I scrawled DRUGS on the blackboard. Asked my college comp class to consider psychedelics. An immediate crowd pleaser.

University curriculum requires an argumentative essay. Headphones in, students listened to a podcast called “Drugs and the Meaning of Life.” Then they argued.

Meanwhile, I studied the Beckley Foundation’s website. Psilocybin for depression, MDMA for PTSD, micro-dosing LSD for anxiety.

Why drugs? The same reason we read banned books. Educated conversation has been suppressed, shunned. An inevitable effect of criminalization. Psychologically, repression doesn’t make something go away. It germinates underground. In the shadows, it grows into shame.

And yes, personally, I’m fascinated. These “drugs” are plants afterall. I wrote an email to a guy named Mendel Kaelen. He’s a neuroscientist in England doing work on the therapeutic function of music in psychedelic psychotherapy.

I asked my students to summarize the podcast’s argument, identify strengths and weaknesses. Conclude with, I said, a personal reflection. Be honest, brutally honest.

Truth-talking taboo, I said, is one of the few hammers hard enough to shatter the thick cement around our anxiety arteries. Anxiety is the bi-product of feeling one way and acting another. Isn’t it?

I didn’t broach the subject willy-nilly. We’re suppressing, suppressing, suppressing. On the surface, we might think we’re not suppressing anything. Today someone asked me how I was. Satisfactory, I said. Even that was a lie.

In a nation of happy meals, satisfactory is sacrilege. Satisfactory insults my parents, youth soccer team, non denominational church, marching band, American Idol episodes, skim milk and state fair corndogs that raised me. It insults my wife. My daughter.

I contend that happiness—one’s state of mind—is a deeply personal matter. Falling short, slipping on the state of mind slope does not imply failure on the part of one’s community. Mood is a deeply personal matter. A matter of past, of genetics, of neurotransmitters.

The purpose of the assignment was to consider the question of psychedelics. From Greek. Psyche is mind. Delic is to make visible. Some say mind expansion. Either way, this is the heart and soul of a liberal arts education. To consider other worldviews. To examine one’s own life.

In my two years of marriage, it is this skill I am most lacking. I am decent at technical communication. I’m a writer. I can say what I feel. It upsets me when you raise your voice, for example. That communication is easy. It’s much harder for me to cognitively shift perspectives, and see the conflict from her high-volume family background. I get stuck in me, me, me. The purpose of the assignment is to consider one’s spouse’s perspective.

Speaking of, tonight we ate in silence. I think this writing is worth your time only insofar as I speak the truth. Not scripted sculpted photoshopped fantasy.

Dinner was just spoons clanging the bowl of butternut squash soup. I didn’t object. First I didn’t object because I was right. Then I didn’t object because I was tired. When the bowl was spooned clean, I didn’t object because we’re both wrong, but she should be the one to apologize first.

Now, I’m going to end the silence not because one should never go to bed angry. Though I believe that. And except for one night, we’ve followed that rule. I’m going to end the silence because someone must. And since I’m sitting here writing about teaching my students to consider the opposing argument, I’d be a windbag not to take my own advice.

It's not a matter of liberal arts education. Who cares about liberal arts education? It's a matter of marriage. Of relationship. Of sanity. Of survival.


The Alt Dad Diary is a chronicle of careful confession. Dealing with first-time fatherhood, millennial melancholy, and the chaotic unspoken expectations around me, this page is a beating heart at the intersection of literature, confession, and the internet. I elevate and apply direct pressure, but the wound never stops bleeding.

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