this act of defiance behind closed doors. But I’ve considered it the least harmful drug anybody can get addicted to. A conviction, I have a feeling, his Premiership agrees with. That doesn’t mean I trust it with my metabolism. Two days i’ve gone without sleep that first time i actually chewed it (had to produce a one page review of Tagel Seifu’s “Lewatan”, a copy of which i found the very eve of my presentation). Not to mention the numbing fear of getting off the taxi I felt upon arriving destionaton’s end that night. No amount of coffee or banana would break the spell for the next two days. When i finally dragged my over-exhausted and insomanic booty to sleep, I’ve sworn off chaat forever. There has been moments of weakness, no doubt. But chewing “chaat” isn’t a practice i recommend unless under the above circumstances or the kind of depression that makes a man reach for a gun. Which is why i couldn’t decide what I felt when i read Ethiopian Postal Service was planning to print stamps in it’s honor (there is no such thing as “bad publicity”, as tobacco companies would tell you) on Addis Admass’ Tuesday issue.

For the English version, go here.

Entry filed under: Latest Posts.

Silence of the sheep An Ethiopian & a believer

15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. abyssinia  |  September 12, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    This must be Meles’s idea…

  • 2. Totit  |  September 12, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    LOL at Abyssinia…So really, we have become this society that celebrate Chat….hummm…I am one of those people that condemn the act of chewing chat …well I am FARA like that what can I do…

  • 3. Mazzi  |  September 14, 2008 at 9:10 am

    I am with Totit in thinking that it is probably best not to mess with any mind altering drug/narcotic (no matter how mild). I have a very hard time dealing with my mind as is let alone in altered state, and chemical dependency of any kind to be able to function on some level or another scares me out of my wits.

    Once when I was with a group of Ethiopian friends, the topic of “Chaat” and its weird effect on the mind was being discussed and one guy was telling really funny stories of what kinds of hallucinations his friends experienced after some serious “Chaat” meqam sessions.

    My two most favorite stories were…. One guy hallucinating that the room he was sleeping in rapidly ‘collapsing’ on him where the ceiling and the floor were inching towards one another at an alarming pace while all four walls were closing in on him simultaneously!! That must have been terrifying! :-).

    Another one was a guy who was hallucinating that VERY TINY “Chaat” negade women carrying VERY large bunches of “Chaat” branches on their backs ‘crawling’ up his nostrils after taking off their shoes and neatly arranging them (the way people do at an entrance of a house) on his mustache!!! The story goes he could feel the tickling effect of the tiny women with the “Chaat” on their backs ‘walking up’ his nose. He also felt he could see the rows and rows of tiny little shoes neatly lined up on his mustache :-).

    Now, whether I agreed with “Chaat” meqam or not, I sure thought these stories were funny :-). The images of the neatly arranged shoes on the guy’s mustache and the tiny women walking up the guy’s nostrils sounded straight out of some children’s story book with fitting illustrations.

    Anyways, the Ethiopian Postal Service ‘commemorating’ “Chaat” by printing its image on stamps will actually popularize “Chaat” even further, and I think that is a terrible idea. I don’t see any good coming out of this little idea. But what do I know?!

  • 4. Xendu  |  September 15, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Mazzi and all..

    Normally, I would not have had the slightest surprise/interest at your declaration of your position on “mind altering drug/narcotics ” (i.e. NO NO NO). But for some reason, I feel compelled to air my views on this issue… And this being the internet where one is enticed/encouraged to express opinions best kept to oneself… I thought I might go ahead and participate in this phenomenon of broadcasting personal opinions :-)…. So here goes a long rant:

    Like I said, this complete rejection of “mind-altering drugs’ is a common position albeit merely a pragmatic one that has little relation to the truth… Pragmatic in the sense that many seem to fall hopelessly into an abyss of economic, social, psychological and physical disintegration once chemical addiction has taken root… So better ban it all and inundate everyone’s mind with the fearsome, if meaningless and hypocritical propaganda of how “drugs are bad”…

    If you but take a few minutes to make a list of ‘mind-altering drugs’ that are considered perfectly okay and do a brief online search, you’d find that this silliness around drugs is something entirely divorced from reality.

    My position, to avoid any confusions, is a strong interest in the therapeutic/meditational use and **potential** of (let’s change mind-altering to) perception-altering chemical compounds – both synthesized in labs and those naturally available from plants/animals.. As such, my support for the mild intoxication of mainly recreational drugs with weak potency like that found in Chat are minimal (let’s say the ROI (return on investment) of such substances isn’t as radical, as meaningful and as liberating as the one found through other ‘transporting agents’…. I’d say the most interesting ones (there can be more but most agree with this short list) are mescaline, psilocybin, LSD and MDMA. In a few, special cases I think even the common cannabis can give something of a mild indication to the desired end of meditational/therapeutic self-examination. Overuse of most ‘street names’ for these substances have rendered any calm consideration difficult (“oh Acid! oh Ecstasy! Oh Mushrooms!…” we think these words mean something..but their associated baggage/stigma just makes a serious observation difficult)… And then of course, there is the case of abuse and addictions… I think this abuse that invariably accompanies human greed have sullied and distorted any possible truth about these substances’ nature and possible benefits.

    NO words can describe just what I mean by this altered state of perception better than those of Aldous Huxley in his work – The Doors of Perception (DOWNLOAD HERE. It’s only about 24 pages..) He describes a Trip he took through mescaline – and the changes he has experienced. Furthermore he presents the argument for the great potential benefit that such a visionary journey could bestow upon millions of people. He argues for the search and synthesis of the ideal psychoactive drug… In his words:


    What is needed is a new drug which will relieve and console our suffering species without doing more harm in the long run than it does good in the short. Such a drug must be

    potent in minute doses and synthesizable. If it does not possess these qualities, its production, like that of wine, beer, spirits and tobacco will interfere with the raising of indispensable food and fibers. It must be less toxic than opium or cocaine, less likely to produce undesirable social consequences than alcohol or the barbiturates, less inimical to heart and lungs than the tars and nicotine of cigarettes. And, on the positive side, it should produce changes in consciousness more interesting, more intrinsically valuable than mere sedation or dreaminess, delusions of omnipotence or release from inhibition.


    He had also advocated this experiment on altering consciousness be initially limited to what he called the “best and brightest” (BTW, he’d come from a highly intellectual family
    and was said to be a bona fide polymath) for fear of mass abuse by uncritical people looking for a ‘buzz’… I never agreed with this viewpoint, but I must say the 60’s proved him right.

    At the base of it all, perception-altering drugs provide a path to allow the average Joe/Jane or Abebe/Abebech to see that there truly are various levels of consciousness. That this suggestion is not some abstract notion cooked up by some crazy psychologist from long ago. These mental levels can be scaled. There can be a way to move one’s self out of the rut and climb a stairway to understanding that comes from a (to use a tired phrase) a “paradigm shift”. An observable, inarguable one with deep consequences. I don’t mean this in any hazy, dreamy way but in deep alterations to unconscious thought processes which vastly improve our spiritual well-being and guide us to a very personal and purposeful way of life.

    I am convinced and it is clear to see that some of these mind-altering drugs are the keys to allow immediate glimpses into the unconscious – and most importantly offer the possibility of bringing this process to the masses. You see, the destination isn’t so much what is being argued about here so much as the route to take! You won’t find even the fervent, unreasonable opponent of any drug law amendment daring to doubt the existence of a subconscious mind. It is there. It plays a major role in our daily lives and the sum total that is our existence. In these drugs, we have an alternative to a process that will take years and decades of an extremely difficult/inefficient task of sustained effort through meditation and psychotherapy. Only he/she who is severely ignorant or absurdly terrified of the non-mundane can quickly turn away from the interesting (understatement!!!) possibility of a short path towards experiencing complete dissociation from the ego (the experience of departing from ‘you’ and all its junk) Some would say a shortcut is not the best path to follow to what could very well turn out to be an astonishing, petrifying discovery awaiting an elevated awareness (the one that has achieved the capability to peer into the subconscious life will surely find things to be ‘surprising’, to put it very mildly!). Perhaps they are right. But then the ‘natural’ means to arrive at this elevated destination is not achievable for most. Many of us are simply too burdened by our excess baggage, if you know what I mean. Most need help achieving Escape Velocity. The unfortunate abuse we see in all aspects of the human experience is the result of greed and lack of awareness and patience. Should this one dirty spot of many on the human character be reason enough to turn our backs on what could be the key to unchain the gates leading to another sphere of perception for humankind? Perhaps a launching point for a major turn in man’s evolution?! We would all do better not to sacrifice the truth in supporting false protections like the ridiculous drug bans we have now.

    Friend, even if such seemingly fanciful ideals of achieving a cleansed, clear state of consciousness for humankind doesn’t appeal to you as a person who’s automatically turned off from the topic by years of *conditioning* (Automatic and unexamined, : that’s what any conclusion amounts to that places the recklessness caused by human greed above the tantalizing possibility of a new dawn for our species) there is still more err… pragmatic uses for such drugs… One word: >Empathy<! Any degree of fusion of this character into our psyche really has ample practical uses in each of our lives.

    Let’s take the issue of failed, failing, and on-the-way marriages – millions around the world that have either ended through divorce or still rumble on grinding the souls of each member of the family in slow, painful rotations of malice, aggression and the emotional wound each tries to inflict on the other/s/. I feel so certain that a great majority (I’d guess ~80%) of these troubled households would probably find much peace and understanding and eventually LOVE (yes.) if only the warring partners had known about and tried and experienced the actual (easily verifiable) effect of some particular psychoactive drugs. I’m referring to the stupendous, miraculous relief achieved to one’s calcified, ever-present emotions of suspicion, fear, hatred, narcissism and aggression and either as a result of this cleansing or through some other additional way, the endowment of an indescribably clear and certain state of mind blessing one with emotions of empathy, respect, acceptance, curiosity, almost child-like joy and what can only be described as Impartial Love.

    Impartial in the sense that it is not partial to a particular aspect (of possessions, appearance, personality) of a person you’re romantically involved with (as it is likely to be in most cases) But it is also impartial in the way that you sustain this intensity of appreciation and affection even as your focus is peeled away from partners and placed on any and all human beings in general. This gushing emotion of appreciation will continue even in your regard and appraisal of your enemies. You see a oneness to all of LIFE. This *insight* (yes. don’t call it illusion.) makes your current and past enmities in your *normal* (most of us can translate this to mean *spiritually substandard*) life comical, futile, searing, tragic. Not unlike what war veterans say they feel when returning many decades later to what was once a fierce battleground they fought in. Victory? defeat? Winner? Loser? YeFeTary yaleh!…. None of the anguish they created in the family will make any sense anymore… Let’s just say a large part of what William Blake referred to as the Doors of Perception will be cleansed quite convincingly. And everything will appear infinite (yes.)

    And as many others have, many more partners in marriages could save themselves and their children from so much pain. Through the use of this insight that hundreds of therapy hours will most likely fail to reach. The therapeutic pursuit of heightened awareness through psychoactive drugs breaks through habits, one collection of which makes up this curious illusion of “personality” (there ‘really’ is no such thing), thereby it allows one to transform one’s self.

    Wouldn’t Abesheet’s father (based on what she’d communicated in one post here) have benefitted from such a radical re-alignment of his consciousness before it became too late? Wouldn’t my father? Wouldn’t many of the parents of people here have benefitted from such a wondrous process of radical elevation of awareness while they were raising their children? Children grown up now but still living tethered to a painful past of a childhood spent witnessing a loveless existence of despair and aggression?

    Further examples:

    Our world is filled with many millions of people who are psychologically severely impaired, poor souls who are said to be alive but every minute for them is one step further miles beyond death, in a dark endless nightmare where they battle imaginary demons and consistently get ravaged by horrors of the endless excruciating stabs of conscience from regret, despair and absolute terror. And all of this in addition to the indescribable, indefinable phantasmagoria that is extreme unadulterated madness. Mr. Huxley makes an impassioned argument in this direction with his little essay (link above).There are some encouraging signs that such psychoactive drugs could be used to discover a way to lend a hand to these fellow suffering humans to give them any measure of relief from their constant mental torture. Curtailing research on such drugs is delaying a great discovery.

    I’d mentioned above the wonders some particular banned psychoactive drugs have been found to do in terms of boosting one’s capacity for empathy. Many therapists had discovered this fact and had used MDMA (street name: ecstasy) in the treatment of couples. You can easily do a search online to find out just how encouraging the results were. Personal anecdotes and clinical trials are overwhelmingly positive on this effect on couples. Google around and see for yourself. But an all-encompassing drug ban has taken this amazing discovery off the hands of millions of people whose lives could be changed by it. It could help millions into re-discovering their connections/understanding/love with their spouses, it might help in altering their thought patterns and habits and to save their marriage and raise their children in a compassionate way… Imagine the many households and families aching for relief and living in a quiet desperation for lack of some sort of awareness-altering magical gift that could help the parents realign their stunted awareness to what actually matters?

    Let’s talk about another topic most from our society will only whisper about. Sex. I don’t wish you to think that I’m draggin down the conversation towards “bilgina” (one of my favorite words!) …so please everyone, let’s try to reach up and hit the switch on our society’s conditioned perceptions about sex for the time being and accept the fact that it is an all-important element of any romantic relationship. In many marriages (particularly in deeply conservative societies like ours), it is consistently paid too little attention and too little respect (for most, it remains a ‘dirty’ act even in marriages) and eventually this growing problem with the sexual link between the two partners bursts into a dozen little different problems cloaked as other unrelated issues… Even if the evidence is hazy on the ‘clinically defined’ aphrodisiac effects of certain psychoactive drugs, you can take oh-so-very-many people’s (again, easily verifiable) testimony that perhaps the incredible combination of increased and refined sensory reception together with a heightened state of empathy…results in one feeling intense mystical connections with their partner during sex. Many would report finding the act itself and the emotional relationship as being indescribably *meaningful* and astounding. It elevates that clichéd euphemism for err../cough/…fucking, i.e. “making Love”, into something other than the pleasure excursion (distraction) that it is generally thought to be (something that is apart from and less important than the main ‘purpose of life’)… The ideal Trip seems to transform perception of this common activity into a major part of life’s journey… Not in the evolutionary sense of assuring continuity but in a more spiritual way that is difficult to explain. Would anyone say that this added layer of meaning to the very common, very natural, but routinely misjudged activity of sex is of no real practical use in helping people?

    For the millions of couples who have been reduced to living a life where ‘making love’ is about as enjoyable, as deeply meaningful and as enlightening as brushing teeth -> here is some hope. 🙂
    HOPE, my friend, is what these psychoactive drugs offer. Truly. HOPE that a way could be found to inject some human management to the experience and bring about massive change to the mental life of human beings.

    In an experience closely approaching the ideal Trip, I’d say that the felt clarity, that intriguing Impartial Love, that strong sense of being at home…all of these envelope (or rather, embrace) one with wonder and there can only be one response. Zimita. But then things don’t get easier after you ‘come back’. Now you’ve now seen what can be. You can not accept what is. You have a big battle. You can not run away any more. You have to stand your ground and fight this time. Mainly with yourself…
    Because part of you is afraid that the world you have just glimpsed, the world that has spellbound you, the world you were dropped to as if those psychoactive drugs had unlocked some trapdoor out of this universe… that this might not be so much as a glimpse into a parallel world but to a future possibility of what this filthy, heavy bag of complaints and ailments and desires, and conflicts and insatiable hunger that is you *normal* state of consciousness can be if only you apply your will and your faculties to turn the slow steamship of your existence (burdened with countless calcified bad habits – of thoughts and deeds) quickly enough to set a course towards that vision you’ve just glimpsed. Or else, a terrifying fear strikes you that you are doomed to float towards some invisible maelstrom just ahead while you are so busily absorbed in the “daily stream” that keeps bombarding you everyday from every which way…

    Beseme’Ab yih hulu Tihuf…Eregegne…wereqet yeCHeresku meselegne… yiQirta

    Okay…Parting words: take a look below and closely read the words from Mr. Huxley… Dear cynics, you might snicker at the idealistic nonsense your mind will translate it as the first time around. But come back to it after some pondering… and after you augment your consideration with a bit of research to what he is talking about (perhaps a careful personal experiment using an appropriate ‘transporting agent”)… then you’d see the guy is talking about something worthwhile…


    “If we could sniff or swallow something that would, for five or six hours each day, abolish our solitude as individuals, atone us with our fellows in a glowing exaltation of affection and make life in all its aspects seem not only worth living, but divinely beautiful and significant, and if this heavenly, world-transfiguring drug were of such a kind that we could wake up next morning with a clear head and an undamaged constitution — then, it seems to me, all our problems (and not merely the one small problem of discovering a novel pleasure) would be wholly solved and earth would become paradise.”

    – Aldous Huxley

  • 5. abesheet  |  September 15, 2008 at 11:00 am

    *been always a fan of Aldous Huxley’s. Thinks that book, “The Brave New world” has a prophetical power. A prophesy, she hopes, will never be fulfilled*

  • 6. Xendu  |  September 15, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Me again… just came across something… “I needed to share” as they say 🙂

    I hope what I’ve put below will make sense to others…

    “The Greatest thing…”

    I think the song at the link above, can in way serve to indicate where the clear, focused Trip taken in proper set and setting can expose the subject to.

    I suspect that what is reflected through this song, and what most of us viscerally, emphatically agree with – this notion of all-powerful Love – is something that accompanies all psychedelic journeys in some measure (not always apparent) depending on the all-important elements of 1. Set – the mindset of the subject, the motivations, intentions, seriousness, preparedness, etc., and 2. Setting – the appropriateness surroundings and company of others while the Trip is attempted

    When the above requirements are properly addressed, then the subject discovers that this message of love we’ve been told about for thousands of years by many prophets and mystics is a message that lies at the core of the basic conviction which the Psychonaut (the subject exploring the realms of mental space through ‘chemical transporting agents’) immediately stumbles upon – that there is a certain oneness to everything that astronomically elevates current “Valentine’s day” or “Mothers’ day” or flag waving, patriotic emotions about/perceptions of what love is. It allows us the privilege of taking a look around us from this incredible vantage point which re-educates us on the meaning of so many values and concepts and events we’ve previously brushed aside with severely erroneous definitions and conclusions.

    Please take a listen at the link above friends. Try it with closed eyes and recreate scenes – a little movie/storyboard – in your head from the words of the song. Christians might want to consider the boy mentioned in the song as a young Jesus Christ. Whatever helps connect you with this song and its message very strongly… You are the director.

    I’m trying to show that the powerful sentiment of this song and the strong emotional cue it gives to the listener (even the incorrigible cynics are likely to find a deep appreciation for this song’s message) can be used as a way to describe a part of (certainly not all!) a very important part of the indescribable experience of disentangling from the ego and its lifetime of illusions.

  • 7. Om  |  September 16, 2008 at 3:57 am

    “Another one was a guy who was hallucinating that VERY TINY “Chaat” negade women carrying VERY large bunches of “Chaat” branches on their backs ‘crawling’ up his nostrils after taking off their shoes and neatly arranging them (the way people do at an entrance of a house) on his mustache!!! The story goes he could feel the tickling effect of the tiny women with the “Chaat” on their backs ‘walking up’ his nose. He also felt he could see the rows and rows of tiny little shoes neatly lined up on his mustache :-).”

    Hahaha…that is a really funny one.

    I knew a guy who once he chewed chaat, he automatically became a workaholic. Another one became impotent every time he chewed chaat, although most men I know who chewed chaat were going in the opposite direction, i.e. become insanely horny. I wonder if Pfizer used chaat ingredients to create Viagra. I only wonder!

  • 8. Mazzi  |  September 16, 2008 at 9:41 am

    @ Xandu.. (Comment #4)

    I must say I enjoyed reading your fabulous ‘rant’ (as you called it :-)) even if I didn’t personally agree with some of the expressed opinions, while I very much appreciated the rest. And kudos to the Internet/Abesheet’s blog for enticing you to passionately express your opinions that you might have otherwise kept to yourself :-).

    My ‘position’ on so called ‘mind-altering drugs’ (or how ever you want to refer to them…. a rose by any other name kind of thing..) is actually not a clear “NO NO NO” as you thought. I just don’t have all the facts under my belt concerning their short or long term effects, and when in doubt, I prefer to err on the side of caution. So my last comment is really not a ‘complete rejection’ of mind-altering drugs per se. I wish some of life’s issues were clear cut like that. Alas! They often are not! I am neither for nor against the ban of “drugs”…. after all, what are ‘prescription drugs’ other than legalized, be it somewhat controlled, drugs some of which just as easily can be misused and abused. The potential definitely exists for drugs of all kind (especially the recreational kind) to be abused, and for abusers to “fall hopelessly into an abyss of economic, social, psychological and physical disintegration once chemical addiction has taken root.” Obviously, banning drugs all together has not curbed drug abuse related problems (remember the ‘war on drug’ before the ‘war on terror’ replaced it? Neither of which are ‘winnable wars’ in my opinion.)

    As for the “meaningless and hypocritical propaganda of how ‘drugs are bad,’” I think it is just as dangerous to collectively say drugs are good as the truth lies somewhere in between. I am sure you agree with me on that. I consider myself a relatively well informed individual who tries to take every side into consideration before forming my own decision, and I have to say my ego was a little bruised by your implication that I may be one of many individuals who is somewhat brainwashed by the establishment into thinking all drugs are bad without subjecting such claim into any scrutiny. I truly respect your strong position/interest in the potential drugs have in altering one’s perception, and helping one experience the subconscious, which by the way I also believe plays a major role in how we conduct ourselves.
    Overuse/abuse of some street and recreational drugs and addiction to them leading to dire social consequences definitely discourages legitimate research into how such drugs can actually be used in beneficial ways. But I have to disagree with you that what leads to addiction is just human greed. It is also biological dependency on such drugs that leads people into doing just about anything to get to their next high. I am in the field of human biology/genetics, and over the years, I have taken enough courses and seminars on the subject of how drugs of all kind are processed and metabolized by the body and why some people develop a biological dependency on them, sometimes just to function! Drugs’ effect is not just psychological, but also biological. True that use of ‘mild’ drugs in moderate doses might not result in much feared addiction. But who gets to regulate that?

    The author Aldous Huxley you mentioned sounds very interesting. I am not familiar with his work unfortunately, and just for fun, maybe I will download his work “The Doors of Perception” and read the whole thing to see what he has to say on the subject. As for his description of his “ideal psychoactive drug,”

    What is needed is a new drug which will relieve and
    console our suffering species without doing more harm
    in the long run than it does good in the short. Such a drug
    must be potent in minute doses and synthesizable. If it does
    not possess these qualities, its production, like that of wine,
    beer, spirits and tobacco will interfere with the raising of
    indispensable food and fibers. It must be less toxic than
    opium or cocaine, less likely to produce undesirable social
    consequences than alcohol or the barbiturates, less inimical
    to heart and lungs than the tars and nicotine of cigarettes.
    And, on the positive side, it should produce changes in
    consciousness more interesting, more intrinsically valuable
    than mere sedation or dreaminess, delusions of omnipotence
    or release from inhibition.

    … it sounds sooooo idealistic and if ever man kind is capable of producing/synthesizing or finding such drug in nature, I say sign me up!!! Reality says, however, drug induced “visionary journey” may be potentially accompanied with dangerous short and long term (side)effects, toxicity, and undesirable social consequences.

    I too am a firm believer that that there are many layers to consciousness and sometimes tapping into ‘other’ states of consciousness might do us good once in a while. Let’s face it, the ‘consciousness’ we live with most of the time ain’t a lot of fun, especially if we are lugging round excess emotional baggage of past and present. Drugs could be a shortcut to some short lived (till the next high that is) altered state of consciousness, but I don’t think that is sustainable. I don’t have to be drug intoxicated to believe that there are indeed various levels of consciousness. As for getting a glimpse into the unconscious via drugs, is that something one remembers experiencing while under the influence or after? Just curious. Personally, deep meditation, self hypnosis, intense yoga, and sometimes past life regression (just for fun!) sometimes do the trick for me granted these paths are equivalent to taking the long route to my nirvana and place of peace compared to the short cut drug induced route. I have to admit I enjoy the scenery while taking the long route, and I respect that the thrill is not the same for everyone. I do agree with you that psychotherapy is probably not the shortest route towards tapping into the unconscious, and helping individuals with what ever ails them socially and emotionally.

    As for experiencing complete dissociation from ego, the best author from the ones I have read who described it in a way that I could relate to is Eckhat Tolle in his book “A New Earth.” He described many ways how one can achieve that (none of which drug induced), and I agreed with most of what he wrote about. I am sure there are many means to arriving to some elevated destination, and drugs are sure one sure way. For every elevated state, however, there is a low (sometimes severe ones) that follow, and such states are what I fear the most.

    “…the ‘natural’ means to arrive at this elevated destination is not achievable for most. Many of us are simply too burdened by our excess baggage, if you know what I mean. Most need help achieving Escape Velocity.”

    I whole heartedly agree with what you said above, and love the phrase ‘escape velocity’ :-). I am all for unlocking the gates leading to “another sphere of perception for humankind.” I am just not sure if drugs are the only or best way. , nor do I think such use of drugs is “a launching point for a major turn in man’s evolution.” We will have to agree to disagree on this point. I guess I do not give that much importance to drugs of any kind.

    I am not entirely sure how drugs induce empathy as you said, and even if they do, I am not sure I want to play the guessing game of whether someone is showing empathy towards me all on their own or with the ‘help’ of drugs. It is terribly unfortunate that there are gzillion failed, failing, or on their way to failing marriages around the world that cause untold mental and emotional pain on anyone involved especially children. Just not sure if prescribing ‘empathy inducing’ drugs is the answer. Once a wise doctor told me that the ‘medical’ drugs he was about to prescribe for me will only take care of the symptoms I was exhibiting, but not the root cause of WHY I developed the undesirable symptoms in the first place. So he suggested that I get to the root of the problem to prevent future symptoms from arising in the future. This advise I think applied to such troubled marriages in a sense that we should not concentrate on how to ‘induce’ empathy in one another through drugs, but find out why and how couples lost empathy for one another (if they had it in the first place of course) and work towards restoring that if it is restorable. This reasoning also applies to why love is lacking in the first place in marriages as opposed to relying on drugs to ‘induce’ the loving feeling artificially. By gosh if I need the help of drugs to love my husband and family, then I have no business getting or staying married. That is my opinion anyways.

    Negative emotions like “suspicion, fear, hatred, narcissism and aggression” that exist in some relationships or marriages sometimes have very deep roots that go way back before the onset of the relationship or marriage. And if indeed one can ‘induce’ into troubled relationships and marriages the positive feelings of “empathy, respect, acceptance, curiosity, almost child-like joy and what can only be described as Impartial Love,” what happens when the effects of drugs wear off? What are people left with? Aren’t drugs in this case being used as crutches to lean on for generating emotions we seem to not sustain on our own? Just a thought. And even this concept of “Impartial Love” that one may experience via drugs sooner or later might revert back to being based on things like possessions, appearance, personality etc as you said if it is not based on solid foundation of love, understanding, sense of belongingness and, deep feelings of connection with another individual that has been built over the course of the relationship/marriage. The feeling of experiencing “oneness to all of LIFE” is indeed a beautiful one, no matter how it is achieved. Unfortunately, drugs or no drugs, it is a feeling that is extremely illusive to many of us, or only felt on very few occasions. I think personal struggles are sometimes all about making all efforts towards experiencing such feelings, and I personally prefer to ‘get there’ sans drugs.

    If there was a magical drug that is capable of inducing “radical elevation of awareness” in a short amount of time to the likes of my father, who perhaps like that of Abesheet’s Dad, was a very troubled man who brought untold misery to the close people around him, I would have been the first to mix it with his daily coffee as I prepared it for him. But alas, he too was a wounded soul who made it a point in life to also make sure everyone else around him shared his pain by inflicting it himself. People like him have bigger and much deep rooted problems to begin with that no drug induced altered state of mind would fix. The soul was “broken” for one reason or another before the ‘wife’ and ‘children’ arrived on the scene. The trick is to do everything in our power to break the cycle of violence of all kind before we passively pass it on to the next generation by taking care of our own wounds and finding ways to genuinely heal.

    As for loveless marriages, sometimes I wonder how many couples (especially those in conservative cultures like ours) genuinely have love in their marriages. I see MOST Ethiopian marriages (especially the traditional ones in rural areas) as marriages of convenience (a man needs a wife to take care of him, provide sex for him besides the ones he may be getting outside, bear his children, and give him a sense of respectability in the eyes of his community; and the woman needs a provider for herself and any children that will follow, and respectability in the eyes of the community by being a married woman and a mother). “What’s love got to do, got to do with it? What’s love but a second hand emotion…” to quote my Tina Turner :-).

    And as for children, Abesheet put it nicely in one of her past posts about motherhood, I think, when she said people in the West think children are a gift from God, and how she thinks in poverty stricken Ethiopian Children are a curse to their parents and themselves sometimes. Very powerful statement indeed! So much for the notion that children are very valued in Ethiopian communities. Poverty, ignorance, lack of resources, limited resources, and even the culture itself has rendered many children in many family faceless, voiceless, helpless, defenseless, and complete properties of their parents to do what they want unchecked. Think of severe physical, mental, emotional, and sometimes sexual abuse; child labor, female genital mutilation, neglect, child marriages etc etc.. under disguise of ‘close knit’ family settings backed by a very secretive cultural setting. Yes I know such things do not happen in every family, and I am just concerned about the ones where such abuses are an every day reality/nightmare. So you can’t tell me such deep rooted problems can be alleviated by merely helping the ‘offending’ parents experience “elevation of awareness” via “perception altering” drugs. I think the rain started beating us far too long ago to wonder why we are terribly soaked at the moment.

    And don’t even get me started on the topic of sex and why “millions of couples have been reduced to living a life where ‘making love’ is about as enjoyable, as deeply meaningful and as enlightening as brushing teeth.” If marriages in the first place are not based on love, romance, shared history, sense of connection and belongingness, communication, empathy, mutual appreciation and advancing of each other’s dreams, it is NO wonder if people enjoy/prefer the act of brushing their teeth to that of having sex with their partners. At least having clean teeth could be very satisfying just about every time you do it! I know in ‘modern, urban, or Western’ cultures, what sex represents in and outside of marriage could be very varied, there could be just as many reasons as to why some couples fail to enjoy their sex lives, which as you said is a very important component of a relationship. However, in conservative settings and cultures, sex is about power NOT sharing. A man ‘takes’ and a woman ‘gives.’ Period! No amount of drug will fix that if we do not change our whole attitude about sex and culture in the first place. A previous West African roommate of mine told me how she considered the act of sex soooo dirty that she had special bed sheets she allocated for just having dreaded sex with her husband, and under no circumstances did she let her ‘pure and innocent’ baby (ironic I know!) take a nap on their marital bed if these sheets were being used. Her friend, also West African, once told her that when her husband kept pestering her for sex while she was busy and not in the mood, she ‘let him’ have sex with her while she finished cracking a whole bag of pumpkin seeds…snack for her children. And these are ‘educated’ consenting adults (and not child brides married off at the tender age of nine to a man they hardly know and forced to have sex with their ‘very much adult’ new husband.) Need I say more?!

    On a positive note, I am all for psychoactive drugs that might bring relief to patients with various mental illnesses. I am also all for reducing suffering of all kind, and for genuinely increasing any effort on the parts of government/private research funders on the potential positive uses of all kinds of drugs before dismissing the “drugs” topic all together and legally and morally banning all kinds of use. I am just not sure that drugs, and the various mental states they induce, are always the miracle cure as you may think. But like I said, I am more than happy to agree to disagree :-).

    Thank you for indulging me, and for patiently reading my opinions.

  • 9. Mazzi  |  September 16, 2008 at 10:04 am

    @Xendu (Comment # 6)

    Oh I can easily forget all the differences on our respective “points of view” if nothing else for the common appreciation of the beautiful song “Nature Boy” (The actual title of the song link you gave on YouTube, but I too think it should have been named “The Greatest thing.”

    Is there anything more beautiful, almost in an idealistic way, more than the notion of “all-powerful Love”? I don’t have to be on any drug induced “Trip” to appreciate such concept, and though I have given different meanings to the lyrics of the songs over the years, your suggestion of even possibly imagining the boy in the song to be young Jesus was very appealing, and absolutely beautiful.

    Mind you, I am not a believer of the bible as the “absolute word of God” (frankly that is nonesense… the bible is just another collection of books written by men years after events happened mostly from their recollection, and later on put together as a holy book (the bible) under the instruction of religious leaders of the day after deciding which books of gospel to include and omit.) Having said that, I admire Jesus the enlightened man, the preacher, the prophet, and appreciate his messages, and how he stood for universal, and unconditional love, no matter how ideal.

    The famous Jazz singer Ms. Abbey Lincoln (whom I had the pleasure of meeting and interacting in person at a Midwestern summer Jazz festival one fine summer evening) has her own rendition of the same song “Nature Boy” which I love even more. I was trying to find its video in YouTube to share the link here, but could not find it at all.

    As a ‘Kassa’ for not finding the right song by Ms. Abbey Lincoln, I am including another link to one of her famous songs entitled “Throw It Away” which I also happen to like very much. I hope who ever gets to listen to it also enjoys it as much.

    Abbey Lincoln “Throw It Away”

    Peace to all.

  • 10. abesheet  |  September 17, 2008 at 6:20 am

    Lol. Mazzi. I agree. Mothers shouldn’t be encouraged ;). Btw, I found the following article on an old issue of Fortune newspaper that i thought would support your stand on chaat. It’s entitled “In Defence of a Chat-Free Ethiopia”. Check it out when you get the time.

    Various arguments over the years have called for state intervention in the chat market. A recent articulation that appeared in a local paper lacking persuasive legal reasoning articulated a kind of circular reasoning in a bid to show how reasonable it is for the state to intervene, according to ZADIG ABRHA (LLB). While missing the mark on its justifications, he agrees with the conclusion of regulation using legal and development economics theories to support the position.

    Read More.

  • 11. Dr. Ethiopia  |  September 19, 2008 at 6:52 pm


    Abesheet, i am sorry. By the time i was ready to leave a coment, i was tired. A post within a post it turned out to be eh?

    Chat is cool. Viva La Chat.

  • 12. abesheet  |  October 16, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    On the other hand…. DC mayor proposes increasing penalties for Khat.

    What say you? 🙂

  • 13. Mr.Hargeisa  |  November 11, 2008 at 8:54 am

    I live in Somaliland and observe qat, chat or kat on a daily basis. I do not want to beat around the bush. We are dealing with a drug and nations of toxicomaniacs who have abused it. It is wasteful, unhealthfull and if we look deeper the sedantry live style associated with chewing chat may be a contributing factor to the rise in diabetes, heart disease etc. Yes, single women do earn income from selling chat, but in doing so they get into a life style that is patently unsavory; the sort of slum environment that surrounds retail chat sales is ripe for so many ills that I cannot enumerate here. You can also argue about the cash crop for some small farmers, indeed, a small plot of chat is more profitable than a similar plot of sorghum.

    I have seen what chat has done to young men in the diaspora. I had hoped that our Kenyan and Ethiopian brothers and sisters will not fall into the same life style that we Somalis have led for some time now. Sadly I am finding that we are all in the same boat. Go to the mafrishes in London or Copenhagen (illegal there, but) or the Netherlands and see the lost souls there. If I look at any five young men these days I can tell with high probability the non-chewers among them.

    Qat may indeed be just habit forming, but once abused it has the same downside as all other drugs. In Hargeisa, we work from 9-11am. By 1 Oclock men (and increasingly women) are fretting for a quick lunch and a run to their favourite mafrash. Same cycle next day.

    If I could ban it I would, but I do not propose a ban. Ethiopia and Kenya get good revenue. When the UK thought of banning it last year, the Kenyan government protested I hear. It would require a long-term strategy that includes finding alternative sources of income for people who live on it now, farmers, traders and governments. In the meantime, I will back any innovative idea to wean people from it.

    For more information, follow this link http://www.awdalnews.com/wmview.php?ArtID=1972.

  • 14. Mr.Hargeisa  |  January 5, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Me again:), I couldn’t resist this other article by Los Angeles times entitled.

    Khat — is it more coffee or cocaine?

  • 15. abesheet  |  January 5, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Thank you for giving us another awesome article to “chew on” over the holidays, Mista 😉 . (yes, abesheet considers herself pretty witty). Melkam Gena or Melkam Erefft (depending).

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The blogger tries to think outside the box, or wonder why she sometimes can't.

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