Saturday, March 12, 2016

Finnegan had a bottle.

Doubtless, it is unnatural to be drunk. But then in a real sense it is unnatural to be human. Doubtless, the intemperate workman wastes his tissues in drinking; but no one knows how much the sober workman wastes his tissues by working. No one knows how much the wealthy philanthropist wastes his tissues by talking; or, in much rarer conditions, by thinking. All the human things are more dangerous than anything that affects the beasts—sex, poetry, property, religion. The real case against drunkenness is not that it calls up the beast, but that it calls up the Devil. It does not call up the beast, and if it did it would not matter much, as a rule; the beast is a harmless and rather amiable creature, as anybody can see by watching cattle. There is nothing bestial about intoxication; and certainly there is nothing intoxicating or even particularly lively about beasts. Man is always something worse or something better than an animal; and a mere argument from animal perfection never touches him at all. Thus, in sex no animal is either chivalrous or obscene. And thus no animal ever invented anything so bad as drunkenness—or so good as drink.
For in so far as drinking is really a sin it is not because drinking is wild, but because drinking is tame; not in so far as it is anarchy, but in so far as it is slavery. Probably the worst way to drink is to drink medicinally. Certainly the safest way to drink is to drink carelessly; that is, without caring much for anything, and especially not caring for the drink.

-From Wine When It Is Red

“You are such a nice boy, it's a shame you are always crocked,” Elena said. “Have you had troubles? Do you love one who is unattainable? Are you frustrated in the expression of your talents? Did one you loved greatly die tragically and young? Are you disillusioned by the perfidies of the governments and shapers? Are you dangerously fallen from grace? Are you look for a Paraiso? Have you neglected one and are ashamed? Are you in chemical unbalance? For these reasons you drink?”
“Nueve y uno,” Finnegan said. “Nine yesses and a no. I drink because it is good to drink, and I drink excessively because I have an evil streak.”
“Can't you stop?”
“Anyone can stop at any time. It is as easy as hacking off your hand or plucking out your eye, the matter of a moment. It is better to be maimed than to burn: but it IS a maiming; being weak, I hesitate.”

-From Archipelago

Bless, O Lord, this creature beer, that Thou hast been pleased to bring forth from the sweetness of the grain: that it might be a salutary remedy for the human race: and grant by the invocation of Thy holy name, that, whosoever drinks of it may obtain health of body and a sure safeguard for the soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

-From the Rituale Romanum

Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou art very great....
He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.

-From Psalm 104

The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.

-From the Gospel According to St. Matthew

Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

-From the Epistle to the Ephesians

Thus ends, in unavoidable inadequacy, the attempt to utter the unutterable things. These are my ultimate attitudes towards life; the soils for the seeds of doctrine. These in some dark way I thought before I could write, and felt before I could think: that we may proceed more easily afterwards, I will roughly recapitulate them now. I felt in my bones; first, that this world does not explain itself. It may be a miracle with a supernatural explanation; it may be a conjuring trick, with a natural explanation. But the explanation of the conjuring trick, if it is to satisfy me, will have to be better than the natural explanations I have heard. The thing is magic, true or false. Second, I came to feel as if magic must have a meaning, and meaning must have some one to mean it. There was something personal in the world, as in a work of art; whatever it meant it meant violently. Third, I thought this purpose beautiful in its old design, in spite of its defects, such as dragons. Fourth, that the proper form of thanks to it is some form of humility and restraint: we should thank God for beer and Burgundy by not drinking too much of them. We owed, also, an obedience to whatever made us. And last, and strangest, there had come into my mind a vague and vast impression that in some way all good was a remnant to be stored and held sacred out of some primordial ruin. Man had saved his good as Crusoe saved his goods: he had saved them from a wreck. All this I felt and the age gave me no encouragement to feel it. And all this time I had not even thought of Christian theology.

-From Orthodoxy


Lafferty's relationship to alcohol requires an entire book or at least a long essay for Feast of Laughter. Maybe I'll get around to that some day. A close reading of the Argo Cycle is a good place to start to get a full appreciation for Lafferty's multi-faceted love for strong drink. Like Finnegan, like Lafferty, maybe like Chesterton (see here:, and like so many others, I also have an evil streak. And so, if today I write a blog post and sip my cup of coffee to him rather than raise my glass, I hope he'll forgive me and understand as he splashes around in St. Brigid's heavenly lake of beer.

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