Saturday, January 31, 2009

That necessary measure of irrationality

"Homer may have been blind, but his taste buds were alive to wine, and he reserved his richest adjectives for it: heady, mellow, ruddy, shining, glowing, seasoned, hearty, honeyed, glistening, heart-warming, and, of course, irresistible." So writes English teacher Alexander Nazaryan in "The Tipsy Hero," an op ed piece in this morning's New York Times.

Nazaryn, noting the extensive role of wine in ancient literature, admires "how open the Greeks were about to the role of alcohol in their society (unsurprising, perhaps, for a people whose highest ideal was 'the examined life')." Moderation was in, debauchery was out--but unrelieved sobriety was also out.

"Today," Nazaryn writes, "'irrational exuberance' means bankruptcies and foreclosures; for the Greeks, a measure of irrationality checked the rule of reason."


David Neff said...

Things to remember: Before the invention of the cork in the middle ages, drinkable wine had a much lower alcohol content than modern wine. If it continued to ferment for too long, it turned into undrinkable vinegar. Also, safe water was hard to come by. Wine was the major alternative to water, and it was much less likely to carry disease.

LaVonne Neff said...

Things to remember: David is an INTJ and is not a fan of irrationality. He likes to point out that Puritans had a lot of fun. And apparently they did: many were involved in a thriving rum business. The rum was probably safer than water too.