Tuesday, January 27, 2004

On the Virtues of Drink

Much has been lectured about the vices, numerous as stalks of hops in Old World fields, of drinking, but little has been propounded in its defense, and what there is comes mostly from drunken guys trying to cajole pretty girls (and prettier, and prettier, ...) into having a drink along with them. But discount not the virtues of wine, of beer, of the velvet fire, for there are many! When alcohol seeps into the brain it softens the bonds that tie the mind to body, and allows the consciousness to float a little beyond its accustomed pale, to view life from a broader vantage; and as that ethanol is absorbed, it alters the specific gravity, as it were, of an individual's personality, bringing to the surface his inner character, which is normally obscured by affectations, or distorted by fears and manias. So take up your snifters of brandy, raise those steins of beer, throw back the shots, my friends---read on, and Abandon sobriety, all ye who enter here.

I am myself somewhat inebriated as I pen this paragraph, so I do hope that its account of the sensation is faithful. My overtly conscious mind, that part of my thoughts that is self-aware, that puts emotion into words---that part is floating behind my shoulder on a river of Mae Kong whiskey, watching me write, even watching me think the lower-level thoughts that are eventually fed upwards for distillation. This effect on one's consciousness is one of the primary commendable powers of drink. The psychic distance thus achieved reveals trivial worries and manias for the detritus of thought that they are, and when viewed with this clarity, they sublime into puffs of air. The feeling of otherness that alcohol manifests can also be used to allow one to introspect into the mind that normally is one's mental eye: as I sit here writing, part of my mind is disjoint from its common surroundings, and can look down upon the processes by which I formulate words and espouse my argument. And when a person looks on himself as from a distance, he acquires the aspect of a character in a play, and by writing the script for this character, one can have him be braver than one could be if wrapped in his body. With a broad vantage point and authorial separation from character, one can gain the courage to do things one knows is right, but which carry too much weight to be performed in a frighteningly sober state. The meek can most benefit from this asset of drinking, so those who would inherit the earth, take heed of your bottles, and know that drink can reveal certain stalwart philosophies otherwise elusive to all but the most devout.

Alcohol in one of its facets is like a magic mirror akin to that hanging in a cloistered tower of a medieval seer, that strips the facades from a person, reflecting back only her inner nature. With one's inhibitive consciousness floating apart from one's body, action and speech flow more directly from the subliminal rumblings that operate only covertly in a sober condition, and so one is arrayed unprotected to those who are around. This characteristic of drink is fearsome for people with secretly seething hearts, for cantankerous and belligerent individuals who daily put on a play of geniality, for sad-minded wanderers who hold back from themselves and others a caustic dissatisfaction with life---these are "bad drunks", though they often keep drinking because their moments of intoxication give release to the pressure built up by the psychological fermentation inside of them. But for the princes and princesses of spirit among us, those large-minded or rosy-souled people who are good and peaceful at heart, drinking can alleviate the weight of temporal exigencies and allow their élan to dance freely for a time---and they are all the more loved by their friends, because worries of pretense are made moot, and the nakedness, as it were, of personality bonds nice people quicker, in a way that none of them can quite articulate but which gives each a strong amiable feeling towards the others, because they have seen their unadorned characters, and found them bountiful. Drinking buddies become more than simply friends who drink together. The old aphorism of testing a man's (or woman's) mettle by watching how he drinks is rendered true, not by gauging how much liquor he can quaff into his belly, but by seeing what lies beneath when the alcohol, like the solvent that it is, washes away the cruft built up on the surface.

Do not think that drinking lacks its perils, spinning vertiginous terrors, and slow and quick deaths; but it is a mire whose murky waters can reveal the sheen of hidden gems. It can raise up philosophers and reveal human hearts, and let a person see the beauty of the world as in a dream. Drunkenness is not in its essence a depression brought about by the physiological effects of alcohol, but a state of mind, and the poets who oft used drunkenness as a metaphor for love or power or countless other mental flights, strike close to its truth. There are times when one can feel drunk (now again in the less fanciful sense) without imbibing, and times when downing a river of whiskey just makes one sick; and I advise for those who cannot physically tolerate alcohol, other than slowly building your familiarity through frequent but slight exposure, to keep your mind open to the waves of rollicking insouciance that sometimes pass through the ether, and draw a measure of hazy lightness from your inebriated comrades. Drink---but drink well---friend.

1 comment:

Yellow Blade said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.