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
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!