2012-03-22

Whitney Houston

I could really indulge myself here in what has become one of my favorite topics to explore: The slow, self-induced, actual-and-symbolic suicide of drug use.

The sad thing about Whitney Houston, though, is that it's all been said. For the majority of my lifetime, Whitney has been on a quest to do herself in. Reports now indicate that Houston's cause of death was some sort of combination of accidental drowning and cocaine use. We can all imagine how that must have occurred; there are really two possibilities. One is a self-induced heart attack that sent her under water, and the alternative is that she was so out-of-it that when her head slipped under, she didn't have the means to come back up for air.

It's been said that cocaine is a glamorous drug. Well, there you have it.

Life is a precious gift that many of us waste on symbolic suicide, sad thoughts, wistful dreaming, or a wanton disregard for anything other than the next few hours. I call this line of thought an excessively short cognitive time horizon. That is, the scope of one's decisions never elongates to the point where the full issue comes into cognitive focus. The hopeless despair of depression is in some ways an unfortunate inability to see far enough behind oneself to understand that pessimism could have brought us here, and will be the cause of our next bout of sorrow. The mindless self-indulgence of live-for-today partying is a failure to capture the much greater future gains of a more sentient lifestyle. And so on...

The good news is that things can be turned around just as easily. Even a major panic attack has a light at the end of the tunnel if you can gain enough focus on the fact that it is a physical sensation with an eventual end. Elongating your cognitive time-horizon is precisely how we rise above many of our problems, sorrows, and shortcomings and forge a brighter future.

To accomplish this, we often have to sit alone for a while and really contemplate the things that got us where we are (good and bad) and the things that will get us to the next junction on the interstate. The more foresight, the more hindsight, the better you understand your situation. That makes you better off.

It's a shame that promising, talented people can fall into the little traps that easily ensnare we of more modest backgrounds. On the other hand, if we can rise above, perhaps that means we have more promise and talent than we were giving ourselves credit for having.