Meditation and Future Pharmaceuticals: A Short Science Fiction
Dartinol Report for History 102
By Jasper Greenwalt
December 7, 2083
Meditation used to be different before Dartinol. It was a struggle to keep your mind on your breath, and most people simply didn’t have the will power. Whereas now it takes a few days to reach The State, it used to take decades. In the old days, The State was rarely reached at all.
Of course, all sorts of jerry-rigging had to be put in play to motivate people to practice meditation long enough to reach The State. The old meditators had to really hype The State to interest people. Dogma accumulated around what The State was like and how flat life was without it. End all suffering, golden light, perfect knowing, eternal contentment–very unrealistic promises. Naturally, or else who would waste their time trying?
The idea of using a drug to reach The State was not new with Dartinol, but all the drugs people used, whether found in nature or in medicine cabinets had side effects. They helped you see that there was a State to reach, but got you so drunk and disoriented in the process that you couldn’t really tell what you were seeing.
Dartinol was developed by a turn of the century pharmaceutical company very much by accident. The researchers had been looking for drugs to help with asthma. The patent on Dartinol ran out a long time ago, so now many companies produce it.
Dartinol doesn’t get you drunk and disoriented at all. That’s why it works so well to bring on The State. It’s only effect is on autonomous nervous system function. On Dartinol, breathing simply doesn’t happen without conscious effort. No attention on the breath; no breath. It’s as easy as that. In the old days meditators used to hire a guy to whack them with a stick when their mind wandered. Now Dartinol does the whacking for you. When your mind wanders, you simply stop breathing, and that always gets your attention.
Getting the dose right is important, or else you won’t be able to get any sleep. You can’t sleep when you are on it, because without wakeful, mindful attention on the breath, you can’t breath. So the first users, when they got the dose wrong would be up all night, and fall back exhausted when it finally wore off and breathing returned to normal. Now that doses are prescribed, it’s not dangerous, though it scares most people at first, no matter how well prepared they are for it. It is a very weird sensation having to be conscious of your breath. It leaves little room for other thoughts.
Of course when it was first developed, no one knew what to do with it. Someone from the company’s marketing department decided to try using it to treat panic attacks. A harsh measure, but it sure helped the patients focus. At first it makes the victims panic more, but after a while it makes them calmer. Someone thought of it for prisons, but the ethical questions it raised were huge. Now it’s an option in prisons and a large percentage of the prison population opts for it. If they reach The State it counts toward time off for good behavior.
It became a course offering here at Healy High only about 50 years ago. A social science teacher trained in anthropology started offering it as what he called “rites of passage.” They’ve thought of making it a pre-requisite for graduating but have never gotten that approved. Besides most kids just do it because it’s cool. A teen-ager gets The State in about three days. It used to take longer. But now that so much of society has reached The State, it has become much easier to reach it.