Drinking Death Upon Yourself

Patrick had an interesting observation on the comment thread of my post on jump discontinuities in identity (whether induced by prayer or otherwise):

As for discontinuity of identity while asleep… I suffer that every night, and I suspect everyone else does too. I can’t remember the moment of falling asleep. There is a period of time between laying down in bed and actually falling asleep that I experience every night, but which I am incapable of remembering. Likewise I have dreams but only remember some of them, and only partially. I don’t think you can get more discontinuous than an amnesiac episode- anything you thought of during that time, any changes those thoughts had… kaput. I’m pretty sure that discontinuity of identity is a continual aspect of being human.

Those discontinuities are strange and at least somewhat discomfiting.  I’m less troubled by dreams, since I default towards the useful brain rest time/interesting perspective on your issues school of thought,  (Tristyn had a thought-provoking piece on dreams recently.  I have a plenty of sympathy towards her position, even if I tend to apply it more to daydreams).  But, no matter what, I am always suspicious of lost time.

As a somewhat straight-laced college student, I feel most justified in my prissery when it comes to excessive drinking — specifically drinking to deliberately induce blackout and the next-day pride plenty of people have in achieving amnesia.

To me, that behavior has always seemed like the deliberate, contemptuous annihilation of self.  Making the choice to drink to blackout seems like a choice to undergo possession, since heavy drinkers are not in control of the choices they make.  At its mildest, it seems like a decision to wipe your brain a la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but here the decision is made preemptively.

As an atheist, I fear the end of life as a total obliteration.  I have no idea why anyone and other atheists in particular would decide that the best way to spend a weekend is aping death.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00769117142960558423 Northlander

    As an atheist, I fear the end of life as a total obliteration. I have no idea why anyone and other atheists in particular would decide that the best way to spend a weekend is aping death.My own feelings are precisely the reverse. Death is the permanent obliteration of consciousness, and while I am not looking forward to it, it resembles a temporary obliteration of consciousness such as sleep. I am not certainly afraid of being to sleep.I believe that when I am dead, I will be dead. That is, I will have ceased to be, and this does not greatly disturb me. I sometimes wonder whether the difference between my feelings about death and that of many Christians is that they believe that when they are dead, they may not be dead, and their uncertainty about what that undead state might be like for them fills them with dread.My suspicion is that many Christians do not so much believe as hope. They don't believe, beyond doubt, that Christianity is true, they just hope it is. But that presents them with an emotional paradox, because Christian orthodoxy generally asserts that a requirement for salvation is faith — belief. Since hope is not belief, I think that many Christians find themselves in the emotionally paradoxical position of simultaneously hoping that Christianity is true, and hoping that it is false, because while they hope that they will go to heaven if Christianity is true, they fear that they will actually go to hell instead because they haven't met the most basic requirement for salvation.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10571485221015060134 Kerath25

    Fortunately, the basic requirement is not a steadfast, unwavering mental state of acceptance. Christians believe (there's that word again), that the key is what you choose to do. The sheer belief is not enough. One can state that they have an intellectual acceptance of Jesus, but if they do not do what he has commanded, then it is for naught.Granted, one can argue ad nauseum whether their belief in that case is true belief.Faith is a requirement, to be sure. Just as faith in and of itself is not enough, neither is doing the right thing. One must be willing to humble oneself and ask forgiveness for the things done wrong, which necessarily requires faith.The best example that I can provide is that of Mother Theresa, whose diary shows that she went through tremendous periods of questioning whether God was there. Nevertheless, she continued in what Jesus had instructed. She believed.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00769117142960558423 Northlander

    @Kerath25: I think that you are mistaken in asserting that this is what "Christians" believe. Catholics, sure, but the doctrine of justification sola fide (by faith alone) is one of the things that tends to set Protestantism apart from Catholicism.Mother Theresa is clearly a good example of someone who, for a long period of time, did NOT believe. She wrote in her diary, "I have no Faith." Taking her at her word, if "faith is a requirement, to be sure," during that period of time she failed to meet the requirement.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13116034158087704885 March Hare

    Blackouts are simply gaps in your memory, not so much an intentional obliteration of self as an (un?)intended future non-remembrance of present actions.Obviously drinking until unconsciousness is somewhat different.Isn't drinking in general the altering of the concept of self such that you are more willing to do/say/try things that the regular version of you, that you hope to return to, wouldn't?Looked at another way, you would have one drink but not ten. However, you after one would have a second, you after two would have a third etc. etc. At what point would you consider that person not to be you any more? I happen to think that you is at best a fluid term so have no issue with this progression but those with a more solid concept of self may be troubled by it.


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