I resolved, in future, to redouble my exertions and at least endeavor to promote those two primary objects of human existence, by giving the aid of that portion of talents which nature and fortune have bestowed on me; or in future, to live for mankind, as I have heretofore lived for myself.
Captain Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809)
Was the intrepid explorer of the newly purchased Louisiana Territory a hero? Captain Lewis had served as private secretary to President Jefferson and was chosen by the person responsible for doubling the size of the U.S. in 1803 to gather as much information as possible about the new territory by leading (along with co-leader General William Clark) an exploring expedition up the Missouri River and across the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Jefferson had high praise for his ambitious friend. “Of courage undaunted; possessing firmness and perseverance of purpose which nothing but impossibilities could divert from its direction.” (1) It sounds like Lewis has at least some of the traits of a conventional hero as we think of such a person in the context of P-B.
Meriwether Lewis intuited, as our lead-in quote indicates, that we would do well to remember that the highest and most satisfying human expression is compassion and service to others, and we would expect an authentic hero to have those values as a central part of his identity. Meet Eric Adams an officer in the Laconia, New Hampshire Police department. What makes this policeman unique among law officers in the U.S.?
First, some context. “A blight in the region is especially acute. Of the 13 states with the highest death rates from drug overdoses, five are in New England. New Hampshire in particular has more per capita overdose deaths than anywhere but West Virginia. In 2012, the state had 163 such deaths, a majority of them (as elsewhere in the country) from heroin and prescription opioids. In 2015, the state had nearly 500 deaths, the most in its history. In Manchester, its largest city, the police seized more than 27,000 grams of heroin that year, up from 1,314 grams a year earlier. In certain neighborhoods, a single dose of heroin can cost less than a six pack of Budweiser. Waiting lists for treatment programs stretch as long as eight weeks.” (2)
Eric Adams’s lieutenant Christopher Adams (the two Adams’s are not related) agreed with Eric that something had to be done. Christopher noted that until recently, heroin cases were rare. “‘Now it’s every day,’ he said, ‘It’s a majority. Not just in Laconia. It’s all over.’” (2)
Do these statistics beg the question: Have the American institutions participating in the decades-old “War on Drugs” including the people running our criminal justice system, our health care experts and our psychologists come up with a plan that actually works after spending over a trillion dollars and filling up our prisons? Obviously they have not but Eric Adams has some valuable insights on how to begin creating such a plan.
In September 2014, Eric Adams became the first person in New England as far as he knew whose job title is prevention, enforcement and treatment coordinator. “If an addict agreed to Adams’s help, Adams drove him to a treatment facility, sat beside him in waiting rooms, ferried his parents or siblings to visit him there or at jail or hospital. He added the names of everyone he encountered to a spreadsheet, and he kept in touch even with those who relapsed. Were they feeling safe? Attending support meetings? Did they have a job? A place to sleep?” (2)
Two things stand out in the program that Adams runs: he expresses compassion and support for every addict he works with in innumerable ways and the addicts behavior is not automatically criminalized unless they have actually broken the law. Again, the crucial question: Is this approach to what amounts to a drug epidemic working?
“Of the 204 addicts Adams has crossed paths with, 123 of them, or 60 percent, have agreed to keep in touch with him. Adams calls them at least weekly. Ninety-two have entered clinical treatment. Eighty-four, or just over 40 percent of all those he has met, are in recovery, having kept sober for two months or longer. Zero have died.” (2)
What about those valuable insights that Adams has had? Benjamin Rachlin asked Adams if there were addicts for whom he had no sympathy. “‘I don’t think so,’ he said. ‘There are reasons they are the way they are.’” (2) Each of us, given our experience in life and our genetic inheritance, is doing the best we can. That indisputable reality leaves us with only one logical response to the behavior of each person on the planet—compassion.
Chadwick Boucher, age 27, had been an early client of Adams’s. He began drinking liquor in middle school, added a marijuana habit and shortly after high school was introduced to OxyContin, added Perocet and finally he began to use heroin when pills were scarce. Boucher has been sober now for a year after participating in Adams’s program. “‘He cares about my well-being,’ Boucher said, ‘I needed that.’” (2) We all need that!
Insight # 7: An authentic life is a life lived in the present moment. There are no good or bad people, no villains or heroes. Everyone is doing the best they can do given that most of the time they are unaware of the consequences of their choices. The content of Simple Reality supports our choice to wake up and live in the NOW which is our natural state as perfect creations of a perfect creative intelligence.
- Gabriel, Ralph Henry [ed.]. The Pageant of America Volume II. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1929, page 165.
- Rachlin, Benjamin. “You Know Why I’m Here.” The New York Times Magazine. July 16, 2017, page 24.