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Reasons why Sherlock Holmes was a stoner

2002-08-22A short and clumsy essay on Gonzo journalism

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There is something at the heart of the gonzo ideal that seems cannily to speak to each of us, though what some hear may never be to a strain of their liking. The maxim that truth is stranger than fiction and resists the capture and rationalisation of the written word is part of it, and HST fondly offers this quote from Muhammad Ali:

"My way of joking is to tell the truth. That's the funniest joke in the world."

My own interpretation aligns closely with the philosophy of life I have assembled over the last two decades: An intent to take amusement very seriously, and regard serious things without seizure by a paralytic terror which would be potentially fatal. As might be expected this encompasses a healthy contempt for taboos, a self-aware recognition of the absurdity of more or less everything and an ability to laugh, shrug and escape with one's sanity, if not rigidly intact, then in a protective state of free flux. Thompson's journalistic ethic has solidified many things in my mind I had already considered and begun to shape from my experiences and other forms of popular media, some of which I suppose could be considered echoes of the disquiet felt by those living through the death throes of the American Dream. This is mirrored in other cultures by the formation of similarly immersing societies - a state provides the means and meaning for existence, from birth to death, and woe to any individuals. Pursuits not duly sanctioned - even those which do not provoke social disorder - are regarded with extreme suspicion, criminalisation and restrictive legislation. Someone, somewhere, somehow might be affected, is the argument, so think what you're told.

This mentality was enjoying dominance thirty years ago, challenged periodically through successive decades, but leading us into the 21st century with a crushing renewal of apathy and formula ideologies. The question, as ever, lies in whether we can learn from the past or shall forever be doomed to repeat the very worst of its iniquities, this time sheathed in similar rhetoric to that shouldered aloft as progressive thinking. However, where our favourite half-Vulcan spoke of the needs of the many outweighing those of the few, there has been huge and deliberate obfuscation of the term 'needs' with 'wants' …and the 'many' are increasingly defined in hierarchy by the size of their share option.

All of the occupation we require may be found or created by the earnest endeavour of an individual possessed of a suitable mind, and whilst many may speak confidently of taking opportunities where they are plentiful, far fewer give any indication of being in plain sight of the edge in all they do. The 'edge' is that unity of adrenalin and risk, taken always in full knowledge of the possible consequence yet lacking any real fear of such an outcome. There will always be another time - another scraping in, just beneath the wire with your synapses on fire and your heart alive - or an oblivion of some other kind. To the individual possessed by that mind either is success, and eventually the two may be combined in some total, final elation.


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