In Defense of the Morning Drunk

Posted on July 4, 2017, 2:44 p.m.

An instrument not regularly tuned cannot offer its music to the world.

Permit me to begin this missive with a clarification: by 'morning drunk' I do not mean waking up still-drunk after a momentous evening. Nights out that forget their proper place and rudely insinuate themselves into the next day are common enough and often unintentional. They are a beer lover's worthy adversary and deserving of their own post. But they are not our concern here. I mean waking up sober and fresh as a daffodil and making a conscious decision to alter the path of your day, and perhaps your life, by sacrificing brains cells at the altar of debauchery even as the sun is only peeking over the horizon.

Ah! here we find ourselves immediately bumping up against our sense of social propriety. After all, have we not collectively decided that our flights of immoderation must be regulated to a specific temporal safe zone? Roped off safely, with admission only granted under cover of night, we permit our wanton nature free reign when only Sister Luna and uncounted smartphones are witness to our depravity. But by day we are couth and productive members of society whose shadows follow where we bid them as we march into the sun-drenched morning to conquer another day of gainful employment. Ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

It is only when the sun has turned its business to the other hemisphere, when our individual shadows blend with the world of shadows, that we abandon Apollonian for Dionysian proclivities. Whither originates this rigid division of our dual natures? Resolution requires surgical precision, as we slice away the layers of socialization that hide the existential core of the issue.

Let us begin with the paradox that lies at the heart of the great American experiment: the truths that we hold self-evident begin by assuming the primacy of the individual. But in the next breath, we admit that our individualism must be curtailed to some extent to serve the machinery of society which provides the material comfort in which that individuality is allowed to flourish. You signed the social contract when you took your first breath and you are obligated by it until you draw your final one.

Indeed, we are a social species who perhaps never would have made the journey from savanna to city-state were it not for the capacity for self sacrifice in the name of the common weal. And let us not forget that without the safety of those city-state walls, the abundance of its granaries, and the attendant division of labor, there would not exist a brewing industry today. How then have we come to a point where the same historical developments that enable the temptation of craft beer are the very forces that deny its indulgence at our unique whim? Is a society that designates when it's quitting time also empowered to designate when it's Miller time, as it were?

In a word: No.

Perhaps the ox may regard the yoke as essential to its nature; I've never asked one. But my free will offers me the autonomy to shrug off the yoke when it suits my mood. This tension between our private and public selves is inherent to our existence. It cannot be denied. It cannot be escaped. But it must be managed. If I dutifully spend the majority of my waking hours in service of the common vision that provides stability and plenty for the many, may I not, with deliberation, on occasion choose to sing the song of myself? Even if by 9 AM it sounds more like bad karaoke of myself? 

At times I choose delirium attended by the mellifluous chorus of songbirds in my backyard rather than the roar of the bar crowd. I choose the flushing pink of sunrise to the ghostly blue of neon. Unfolding my leisure in time with the bloom of the morning glories. I leave the lights on while I make love to my beer. Poetry can be made from these inversions. Fresh perspectives can be gained from unexpected circumstances. I face the dawn naked and on legs as wobbly as a fawn. My head does not spin: it is the planet spinning in space to reveal Helios in his chariot. And if by the time that chariot reaches the zenith of its arc, my tongue lags behind my brain in expressing this poetry then it is one second closer to experiencing Time as the Earth does: on the geologic scale. And I am that much closer to fluency in the language of the Mother that sustains me.

Having gathered themselves in from their full length, shadows nap at noon. They  then stretch themselves in the direction of sundown before they fade into crepuscule. I will nap with them. My time to stretch toward my own sundown will arrive soon enough. My own twilight will descend upon me. But I claimed this morning for myself.  This revelry belonged to me alone.

In the blink of one planetary revolution, I am back at my desk, time clock punched and inbox beckoning. Each of us necessarily must be defined in part by our relation to others. Civilization may in fact depend on it. But there is no shame in taking a moment to remind ourselves that there exists in each of us some essence that defies the roles we are thrust into: employee, citizen, sibling, scion, parent, lover, spouse.  A morning drunk need not be a rejection of society or one's obligation to it. When exercised without apology, it may be simply choosing a moment of transcendence in a world that more often proffers the mundane. It may be a form of metaphysical exercise. After all, a blade not periodically honed cannot cut. An instrument not regularly tuned cannot offer its music to the world. And a fleeting submission to heterodoxy can reveal meaning that otherwise may remain out of reach. The worst you may get for your efforts is an awkward evening hangover.

- KJ

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