An array of quotes and clips pile up linking cannabis’s strange “time-slow” effects with performance enhancement in writing, music, film and science. Special “enhanced performance” clips with Louis Armstrong and George Carlin.
Hope y’all enjoyed this week’s show – one of my favorites. If you did, please vote it up into the top ten… if you didn’t like it feel free to slag it … give it a zero … but if you took the time to watch it, take a second more to vote on it.
Here’s a little more skinny on time slow….
—–Time Slowdown- – – – – – – – – – –
The performance-enhancing effect
By David Malmo-Levine
Unlike most of the other popular medically-active botanicals, cannabis is known for being “many medicines in one”. Tetra-hydro-cannabinol – THC – is the first of many therapeutically active substances – “cannabinoids” – that combine in subtile ways, resulting in a variety of different effects on our bodies. There are sixty-or-so cannabinoids – more than enough to account for the wide range of effects cannabis has to offer.
Much has been made of the “medical necessity” effects – the appetite stimulation, the pain-reduction, the anti-spasmodic, vaso-dialation and anti-nausia effects. Less is said about the “preventative medicine” aspects – the anti-stress, anti-depression, anti-fatigue and anti-insomnia effects. These and other effects keep people alive, ease suffering and allow healing. Evidence should continue to be assembled to convince the remaining skeptics of cannabis’s effectiveness in each of these areas.
But the category of cannabis medicine that is most-often overlooked is the “performance enhancing” category – the “inspiration” and “focus” aspects of the high. This article is an attempt to identify the particular aspect of cannabis that often helps regular users who are also philosophers and poets, actors and musicians, scientists and atheletes do familiar activities with more skill and panache – apparently demonstrating quicker reaction times.
This effect – unique to cannabis alone – has been called “time slowdown” – and people have been noticing it for quite some time.
The first mention of cannabis and it’s effects on time (that this researcher could find) was within Theophile Gautier’s 1846 short story; “The Hashishins’ Club”. In it, he notices the effects while decending a staircase;
“…new stairs appeared unceasingly before my resigned steps, while
those that I had passed resumed their place in front of me. These
proceedings took a thousand years, as I calculate it.” (1)
Soon after, Gautier’s friends fooled him into thinking that time has slowed-down to a stand-still. It seems everyone at the Club de Hashishins was familliar with the time-distortion experienced by the writer.
Another writer from the Club, Charles Baudelaire, wrote a “Poeme du Hachich”, published in 1860. In it, he notes that;
“…a new stream of ideas carries you away: it will hurl you along in it’s
living vortex for a further minute; and this minute, too, will be an
eternity, for the normal relation between time and the individual has
been completely upset by the multitude and intensity of sensations
and ideas. You seem to live several men’s lives in the space of an hour.” (2)
In 1877, French Doctor Charles Richet spoke in detail of the temporal effects and the difficulty in explaining them to the uninitiated;
“Time appears of an unmeasurable length. Between two ideas clearly
conceived, there are an infinity of others in- determined & incomplete,
of which we have a vague consciousness, but which fill you with wonder
at their number and their extent. …. With hashish the notion of time is
completely overthrown, the moments are years, and the minutes are
centuries; but I feel the insufficency of language to express this illusion,
and I believe, that one can only understand it by feeling it for himself.” (3)
These French writers – being writers – seemed to notice the whirl of ideas that occured when high on hashish. Thus the reputation of hashish as a writer’s drug would dominate it’s mistique … until musicians got a hold of it.
North Americans notice it too
French writers weren’t the only ones to notice cannabis time slow-down. American writer Fitzhugh Ludlow seemed to indicate hashish already had a reputation for time “change” in his 1857 book “The Hashish Eater”;
“Now for the first time I experienced that vast change which hashish
makes in all measurements of time. The first word of the reply occupied
a period sufficient for the action of a drama, the last left me in complete
ignorance for any point far enough back in the past to date the
commencement of the sentence.” (4)
American Doctor Victor Robinson collected the records of regular people trying hashish for the first time in his “Experiments with Hashish”. First written in 1912, these testimonies were later published in the pharmaceutical trade magazine “Ciba Symposia” in 1946. His subjects wrote about the “indubitable” sensation of the “extention of the sense of time induced by the drug”. Like others before them, his subjects also noticed the inspirational effects;
“I wonder wonder whether it is worthwhile to explore the canals of
Mars, or rock myself on the the rings of Saturn, but before I can decide,
a thousand other fancies enter my excited brain.” (5)
Canada’s own Judge Emily Murphy, author of “The Black Candle” – a 1922 book often touted as the origin of Canada’s anti-cannabis laws – also makes mention of time slowdown. She notes that “…the time-sense becomes impaired in such a way that time appears to pass slowly.” Judge Murphy tries to put a negative spin on this sensation, writing that;
“One addict says that on recovering from a debauch ‘It was like returning
home from an eternity spent in loneliness among the palaces of strangers.
Well may I say an eternity … for during the whole day I could not rid myself
of the feeling that I was separated from the proceeding one by an
immeasurable lapse of time.” (6)
“Play the music faster … faster!”
In 1937, as the film “Reefer Madness” was playing on movie screens across North America, Harry Anslinger – Commissioner of the Bureau of Narcotics – was slinging his book – “Marijuana: Assassin of Youth”. In it, Anslinger wrote;
“The musician who uses “reefers” finds that the musical beat seemingly
comes to him quite slowly, thus allowing him to interpolate any number
of notes with comparative ease. While under the influence of marijuana,
he does not realize that he is tapping the keys with a furious speed
impossible for one in a normal state of mind; marijuana has stretched
out the time of the music until a dozen notes may be crowded into the
space normally occupied by one.” (7)
During the hight of World War 2, Time magazine did a story on cannabis and music, speaking at length about it’s effects;
“Curious things happen to his perceptions of space and time. …
A lazy minute may seem like an hour. Curiously, the power of
mental concentration appears to increase rather than diminish.
Some specialized workers find that marijuana stimulates their
faculties. The association of marjuana with hot jazz is no accident.
The drug’s power to slow the sense of time gives an improviser the
illusion that he has all the time in the world in which to concieve his
next phrases. And the drug also seems to highten the hearing –
so that, for instance, strange chord formations seem easier to
analyze under marijuana.” (8)
Time went on to note that most of the jazz musicians were pot smokers, and that the “vipers” often out-lived their alcoholic brothers and sisters. (9) Compared to World War Two, the herb didn’t seem too dangerous. Neither did jazz, for that matter.
As a result, Anslinger’s guilt-by-association strategy was shelved for a few years – only to be re-unleashed when rock and roll apppeared. When Elvis started movin’ them hips, Anslinger’s long-time medical consultant – Dr. James Munsch – pulled out another horror-story of how pot helps musicians play better music;
“The chief effects as far as the jazz musicians were concerned was that
it lenghened the sense of time, therefore they could get more grace beats
into their music than they could if they simply followed the written copy…
and that’s why the jazz musicians particularly were marijuana users. That’s
why this rock and roll, they’re hotbeds of marijuana at the moment because
the musicians can get a lot more notes in a given period of time.” (10)
Notice how the prohibitionists of today have completely dropped the “it makes you play new forms of music better” argument from their overall strategy? It only took them a few decades to figure that one out.
Exploring the possibilities
Academics researching the effects of cannabis would also mention time slow-down, including ones writing the LaGuardia report (11), The Le Dain Commission (12) and the Shafer Commission (13). These academics did not make the connection between these effects and performance enhancement – leaving it to poets and astrologers to do so.
On November 13th, 1965, at around 8 pm, Beatnik poet Allen Ginsberg would give the world a name for this peculiar performance-enhancing effect of cannabis smoking – “time slow-down” – in his monumental missive “First Manifesto to End the Bringdown”. The first chunk of this essay outlines the importance of this phenomenon, and bears repeating in it’s entirety. Calling cannabis “a metaphysical herb … who’s smoke is no more disruptive than Insight…”, he wrote;
“How much to be revealed about marijuana especially in this time and
nation for the general public! for the actual experience of the smoked
herb has been completely clouded by a fog of dirty language by the
diminishing crowd of fakers who have not had the experience and
yet insist on being centers of propaganda about the experience. And the
key, the paradoxical key to this bizzare impasse of awareness is precisely
that the marijuana consciousness is one that, ever so fentily, shifts the
center of attention from habitual shallow purely verbal guidelines and
repetitive secondhand ideological interpritations of experience to more
occationally microscopically minute,
engagement with sensing phenomena during the high moments or
hours after one has smoked. … A few people don’t like the experience
and report back to the language world that it’s a drag and make
propaganda against this particular area of nonverbal awareness.
But the vast majority all over the world … adjust to the strangely
familiar sensation of Time slow-down, and explore this new
space through natural curiousity, report that it’s a useful area of
mind-conciousness to be familiar with…” (14)
One of these reporters – or “psychonauts” – was the late astronomer Carl Segan. (See CC #32 & 41) He wrote anonymously, as “Mr. X” in Lester Grinspoon’s 1971 classic “Marijuana Reconsidered”. He wrote about the “real insights” he recieved while high on cannabis, noting that;
“The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization
of a drug which helps produce the serenety and insight, sensitivity and
fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous
Segan also noted that “the actual duration of orgasm seens to lengthen greatly, but this may be the usual experience of time expantion” (16) – pointing out that the benifits of time slowdown were not simply limited to inspiration, focus and performance enhancement but included “pleasure extention” as well. Truly, the age of time travel has just begun.
A quick personal observation. The slowdown seems more pronounced when one first gets high, and are less pronounced the more one uses. If you’re a chronic pot junky, and one minute only feels like two minutes instead of two years, you might consider going on a pot diet every so often and save your smoking for when you really want time to slow down … the most special moments in life.
I am almost certain that time slowdown has something to do with gold-medal snowboarder Ross Rebagliati’s enhanced performance on the slopes. Maybe the “insight” one gains in this state of mind also helped Lennon and McCartney in writing and performing some of their songs? Or Shakespeare in writing some of his sonnets? Or Moses and Jesus in creating their commandments and sermons? Who knows for sure?
You don’t have to be sick or even stressed-out to enjoy enhanced performance – it is the one universal application of cannabis use. Perhaps explaining time slowdown to the world is the best way for “recreational” cannabis users to gain understanding, legitimacy and respect in the eyes of non-using euphoriphobes.
It seems as though the war on cannabis is reaching a climax, and the last battle is about “autonomy” – not “medical necessity”. As we help sick and dying users make their pleas of mercy, cannabis activists need to also be promoting our musicans and poets, scientists and athelites, movie stars and other heros – pointing out how their insights, focus, projects and performances may have been directly and chemically effected – in a positive way – through sensible marijuana use.
The future applications of “time slowdown” – when fully researched in a legal and legitimate atmosphere – are endless. I predict that the chemists and breeders who find the cannabinoid or combination of cannabinoids that account for the time slowdown will become very wealthy and influencial explaining this process, selling these special seeds and advancing our understanding of medicine in general – yet another good reason for this new generation of growers and scientists to combine their energy and, one and for all, “end the bringdown”.
(1) D. Solomon, “The Marijuana Papers”, Signet, 1966, pp.176-8
(2) ibid, p 190
(3) W. D. Drake Jr., “The Connoisseur’s Handbook of Marijuana”, Straight Arrow Books, 1971, p. 39
(4) The Marijuana Papers, p.195
(5) ibid, pp. 258, 261
(6) E. Murphy, “The Black Candle”, 1922, p. 335
(7) “Marijuana: Assassin of Youth” 1937, from “High Times Greatest Hits”, 1994, pp. 34-35
(8) Time, 1943, from “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” by Jack Herer, 11th edition, 1998, p. 197
(10) ********************* i found this quote on the CC homepage – it’s from the quote rotation thing – bonus points for whoever can cite the High Times magazine that it appears in! *****************************
(11) “…a feeling of prolongation of time…” Mayor LaGuardia’s Committee on Marijuana, 1944, “The Marijuana Papers”, p. 308
(12) ” … minutes may seem like hours…” Le Dain Commission, Interm Report, 1970, p. 79
(13) “… expansion of space and time …” from “Marijuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding”, R. P. Shafer, 1972, p. 68
(14) “The Marijuana Papers”, pp. 231-232
(15) “Marijuana Reconsidered”, Lester Grinspoon, 1971 (1994), p. 113 – Grinspoon’s book is full of references – see “Marijuana – effects – time distortion” in his index.
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