Watch ‘Nuggets’ at
‘Nuggets’ is one of the most minimal yet powerful short animated works I have seen in a long time. Deceptively simple in its setup, it carries important and urgent messages, especially for our times, when substance abuse is becoming rampant in increasingly creative (or rather, destructive) forms. In less than four and a half minutes, we see the compressed life cycle of an addict, and how the ‘promise’ of momentary escape leads to the curse of being hooked indefinitely… unless one kicks the habit. It is unnerving yet enlightening at the same time, almost addictive!
The creature who walks along represents any sentient being, including us. He sees the first nugget, which represents any substance with potential for abuse, but walks by, only slightly curious. The second time he sees it, his curiosity is further piqued. He probes it, and tempted, ingests it to check it out. He then feels high for the first time ever, a state the spiritually lost should never mistaken as a taste of the liberation of enlightenment! For one, enlightenment transcends fleeting sensual pleasures, expands compassion for all and wisdom of all, is permanent, and most importantly, has no side effects!
He becomes less mindful and more reckless in renouncing reality for the next high. After his second metaphorically physical ‘high’, he has a bumpy landing, suggestive of the pain and danger when returning to harsh reality. No matter how high, it is easy come, easy go. Thus began his greed for more, his rushing for the next rush. With subsequent fixes, his landings become increasingly violent, speaking of how substance abuse becomes physical abuse. Paying attention to the highs instead, this is neglected, till he injures himself to be ever more wretched.
Physically worn, he becomes less energetic and more unhappy, which ironically spurs him for more highs for more escapades, leading to more damage. With the same dosage, each high becomes more short-lived, which makes him want even more. Such is the vicious cycle of addiction, when the very substance that harms is seen as the only source of refuge. Approaching the point of overdose, the potential harm is deadly. Becoming even more wretched, he turns greyer and his world of enslavement to his constant craving darkens with despair.
In the last scene, where total darkness almost envelops him and all, he encounters yet another nugget, the only substance that glows on, with fake promise of True Happiness. Like us, he is unsure if he will consume it. Will he give it up? Will it be his next nugget? If so, with the threat of further damage, will it be his last? Did he realise his mistake of trying the first nugget in the first place? Any intoxicating and addictive substance abuse that impairs mindfulness and health is a curiosity no one can afford at all. He ‘lived’ through this cautionary tale so that we do not have to, by illustrating the very wise rationale of the Buddhist Fifth Precept of abstinence from intoxicants!