Clip from “On the Road with Steve Hartman,” CBS.
Recently I saw a clip From a CBS segment called “On the Road with Steve Hartman” about Secret Santa, an “anonymous businessman” millionaire who travels Pennsylvania’s thrift stores and bus depots and hands out $100 bills around Christmas time. When I saw him hand out a couple of crisp hundreds to a gentleman with very familiar dehydrated, sunken features and a greenish skin tone, I smiled. Of course, the gentleman reminded me of me six years ago, dope train’s breaks grinding to a halt and pupils dilated with the anxiety of trying to figure out where my next hit was coming from.
So Steve Hartman of CBS catches up with the addict and finds out that he has a child with his frustrated, clean girlfriend who for some reason is still with him. Apparently he had just “hocked his sons toys for drug money,” money troubles are piling up because of his addiction, and his girlfriend has demanded that he do something he has never done before, which is pray. The junkie has been in and out of countless treatment centers which have led him to the major 12 step programs, but as an avowed atheist he never considered the idea of a higher power. That night, out of desperation, he prayed. The next day, he ran into Secret Santa who gave him $200, the junkie broke down and decided to really give treatment a chance. Steve Hartman presents it in a way that seems to imply that the millionaire gave this man proof of the existence of God and that’s all he needed. I know many who would interpret this chain of events as a “miracle,” which, in my humble opinion, could be missing the point completely and definitely deserves an elaboration.
I know about miracles. Heroin is a miracle. It suddenly sweeps into the misery your reactions to life have left you with and makes everything okay. Then it wears off, you pray to it again and it doesn’t disappoint. Eventually it dawns on you that the hell without it gets worse every time, and that perhaps it isn’t a miracle. So you experiment with other miracles, old and new: Pot, Sex, Religion. I would not have stayed clean for six years if I did not realize that there are no such things as miracles. Nothing is outside of simple cause and effect. Nothing can change it. Some may say God can. I disagree. Which does not mean I do not believe in God. Perhaps it means that what I call Cause and Effect is what someone who has true faith calls God.
To me, the video is a perfect example of the indisputable existence of Cause and Effect. Not that it shouldn’t be obvious, but hey, an apple had to fall on Isaac Newton’s head so he can think of gravity…
If we throw all the mysterious, superstitious stuff out the window for a moment, we can view prayer for what it is: an openness, a surrender to life, to Cause and Effect. You forget your pride and ask because you can not stop Cause and Effect, so no matter what the words of the prayer are, you are in essence saying: “What is next in the chain?” You are not asking a Cause what the Effect is. There is never time for that, because the apple immediately falls on your head. All you can do is be open to it. That’s why Cause and Effect are one.
Trying to understand the entire intricate web of Cause and Effect is impossible, because your very analysis will complicate it and you will get tangled up. All one can do is surrender. If the junkie hadn’t surrendered to Cause and Effect he would have taken the $200 and possibly killed himself, or gotten himself close to it. If the Secret Santa millionaire hadn’t opened himself to Cause and Effect he wouldn’t have immeasurably sustained that openness in the junkie, an openness that may save his life. Armed with this openness, perhaps the junkie can see the part of Cause and Effect that has lead him to ignore it again and again, before he falls for the idea of “miracles” again…
Below is a You Tube play-list that starts with a video I made that attempts to bring you into the mind of a junkie, followed by a trailer for an excellent Bulgarian documentary on the subject. Enjoy!
P. S. These days I do what Secret Santa does, not with hundreds but with singles, occasionally, as I’m sure most people do. I will, much like him, give money to an obviously drug-addicted pan-handler.
I’ve ruffled some feathers doing this. “What if he uses that money to buy the hit that kills him,” friends will understandably say. A stranger once came up to me right after I had given a dollar to an old dope fiend “bobbing for apples,” constantly avoiding falling as he was walking and nodding simultaneously. The stranger said, “Excuse me sir, but I think you should know this man is here every day, getting high, and he will use your money for drugs.” I think I said “I know,” and didn’t explain, so the stranger walked away with an outraged expression on his face. I have explained myself to friends, however.
Money from a stranger given with eye-contact and warmth are one way I use to show someone who is no longer noticing themselves that I do notice them and accept them. Why do I need to do this? I remember when I was a desperate junkie how meeting me on my own terms was a big part of what eventually amounted to a feeling of humanity. That tinge of warmth eventually made me subconsciously understand that I wasn’t entirely my own and didn’t really have the right to remain blind, if that makes any sense. And here’s the part that may sound upsetting at first – I believe that giving someone that spark is worth the chance that my money may be used in their suicide. That suicide will happen if they want it with or without anyone’s help, but an opportunity for a direct transmission of humanity can only happen with complete acceptance from another. That’s just my opinion.
by Joyce Lavene
There is nothing sugar-coated in this novella about addiction in the fast-changing world after 9/11. Even the sculptures of wood and stone by Agop Gemdjian made me think of how people felt after 9/11 – staring at the world with blank faces, trying to figure out what had happened.
The novella is set up as a series of essays by author Briglia. They are delivered at a clear, frank, high rate of speed that could be likened to a cocaine buzz. The essays are obsessed with self and hard to define as we see the author’s friends and strangers he meets along the way from Vancouver, BC to New York. Briglia goes from describing his early time with alcohol to marijuana, coke and heroine. It seems to be the classic tale of one man’s ruin.There’s something more here. Briglia’s insights are like razors, cutting away the things no one needs anyway. His words are memorable, especially his descriptions of cocaine. It won’t be a tale I forget anytime soon.As for who should read Fires of 2011 – I’d say it should be on every high school reading list. These words and events shouldn’t be condemned, but learned from. Forget the DARE program. Let teenagers read this and decide their paths.