SMOKING AND DRINKING
A TRUE CONFESSION
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
Crack open a beer and light up!
Go ahead, crack open a cold beer and light up a smoke. As long as you don’t leer in my face or blow smoke in it, I shall be at least indifferent to your escape from reality; at most, I can appreciate from my own personal experience how much fun a slow suicide can be.
No, I have no intention of preaching to you about my former bad habits. In fact, if I were offered a smoke and a drink before facing the firing squad, I would decline the smoke and ask for a six-pack. Those who say nicotine addiction is as bad as heroin addiction are probably right, but I do not have the slightest inclination to take a drag or two no matter how bad things get. However, ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ is my favorite movie, and, after all these years of abstinence, my favorite reading is happy-hour signs.
I started smoking and drinking to be a Big Man. Both drugs made me sick at first: being a Big Man has its price; a price I would not pay for heroin, incidentally, because I got deathly ill and refused to try it again even though the pusher said the second time sends one to heaven. A feeling of power is what I craved and received from drugs. And alcohol really did the trick for me; it dissolved my inhibitions. Defying authority, I became an almighty authority, so I certainly understand why so many authors love to drink. I was almost omnipotent: I survived automobile accidents and crashed relationships; I was beaten up, kicked down a flight of stairs, left unconscious in a snow drift, and so on. The list of my exploits is too long for this occasion; in brief, I was a living accident.
Yes, Power! That is the ticket to everything. It is no wonder religion has tried to put a handle on drinking lest it get out of hand. Religion is the worship of power, preferably the Highest Power, the Holy Spirit; not to be confused with the Fire Water discovered by the ancient cooks while the warriors were out fighting those outlaws who refused to observe the sacred campfire rituals. Nevertheless, it is amazing what fermentation can do, how it puts one in touch with the spirit world. Hence it is no wonder that the drunken cooks kept their secret well and became the fire priests who were, at first, the only ones allowed to drink the sacred intoxicating beverage. But the secret got out soon enough: when priests saw how wasted everyone was getting around the sacred Fire, they swore off and dried out. And to save face, to this very day many of their descendants swear on stacks of sacred scriptures that the famous soma was not really an intoxicating beverage. Uh-huh.
The Greeks had their power-drinking problem too, which Alexander the Great allegedly proved when he drank himself to death—some say his mother had him poisoned. The power-center of the Greek world was Apollo’s temple at Delphi in Phocis. Mead was the god’s beverage of choice until the more popular Dionysus moved in with wine. Much has been said about the priestess called the Pythia getting stoned on non-alcoholic substances such as gas, spring water, and bay leaves before hysterically shrieking out an oracular utterance to be rationally interpreted by the male priests. Pythias were nuns of a Cretan religious order. We might wonder just how intoxicated they really became on the substance, especially the water and bay leaves. Recent archeological studies indicate there may very well have been a noxious gas coming from the fissure in the rock over which the pythia allegedly perched on her tripod. Whether hysterical women are intoxicated or not, we have them to blame for our predicaments and distractions, for every person is born of woman; even so, better the gas than the wine, for we know women run wild on wine.
As I mentioned, I gave up the spirits; or rather, they gave me up. Since my life revolved around the anticipation of having a few beers in the evening, my practice of abstinence (practice does make perfect) eventually extended to nearly all activities. Devoid of spirits, I have come to Nothing, to the practice or worship of Nothing by means of virtual suicide. If I had religion I would be an ascetic living in a cave in the Himalayas; a sole disciple would bring me a bowl of rice which I would eat one grain at a time; in exchange, I would say something profound about the difference between a snake and a rope.
Drugs such as alcohol certainly do cloud our minds with delusion concerning the ultimate Power. A passionate Christian I know is drinking an ocean of beer. That is fine with me; seeing him inebriated rids me of my lingering fantasies about power-drinking. The subject of blasphemy came up the other day while he was sober—he never drinks on the job. I had remarked that blasphemy was, technically speaking, the use of God’s power against God; for instance, using the Word against the Cause of the Word. He replied that the worst blasphemy was misusing the things of God, and he pulled out his dog-eared, heavily underlined Bible to prove it. While he was thumbing through it, I remarked, “If that is true, then the body is God’s thing, and to misuse it with drugs is blasphemy.”
I am not a Christian or a godly person, but I had to say something because he has, metaphorically speaking, a heart of gold well worth saving although he is literally smoking and drinking himself to death. I realize many Christians who do not believe in the resurrection of their present body do not live for this world, but for the next, and thus consider the body of small consequence except for its corruption. Many Christians, nevertheless, wanted to save their bodies from the pogroms against Muslims, and did so by affirming, when accosted, “I am a Christian. I smoke, drink and curse.” No doubt Islamist terrorists would say the same thing to avoid detections when questioned at borders.
The one thing my acquaintance does not do is curse. Of course, he proceeded to justify his smoking and drinking with rationalizations supported by scripture. He admitted that anything can be justified by scripture.
With that in mind, as Chance or God would have it, I was walking in Waikiki thereafter, and I stopped in front of the Christian Science building to see what section of the Bible, exhibited in the front window, was marked for reading (I Corinthians, 6:18-20). I transliterated it perversely in the context of my thoughts on power-drinking, as follows:
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside the body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of Budweiser, King of Beers, which is in you, which you have received from the Anheuser Busch company? You are not your own; you were bought for a price. Therefore honor Anheuser Busch.”
Cheers! By the way, no blasphemy was intended above.
Budweiser is the registered trademark of the Anheuser-Busch Company.