Ahab had the whale. The old man had the sea. I have the garden.
I am an addict. I can't stop pulling up the weeds. I cover the bare ground with mulch. I go back into the garden and the weeds are back. No matter how many I pull, there are always more. It never ends.
A few weeks back, I spent three days in the garden pulling out the beginnings of little trees and things that look they will grow to sagebrush and all kinds of other green things. I pulled them by the roots as much as possible. I didn't stop. I was completely driven -- it was me against them.
Finally, the garden was as clean as a baby's bottom, but I ended up with what seemed like carpal tunnel syndrome. Everything hurt from the elbow down in both arms and I mean really hurt.
So I stopped weeding, figuring that the weeds would stay down for a while. But three weeks later they've returned and I have to go back in.
I need to come up with some kind of routine. I feel pangs of guilt when I'm not out there working. Like an addict, I feel the need to weed.
I'm sure that the early cavemen and farmers throughout history have had to do this. It becomes part of our genetic code, this weed-pulling thing. It's sort of like driving down the highway for days at a time and when you close your eyes at night, you can still see the broken white lines before your eyes.
Speaking of addictions, we are beset with heroin. We go through drug phases. For a while, the pharmaceutical drug fix was the addiction du jour. Then when that stuff began to dry up, much cheaper heroin began to flood the market.
Mayors and local officials are crying out for help but there is no easy fix. Law enforcement can try to keep up but even if they find someone hawking the stuff to our children, the odds are that the hawker is an addict, too.
Plus, there just aren't enough facilities to help people kick the addiction, a nearly impossible thing to do. There are some committed professionals like Jennifer Michaels at the Brien Center who really know what they are doing, but our society has to know that such programs are expensive and are going to cost.
Many of you recognize that we are failing our kids, and that is one of the main reasons why so many of them are turning to drugs and getting addicted.
When you are a kid with no job, no money, and no hope, drugs look like a good option and a way out. Sometimes the kids start by experimenting and despite claims that, "I can quit any time," that turns out to be harder than they think. Once this devil catches you, there is hell to pay.
It's the same old story. What starts out as a little "experiment" all too often ends up with the addict committing theft or worse in his or her desperation to get the next fix.
Whole families have been destroyed because of addiction and nothing will make a parent unhappier than that desperate feeling that somehow the parent is failing his or her child. For those of us who are untouched in our own families, one has no further to look than the family of man. Think about crimes that are motivated purely by drugs.
I'll tell you one thing -- before we put more boots on the ground in Iraq and spend another trillion dollars on an unwinnable war -- we had better figure out how to do a better job of educating and helping our young people and putting away the really bad people who don't give a damn about the chaos they are leaving in their wake. We need to think this through.
Alan Chartock is president of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.