Always be drunk

“You should always be drunk, with wine, with poetry, or with virtue as you choose.” – Baudelaire.

The first one is easily achieved, and it’s worth noting that gods of grape and sacred insobriety turn up all over the place. Alcohol warms the body and eases the mind, makes us more sociable, relieves the pain of aching muscles and helps us to be merry. We shed our fears and inhibitions and are more open to having a good time. The Romans had ‘in vino, veritas’ – in wine, truth. That which slips out when we’re pissed may be a lot more real than our closely guarded lips would normally allow. But don’t always be drunk with wine, you’ll develop a tolerance that lessens the impact, and you’ll wreck your liver, and some things work better when you can walk in a straight line…

Drunk with poetry, with inspiration, vision, the fire in the head – this is awen, and the quest for it is very much part of the bardic path. Be drunk with wonder, and with beauty. Let all that is glorious infuse your spirit so that you are floating on it in an altered state of mind. Seek out exquisite things, or create them, and let the natural highs of your inspiration carry you away. Except also bear in mind all those folklore stories about places you can sit out and either come back a poet or a lunatic – because if you try and set up camp permanently on the high plateau of poetic insobriety, you will go quite entirely mad. Now and then you must come down from the mountain to wash your socks and deal with all those other necessary, earthy issues.

Drunk with virtue, with the perfect awareness that you are acting in honour, that right action and right thoughts have brought you to a state of grace. Knowing that even if it is hard, the sheer virtuousness of doing the right things for the right reasons is worth the price. The intoxicating qualities of virtue are, oddly enough, the least socially acceptable. We are used to those who are drunk on wine. We can be amused by the tripped-out poets, or impressed, if they create anything good, and we expect creative folk to be a bit mad anyway. But virtue? Oh, dare to be drunk on virtue and expect the distaste of those you encounter. ‘Smug’ and ‘self righteous’ are the words we keep for people who dare to be off their faces on the joy of doing the right thing. Of the three, it may also be the most dangerous, the one most likely to have you courting hubris and hypocrisy. It’s essential not to be perpetually drunk with virtue, or you risk buying into your own PR and becoming the exact opposite of what you set out to be.

Fall from alcohol and you’ll have a hangover. Fall from poetry and you can be sorely depressed and disorientated. Fall from virtue, fall from saint to sinner and you will lose so much more in your own eyes, including the respect of anyone who has seen you in your elevated state. Cast yourself as a saint, and those inevitable feet of clay will leave the odd dirty print.

Be drunk, as you choose, but I do not think one should always be drunk. It all seems to work so much better if you surface for air now and then and some alternative perspectives, the washing of socks, the eating of the sandwich, the recollection of the feet of clay…


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

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