Five old friends, an author, a doctor, and three wealthy bachelors, were dining together. They had exhausted all available topics of conversation and were feeling weary. One of them remarked that the days seemed long when one had nothing to do, while another wished for a way to spend two pleasant hours every day. The author suggested that finding a new vice would be a greater service to humanity than discovering a means of securing perpetual health and youth.
Anybody who could find a new vice and could pass it on to his fellow-creatures, even though it might shorten life by half, would do a far greater service to humanity than anyone who might discover a means of securing perpetual health and youth.
The doctor offered a solution in the form of ether, a substance that could induce pleasant dreams while awake. He explained that ether was different from other dream-inducing substances like hashish, opium, and morphine, as its effects ceased as soon as one stopped inhaling it. He described his own experience with ether, which began when he was suffering from violent neuralgia. Inhaling ether made him feel light and buoyant, and his pain vanished.
The doctor's mental powers seemed to increase tenfold while under the influence of ether, and he felt as if he had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge. His brain became a battlefield of ideas, and he saw himself as a superior being with invincible intelligence. This feeling of exhilaration lasted a long time, until he realized that his flask of ether was empty.
The four friends asked the doctor for a prescription for ether, but he refused, telling them to go and be poisoned by somebody else.
Certainly not! Go and be poisoned by somebody else!