Once in our chemistry class, during a discussion on poisons and toxins, our teacher taught us an adage credited to Paracelsus, physician, alchemist and astrologer of the German Renaissance. It is the basic principle in toxicology: Sola docis facit venenum (The dose makes the poison). And it has become a reminder for me that poison is not the literal thing per se but, rather, how too much of something is actually the true and absolute poison.
Each chemical, even the most essential and necessary ones that we need in our life, can become deadly when too much of it is taken in by the body. Although the classic principle is meant to be only about chemicals, its application to every single thing that humans do, eat and feel is also definite and irrefutable.
Too much unhealthy food can lead to obesity. Too much vegetables can lead to digestive difficulties. Too much work can lead to fatigue and stress. Too much laziness can lead to a sedentary lifestyle. Too much love can kill you. Too much hate can kill others. Too much is poison.
For instance, for most students almost eight hours of schoolwork is exceedingly strenuous. Students like me find solace in doing something enjoyable after class: In my case, I find enjoyment playing computer games after school. You will find me in computer shops a few blocks from school, along with my friends. This is my temporary diversion in a rather stressful and tiring day — the same way some people consider eating or gossiping with their friends a pleasurable interlude in this fast-paced world. However, most parents get angry with their child for not coming home immediately after class and spending his or her time in computer shops or around food stores. I agree that students should not come home late at night; but they must spend at least an hour every day doing things that give them pleasure and satisfaction. Being able to do something you love is like a happy pill that separates a good day from a bad day. This pill is not actually poison if we consume it regularly in a manner that benefits us. The true poison takes effect only when we let this pill that we consume become the one that consumes our time and life.
Aside from hobbies and our wants in life, human emotions can also become poison. Regular feelings of happiness, sadness, fear and anger are necessary for a healthy mind. Imagine how tedious a roller-coaster ride would be if it goes only one way. Truly, the typical ups and downs are essential to enjoy the ride. But mental illness such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder caused by intense fear, pain, and sorrow clearly dictates how sadness, in a load too heavy for someone to bear, can be poisonous and even deadly when it leads to suicide.
This case is true not just for sadness but also for happiness. Remember the 2015 animated film “Inside Out”? This Disney Pixar film, in which one of Riley’s emotions, Joy, tries to keep Sadness out of the child’s life, is a perfect example of how too much happiness can also be destructive and poisonous. Moreover, when a man who committed a crime is interviewed on television, his most likely statement is that he was high on drugs when he did it. The euphoria experienced by those who misuse stimulants is an illustration of how too much happiness can harm not just our lives but also the lives of others.
Poisons are present not just in our personal lives but also on a larger scale, such as in society. There are moments when we cannot believe what is happening to our nation, and we just slap our foreheads, fervently lamenting the excess: “Sobra na!” In the past, some problems in society were at a controllable level, but now their sheer size poses a formidable difficulty for the public to handle. Fake news is coming out nonstop. Internet trolls are truly messing up social media. Political heat is becoming even hotter. The number of extrajudicial killings is jumping off the charts. Terrorism is becoming even more alarming. Alas, we expected too much change in our nation that we failed to realize that change would indeed come with too many deaths and too much drama, inconsistency and profanity.
So, yes, everything is poison and we are always surrounded by poison in our everyday lives. As Paracelsus said, Alle dinge sind gift, und nichts ist ohne gift (All things are poison, and nothing is without poison). It is up to us whether or not we will let this poison harm us and consume our lives. But what if you have become poisoned by our exceedingly toxic society?
Just like an antidote tailored for a specific poison, the antidote for the poison in our lives can take many forms. We need to seek balance in life, for too much can bring negative consequences. A poison related to wasting time and being unproductive can be treated by discipline. Drug use and abuse can be remedied by rehabilitation and changing one’s lifestyle. We can also guide others in finding the antidote to their own poison, or better yet, become the very antidote. By supporting mental health awareness and positive mental health, we can help detoxify even the most poisoned souls.
The poison in our nation is a different story. It is rapidly spreading in the minds of Filipinos. Fighting for our rights can help cure our corrupt nation. Becoming aware, fact-checking media data and reporting internet trolls and fake news websites can aid in stopping the dissemination of false information. All of this will help heal the nation along with the strongest antidote of all—our faith in God. It is still not the end, for a million antidotes are more than enough to counteract the tremendous poison in our country.
Fear not, my fellow Filipinos, for in the same way the poison is within us, the antidote can also be found in us.
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Maxine Francesco Gwyneth C. Baculo, 16, is a Grade 11 STEM student at De La Salle Lipa.
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