Television, Psychosis, and Crack Cocaine

by languageformulatingbrain

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I struggled much of my life with both the desire and fear of letting the imagination wander and believe in something that went a little beyond "reality". It was interesting to imagine oneself into a paranoid mess, as long as one could extricate oneself. In recent years this has become a lot less fun, more sinister, and for mere survival and to avoid drinking poison it seems more necessary to hold on to some cold, blunt, hard notion of reality. But if realism were to completely dominate our lives, we could die either of despair or boredom.

Let me imagine for a moment that in the 1980s, the forces of delusion and psychosis gave an almost (or, perhaps, exactly) magical quality to television. The 1980s was before the decentralization of media that occurred on the Internet, and so communing with the television was almost a diabolical form of mysticism. Television bound us together; it provided commonality among people that was not under the control of the people themselves, it suggested things that were true and things that were untrue, with a strict delineation between the two. News: Real. Sports: Real. Sitcoms: Fiction. Movies: Fiction, unless based on something real. Cartoons: Fiction.

Most bought into this state of affairs; few would believe that a cartoon was in any way real, or that there was anything mystical about what appeared in a cartoon, but someone in a state of psychosis from smoking crack cocaine for long periods of time might. A generation grew up learning what was real from those who owned the television networks, but taking stimulants for a prolonged period of time has a way of getting one's wires crossed, and so television could be easily cajoled by drugs to seem to take on the quality of a collective hallucination.

For the most part, television didn't seem to play with reality very seriously, and that was partially its point. Its sharp delineation between reality and fiction was like the delineation between matter and spirit, but for television, if something depicted what was obviously cold hard matter that had a simple, logical context, it was real, and if it was in any way creative or used the imagination, it was false. Television was in some way where the imagination completely ceased to be real except in the minds of those deemed insane. But did insanity have its own influence on what existed in the world, for those who could convincingly lie to themselves?

If one said "No" to reality, to the delineation between the real and the imaginary, one could fall into the cracks in the armor of reality. Sure, they were mere cracks, but within one's own mind a small crack could open into a wide fissure, and reality could take on a dream-like quality which had television as merely one aspect of a waking illusion. Did the stimulant-addled delusional people watch television shows that didn't exist, just in their own mind, or did they make connections that did exist on some level, even if they violated laws of logic or causality?

If one used one's over-grown ego to reject the overarching narrative, to place one's desires above what seemed right and real, to see what one desired to see instead of what others desired one to see, there are three things that could happen: nothing at all, liberation from the thralldom of those who controlled television, or a paradoxical and more complete slavery to whatever was desired to be said by those who owned the networks.

Did those who took crack cocaine and went into psychosis see what they wanted to see on TV, or a more total version of what those in charge of the networks wanted them to see? Later, in the 1990s, Marilyn Manson would say that "God is in the TV" (and also, if I understand, was brought onto stage affixed to a cross made of televisions). Psychosis represented either a very strong point or a very weak point in the narrative of control. It was impossible to completely control what the insane believed, but was there some kind of metaphysical communion between the interpretation of fiction that the insane deemed real, and the purveyors of said material? One could spend several days high on crack to find out, but this may be inadvisable.

Television was like a god: omnipresent and with inescapable influence. If something wasn't deemed realistic by TV, one was considered delusional by most people, it seemed as simple as that. Except for the fact that artists habitually reject what others deem to be real in favor of what they themselves desire to be real. And so, if one were an artist, and one were in a sleep-deprived psychosis and high on crack, did one overcome or become victimized further by the television?

One could read hidden meanings into politicians' speeches, find cartoons that commented on one's life in an allegorical fashion, detective shows that threatened one for transgressing the law: the self-importance felt by the intoxicated fed into the diabolical exchange between creator and viewer, adding a dimension where it was as if the viewer influenced the creator with their own delusions. TV, seemingly, was a smorgasbord of fear and so it bears asking: were we all united in our own fears, those high on crack cocaine not excluded?

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