William D. Waltz

Everlasting Energy Pill

Even before the body of Christ given for you, the blood of Christ given for you at first communion, the notion of transformative and intoxicating properties of certain substances had been introduced to me. The culprit was an unsung animated hero, Underdog. This humble, lovable shoeshine boy, timid and obsequious by nature, transformed himself into a indomitable do-gooding dog with a special pill, stashed in the secret compartment of his class ring. My hero, a sad-eyed, long-eared mongrel, donned a cape and flew over a vertiginous cityscape to battle diabolic forces at the first howl for help. His love-interest, the spry and captivating investigative reporter, sweet Polly Purebred, swooned at the sight of the mighty Underdog. If only she knew his true identity, if only he could sustain his power…[sigh]

From Symbolist to Surrealist, from Baudelaire to Beat, from Poe to Rimbaud to Corso, writers have imbibed inebriants for their catalytic effects. The boy genius Rimbaud himself wrote "The poet makes himself a seer by a long, immense and reasoned derangement of all the senses." In search of higher states of being where imagination divines undiscovered wells of sweet thought, the seeker presses on, and as the Surrealists who gorged themselves on spiced meat before bed to entice dreams fecund with wild-eyed imaginings might attest, intoxication is not the end but a means, and thus the artist is more a saint searching for a greater truth than a junkie jonesing for a fix.

Amplified experience can produce moments of joy and euphoria. Like communion which brings believer closer to belief, invigorating being, Underdog’s pill popping heightened experience and allowed him to fulfill his potential. Not surprisingly, man has ingested plants in a multitude of concoctions to alter his consciousness, believing the altered state was a transcendent one in which human became superhuman and consequently closer to God.

As a boy I was left to wonder why Shoeshine Boy was that at all. Why wasn’t he Underdog all the time? Of course, the answer lies in the fact that Shoeshine Boy had room for only one pill in that secret compartment, and so his heroic stature was unsustainable. From the meditating yogi to the bungee cord commando who feels most alive jumping off bridges, individuals intuit an untapped reservoir within themselves and, on occasion, using a variety of methodologies, they scramble to unlock its possibilities. Unfortunately most enhancing agents serve as means of escape rather than as means of exploration. Creative and artistic endeavors are in rare company, offering unlimited opportunities for joy, euphoria and discovery.

If one doesn’t believe that more meaning, more being, more life can be squeezed out of existence, then one is left with Peggy Lee crooning Is That All There Is, the lights aflicker. The possibility of a greater capacity exists, but instead of a holiday geegaw, this ability to realize full potential should be exercised as a daily sacrament. If the artist is like a saint and imagination his prayer, then may the underdog supplant the shoeshine boy in all of us and may imagination be our everlasting energy pill.