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This Is Your Mind on Plants de Michael…

This Is Your Mind on Plants (edição: 2021)

de Michael Pollan (Autor)

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1975109,526 (3.74)5
Título:This Is Your Mind on Plants
Autores:Michael Pollan (Autor)
Informação:Penguin Press (2021), Edition: First Edition, 288 pages
Coleções:Sua biblioteca

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This Is Your Mind on Plants de Michael Pollan


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When I was reading The Fate of Food a while back the author referenced Michael Pollan quite a few times and I realized to my chagrin that even though I'd read quite a few environmental sciences books I'd never come across his name before. (No idea how based on all of the lauds he's received.) This is his newest book and in it he focuses on 3 different plants and the illicit substances they create: poppies, caffeine, and mescaline. He talks about the processes for growing the plants as well as his experiences ingesting these mind and mood altering substances (in the case of caffeine he actually went cold turkey).

I found the concept interesting and I thought the way he organized the book made a lot of sense. He's obviously very knowledgeable about this subject and it definitely shows. BUT this is not one of those examples of a non-fiction book that reads like a novel. It's actually a bit dry and academic which is odd considering its subject matter. So this is just a middle-of-the-road book for me. It was well-researched with an interesting premise but the execution left me somewhat wanting. *shrugs* ( )
  AliceaP | Sep 25, 2021 |
Humans have used natural plants to alter mood for thousands of years and here Pollan explores three. Opium, illegal and powerful yet opiates are the greatest drug problem of our time. Caffeine, the daily drug of choice for many. Mescaline, associated with mind-altering.
I found the book somewhat patchy and very nearly gave up during the section on opium. This just came across as a repetitive and overly wordy exploration of legalities. the section on caffeine, by contrast, was great - interesting and relevant with a good balance of personal and social/historical. Finally mescaline was a little self-indulgent but had interesting sections of Native American culture which just about saved it. the book is essentially three very long essays! ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Sep 24, 2021 |
I find Pollan an excellent writer, and just love reading his books.

I had noticed his Audible special on caffeine (but boycott Audible these days), so I was excited to hear that he turned this material into a full-fledged book.

Out of all Pollan's books, this one feels the most thrown together. He frames the book with an introduction explaining the three main sections: uppers, downers, and outers. But this is pretty much the extent of the structure; it really feels like three independent pieces without any interstitial connections turning it from collected essays into a unified narrative. And I guess it really is a collection; the first section was mostly written in the '90s, the second section a couple years ago, and then the third section during the pandemic (which was the least well-researched and most thrown together).

Despite Pollan failing to meet the bar he has set for his work in the past, this book is still a fascinating and entertaining read.

The book begins with a spooky inquiry into the drug laws surrounding poppies. This section of the book establishes a tone around an inquiry into civil liberties. There's an amazing quote from the architect of the War on Drugs, from a 1994 interview with John Erlichman:

"The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

In other words, the War on Drugs was nothing but dirty politics, and certainly isn't about keeping people healthy or safe.

Did you know that coffee was the drink of England for a couple hundred years until the introduction of tea? Or that 90% of humans use caffeine, making it the most widely used drug? Or that it takes twelve hours for 25% of the caffeine in your system to be metabolized (meaning that, even if you just drink one cup of coffee each morning, you're an addict, and caffeine is degrading your sleep)? In the East, caffeine was used to enhance people's ability to meditate; in the West, it was used to enhance work.

Pollan's segment on mescaline was heavily crimped by the pandemic. Pollan plays a bit Jekyll/Hyde role here. On the one hand, he doesn't consume peyote out of respect for the Native Americans that have asked him not to. On the other hand, he implicitly has significantly boosted its profile by featuring it so prominently in one of his book.

Another interesting aspect of the section on mescaline is that it follows a legal strategy that assumes the Drug Enforcement Agency won't press charges against Pollan, even though he flouts the law in this segment. This is counter to his (more conservative) strategy in the 1990s, where he refrained from publishing incriminating aspects of his article.

I'm still waiting for someone to write a book like this on cacao. ( )
  willszal | Jul 28, 2021 |
nonfiction - opium from normal poppies (illegal), caffeine, mescaline (psychedelic drugs - also not exactly legal); author tests his own reactions to the substances, in the case of caffeine, first abstaining from coffee for 3 months before "treating" himself to a double-espresso.

This was just ok. You get the feeling that MP needs the money so keeps writing, regardless of whether it is worth writing/reading. But if you are curious about various things (as he is), this can be a welcome diversion.
The Mescaline section made me uncomfortable because of his frequent, casual use of the word "tepee" as a general term for an indigenous ceremonial structure--it's my (limited) understanding that not all, or even very many, Indian Nations utilized tepees, thus the generic use of the term can be deemed offensive. And there is also the not insignificant potential for the cultural appropriation and profiting off of the knowledge of Native/Indigenous people (a thought which crosses Pollan's mind, but which doesn't seem to bother him overmuch--though you could argue that he was just doing his due diligence as a professional journalist to try to get the answers from various Native representatives anyway). I wouldn't say that this uncomfortableness made the book less worth reading (because there can be benefits from being made to face our discomforts if it increases awareness), but it didn't help the book that much either. ( )
  reader1009 | Jul 22, 2021 |
Michael Pollan builds his sentences so gracefully and structures his essays so deftly as to make reading them a pleasure in itself. In three chapters -- on opium, caffeine, and mescaline -- he focuses on his own experiences with these substances while also providing historical and cultural context along with some of the current scientific research. As in his previous book, "How to Change Your Mind", Pollan vigorously criticises American public policy around psychoactive plants. ( )
  librorumamans | Jul 19, 2021 |
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Of all the many things humans rely on plants for -- sustenance, beauty, medicine, fragrance, flavor, fiber -- surely the most curious is our use of them to change consciousness: to stimulate or calm, to fiddle with or completely alter, the qualities of our mental experience.
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Nothing about drugs is straightforward. But it's not quite true that our plant taboos are entirely arbitrary... societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society's rule and ban the ones that seem to undemine it. (p. 3)
Evidently, normal everyday consciousness is not enough for us humans; we seek to vary, intensify, and sometimes transcend it, and we have identified a whole collections of molecules in nature that allow us to do that. (p. 4)
But what is true of the opium poppy is true for all the medicines that plants have given us: they are both allies and poisons at once, which means it's up to us to devise a healthy relationship with them. (p.20)
What ha never occured to me when I began this experiement is that, by giving up caffeine I would be undermining my ability to tell the story of caffeine, a knot I wasn't at all sure how to untie. (p. 93)
Coffeehouses became uniquely democratic public spaces, in England they were the only such spaces where men of different classes could mix. (p. 106)
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