the subjective experience of smoking a single fat joint


The longing to create makes the artist fecund. The longing to be of service makes the artist profound. The longing to create profundity makes the artist sterile.

Alex Stein

fuck profundity.

here’s a graph of getting high.

this represents the subjective experience of smoking a single fat joint, for science.

the x axis represents time since launch, t [in aeons]
the y axis represents height above ground level, h [in oh shits]

the solid line is the flight path of the experimental subject.
the dashed is the good-time line.

the intersections of the flight path and the good-time line represent peak enjoyment.

here’s the same data on the enjoyment – time plane

my research has revealed that there’s often two peaks to the high – one on the way up, and one on the way down.

way down.

subjectively, this manifests as high, then too-high.
too-high is recognised only in hindsight, upon arrival at the second peak.

sometimes there is a single peak point at the actual apex of the flight path, and these highs can be wonderful too, in their own way. they look like this

now, clearly this represents a massive over-simplification of a single, specific example.

but i believe there is potential to generalise this model.
i just need to do more tests.

for example, it would be interesting to know:

what determines the shape of the flight path?
what determines the position of the good-time line?
what are the variables?

what, according to science, is the perfect way to get stoned?

i made 
getting high
into an artform 
i dont even
need to write 
this down
to be a writer
i just

(but i write it down anyway)

it’s three years ago. my future is furniture. before me, an upsidedown cardboard box with a vaguely pubic stripe of black duck-tape across the top (which is actually the bottom) and a third of a way down (up) the sides. on the box sits a small, straight-sided glass of grey-black volcanic sand with a sandalwood incense stick poked into it, lit. the source of the sand is the exact meeting point of the north american and eurasian tectonic plates. 

leaving point, technically. in a week i’ll be gone. 

high, here, for possibly the last time. must be hundreds of times, by now, sat on this same sofa. no coffee table now though. no street-scavenged octo-ocular chest of drawers, watching me write.

same speaker still with its green eye glowing. the two silver trebles sat on a black square plinth. mp3 curled up by their curved perspex feet, long tail trailing down the side of the basalt slab bass. 

same weed. same pipe. new lighter though. long gone those days when my uptake of found lighters outstripped the outgoing. for years now, i’ve been buying them, like a crack addict. 

smoking weed to chill. i can sure use a fucking break. weed when you’re this fucking keyed is a bit different. not bad, exactly. in some ways, better. because i’m feeling the high, and the low, at the same time. instead of going up and up like a balloon, and worrying about how the fuck i’m gona get down, i’m riding a high-frequency sine wave. vibrating between here and not here. 

not this, surely.

and yet i’ve had multiple experiences of these sorts of liminal highs, where something big is going on in the background. in this case i was days away from moving out of my apartment, leaving london for the very last time. i recall another good one about a week before my phd viva. 

vibrating, fluctuating, buzzing, but bounded by the big, big thing about to happen. 

graphically, this sort of high might look something like this

clearly, more research is required. 

here’s another pseudo-scientific thought.

what if the good-time line isn’t actually a line, but a region bounded by two lines?
they don’t even have to be lines, they could be curves, they could be any shape.

what if the good-time line is actually a good-time zone?

it might look something like this

notice how there’s a shorter peak on the way up, then a longer peak on the way down.

when the subject comes up fast it can be even more noticeable, in which case, it might look more like this

shown here also with what might be a more realistic flight path.

interestingly, my research indicates that this second peak period, on the so-called comedown, is the most conducive to entering into the flow state, which can be particularly creatively fructiferous. in other words, the perfect time to write. 

open research questions:

can the model be generalised to other experiences?
other drugs?
other mind-altering states?


now it’s yesterday, a year ago, and i’m thinking this: this, right now, is one of my happy moments. not just a moment, a time. i don’t mean this week being back here. i’d much rather be on the road, without things-to-do that i should be doing. i’d much rather be in some new and interesting place, on a new and interesting adventure. but for an hour each evening, from the moment I lock the door and set off across the field, holding my board across my arms, my hands at prayer, my joint and my lighter, sparking brightly in the fading light, i’m happy. i’m exactly where i need to be. 

that’s a peak experience for me. the best kind, perhaps, because it comes from within. it feels sustainable. it doesn’t require huge quantities of psychedelics. it doesn’t even require that i’ve had a particularly good day, up to this point. 

it might be useful at this point to clarify what i’m talking about when i talk about peak experience.

i’m not talking, here, about ecstatic experience. rapturous orgasmic bliss. screaming sensual pleasure. i’m not talking about heroic-dose acid mind-melting meeting-with-god, although i wouldn’t deny any definition of that as peak experience except for the fact that slapping a sticker that says ‘this is it’ onto something so obviously ‘it’ seems sort of pointless. also, i’m not talking about maslow’s self-actualising individual. well, actually i am. but i see it a little bit differently. 

it’s something close to the philosophical concept of ataraxia. serene calmness, tranquillity, peace of mind.  

i’m talking here about those occasional existence-affirming moments when something comes along that makes me remember that not everything sucks. 

that life isn’t so fucking serious
that it’s all a big joke
and i’m in on it

peak experience, for me, is simply the feeling, the momentary knowledge, that I’m exactly where I need to be. 

what I’m doing, now
where I am, now
this, here
that’s it. 

at a gig in a west-end basement in glasgow, the lead singer of the band i like (actually the only singer, and the only bandmember) says something about the unhealthiness of continually chasing peak experiences. their advice is not to.

but is it good advice?
is chasing peak experience unhealthy?

yes, no, sort of.

chasing peak experience is futile

peak experience is not a peak
it can’t be reached
and it certainly can’t be reached by chasing

it’s like trying to catch your shadow

if peak experience is the state of understanding that i’m exactly where I need to be, i’ll never get there by chasing.

if peak experience is a point, a pinnacle, a ridge i have to climb to, then it won’t really be one, because i’ll be worried about having to come back down later. peak experience has to be the realisation that I’m already there; that I’m always already there, that I’m always just a breath away, a look up from seeing the truth, breathing it all in, breathing it all back out again. 

life is simple on a skateboard. 


why draw graphs? i spent four years drawing graphs as an actual professional scientist. this ain’t my first rodeo. old habits die hard. also, fuck words. 

why smoke weed (for science)? someone’s got to do it. 

am i qualified to give this advice? absolutely not.

am i going to dispense it anyway? absolutely.

warning: do not stop taking this medicine unless your doctor tells you to stop