2 min
at 11:43 PM

I've known a few people swallowed up by the opioid epidemic. It's bad, desperate people addicted to pain-killers that bliss them out in the here and now unable to be realistic about their futures. The addiction doesn't end well, 30,000 fatalities last year, families and communities destroyed.

I know far more people swallowed up by an even bigger addiction epidemic. They're addicted to a perfectly legal drug. I call it Myopium - myopic or short-sighted beliefs turning people into closed-minded, short-sighted fanatics, high on themselves, unable to be realistic about the future. America's Myopium addiction is reaching new heights.

We're all riding life's anxious seas, trying to keep our rowboats righted. Who wouldn't want to dock? I would. In my 20s, I got addicted to Myopium for a few years. Ever since kicking it, I've worked hard to resist the temptation.

The appetite for Myopium is as old as humanity. Heaven - the dream of having landed in some permanent winner's circle -- speaks volumes about the human quest to find and hold some moral high ground, to mount some high?horse we'll never need to dismount.

Myopium comes in many flavors, spiritual, philosophical, political, left, right. The flavor doesn't matter. It's all about the buzz which you can get no matter what flavor of belief you buy. The epidemic feeds on itself. When your neighbor is addicted to one flavor you'll be tempted to try some of his, or a different flavor that beats his. The smug white supremacist breeds other white supremacist, but also breeds smug belief in loving kindness as the cure-all.

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All addicts have the answer to everything though their answers are different. Addicts reach skyward with one hand to grab some lofty half-baked ideology that justifies reaching down with the other hand to grab whatever they want in the moment. Short-sighted, drunk on ideology, Myopium addicts feel like the movie hero, justified in vanquishing every challenger, vindicated, victorious and destined to live happily ever after.

We all want meaningful lives. It's all too easy to mistake the heady high of Myopium for meaning. The appetite for this drug lives in all of us. Some can't live without it. Some can't resist it when it's offered. And it is on offer, more today than ever in my lifetime. The addiction can't end well. The only cure is settling into the hard work of staying balanced on life's choppy seas.

With a Perspective, I'm Jeremy Sherman.

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Jeremy Sherman teaches at the California College of the Arts and writes for Psychology Today.

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