smason edit.jpg (23187 bytes)Look At It This Way
by Dr. Steve Mason

We make some of our greatest gains
When we see old things
In new ways



Although you may not know it, I occasionally have a drink or two. Not that many years ago, this very same behavior would have landed me in jail. During Prohibition, the nation went dry in what was yet another example of trying to pretend humans are not really human. The fact is, there were, and still are, many people out there who enjoy getting a snoot-full, and no amount of legislation is ever going to change that simple fact of life.

Indeed, there are those who contend that drinking is an especially important part of the American experience. Just consider all the expressions we have for tying one on, getting soused, falling off the wagon, and being three sheets to the wind. The huge number of individual words that serve as synonyms for intoxication (such as blasted, snookered, soused, inebriated, besotted, plastered, etc.), would surely convince any linguist of the significance of the concept in our culture. So how come we turn out to be such a bunch of boozers? 

The urge to experience a bit of blotto would appear to be a perfectly normal bit of behavior. Drinking has always been popular - and not just among humans. You even find it in animals. Elephants, for example, will go out of their way to get a trunk full of fermenting fruit. And what's funny, they then behave just as we do. Some will dance around in little circles, while others will get horny, and still others will fly off the handle and start stomping the natives - talk about your nasty drunk! Birds have been observed binging on ripened grapes to the point where flying becomes impossible.  Rats will increase their level of consumption in direct proportion to their level of stress. Alcohol, it would seem, is well named as aqua vita - the water of life. And it always has been.

There are even those who go so far as to suggest it may be the reason Man became civilized. No kidding. Since many of the earliest known human records refer to alcoholic production and consumption, some archaeologists wonder if it might have been the need for a reliable source of grain for home brewing that lead to the development of agriculture, and a more settled way of life. 

In our part of the world, we limit drinking to adults. This is a terrible mistake. Kids are keen to learn about all facets of life, and Mother Nature makes them especially resilient so that they can do just that - despite the fact they are bound to make a few blunders along the way. That's how they learn. Consider the following experiment: Take two children at age eight, and put the first in one of those plastic bubbles they use for kids with damaged immune systems. Expose the second to alcohol, tobacco and Howard Stern. At age 21, pop the bubble and set the two young adults side by side. Which one do you think is going to be better able to handle the world?

I have to scratch my head at parents who provide a refrigerator full of soft drinks (with at least a dozen teaspoons of sugar in each twelve-ounce serving), but go up the wall when they hear their teenager sneaked a beer. Personally, I think a wine cooler is a whole lot more healthful than a fast food shake, and doesn't promote a dependence on the fats and sweets that contribute to our nation's obesity epidemic.

Since philosophies of life tend to be autobiographical, you're entitled to hear about my early years - especially after telling you that kids should be encouraged to enjoy the occasional snort. Growing up in an English household, one was expected to learn the proper way, and to learn it at home. This included drinking. My sister, who was older and resentful because Mother liked me better, engineered my first bender. She whipped up a bunch of Blackberry Brandy concoctions that I downed at age eight. I remember being so sick that I skipped age nine and went right to ten. Years later, I was passed a flask on a ski slope, and when I realized it was Blackberry Brandy, had to pass it back. 

But the great benefit of learning as a kid is that you don't then have to act like a kid as an adult. The college rite of passage that involved having a drink for each of your years when you got to be the legal drinking age is something I never did. Despite all my pals' prompting on my 21st birthday, I said "Are you crazy!?" 

I later spent some time in North Carolina (don't tell anybody), which was one of those states that really put the brakes on booze. They had just gone to legalized drink by the glass in a public place, and the result was adults who had no idea how to handle liquor. Grown men would belly up to the bar and order an Alexander. They would then proceed to order another eight or ten (they tasted a lot like a fast food shake), and fall down.

They also had something called a Headrest. The patron would turn around, rest his head on the bar and have the sickeningly sweet drink of choice poured directly into his open mouth. Never one to refuse a toot, I nevertheless made it a point to always pass on this bit of nonsense. You see, I knew the proper way to imbibe. I learned at an early age, and I learned at home. 

Look At It This Way

Human beings have an inborn need to seek altered states of consciousness.These states can result from the adrenaline rush of sport parachuting, the religious ecstasy of the Shakers and Quakers, the alpha rhythms of meditation, the PEA secretions of falling in love, the endorphin high of a ten mile run, the hallucinogenic visions of a shaman's peyote, the nine cups of coffee during an AA meeting, the serotonin reuptake inhibition of an antidepressant, and the explosion of hormones during orgasm. Alcohol consumption is but one of many such means to an end. No more or less dangerous, immoral, unhealthy, or habit forming when used as directed - by Mother Nature. And don't let anyone tell you different!

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