December 30, 2018

"In the flickering light of the campfire, you can’t do much that requires keen eyesight like sewing or making tools, but you can chat away across the flickering flames."

"This is nicely illustrated by what South African San Bushmen talk about around their campfires. When anthropologist Polly Wiesner listened in on their conversations, she found that daytime conversations typically consisted of boring factual topics and discussions of trading agreements with neighbours, but evening conversations were invariably about social topics or involved storytelling and jokes.... So, if you want to know the secret of a long and happy life... the important thing is to take time out with people you know and talk to them over a beer or two, even that bottle of Prosecco if you really must. There’s nothing quite like a convivial evening wrapped around a pint to give you health, happiness and a sense of wellbeing."

From "Why drink is the secret to humanity’s success/Alcohol has been more valuable to our species’ survival than we might imagine" from last August in The Financial Times. I'm reading that this morning because my son John put it up on Facebook.

I like the article because it fits well with how I've been thinking about the use of disinhibiting substances ever since I read this passage in Paul Johnson's "Intellectuals":
There was one aspect of Ibsen’s vanity which verged on the ludicrous... He had a lifelong passion for medals and orders. In fact, he went to embarrassing lengths to get them...

[T]here is ample evidence for Ibsen’s passion since he insisted on displaying his growing galaxy of stars on every possible occasion. As early as 1878 he is reported to have worn all of them, including one like a dog-collar round his neck, at a club dinner. The Swedish painter Georg Pauli came across Ibsen sporting his medals (not the ribbons alone but the actual stars) in a Rome street. At times he seems to have put them on virtually every evening. He defended his practice by saying that, in the presence of ‘younger friends’, it ‘reminds me that I need to keep within certain limits.’ All the same, people who had invited him to dinner were always relieved when he arrived without them, as they attracted smiles and even open laughter as the wine circulated....
And, later, repeating that quote, I said: "Freedom and democracy depend on our disinhibition; we need to be able to laugh at authority."



That's "Mens Sana in Corpore Sano" by Georg Pauli (the Swedish painter who encountered Ibsen wearing his medals as he walked around in Rome).

"Mens sana in corpore sano is a Latin phrase, usually translated as 'a healthy mind in a healthy body," Wikipedia tells us. The idea is that "physical exercise is an important or essential part of mental and psychological well-being."

Speaking of Rome... the phrase traces back to the Roman poet Juvenal:
You should pray for a healthy mind in a healthy body.
Ask for a stout heart that has no fear of death,
and deems length of days the least of Nature's gifts
that can endure any kind of toil,
that knows neither wrath nor desire and thinks
the woes and hard labors of Hercules better than
the loves and banquets and downy cushions of Sardanapalus.
What I commend to you, you can give to yourself;
For assuredly, the only road to a life of peace is virtue.

37 comments:

Fernandistein said...

I'd drink too, if I were Pygmoid Negroid with a creepy anthropologist listening in on my conversations, but now we know how the P.N.s used storytelling and beer - or even Prosecco! - to conquer the world.

Ralph L said...

I swear I've read that book but don't remember Ibsen being in it. What an elitist Enemy of the People.

rhhardin said...

Bushmen have an average IQ of 54, so I'd guess there are a lot of ass jokes.

Ralph L said...

The Bushmen were so happy around their campfires that they never took their women north to be raped by Neanderthals.

tim in vermont said...

Alcohol progressively shuts down the part of our brain that makes us uniquely human. Just saying.

Mark said...

A lovely just-so story.
Seems like pure speculation.

William said...

In my area of Manhattan, there are far more gymns, cycle studios, yoga establishments and the like then bars. I think we're trend setters. Social drinking is dissipating. .....In my youth I spent a fair amount of time in bars. They weren't that much fun, although they had their moments. Nowadays, I go to the gymn with fair regularity. That's not much fun either, but there's no hangover the next day and maybeI I'll get a few extra years out of my sorry existence.......Sitting around the campfire, shooting the bull with Bushmen. Is that so much more life affirming than watching back episodes of Friends? It must be said that the cast members of Friends (both scripted and in real life) had more meaningful and nourishing social interactions than the average Bushman. I just read that all four cast members make Twenty (20!) million a year for residuals and that that sum will be increased with the new Netflix contract. There are many useful lessons to be learned by studying their lives.

AllenS said...

Freedom and democracy depend on our electing strong men who put this country first.

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carol said...

I met all my friends including my husband in bars. Actually, the nightclubs where I was working. But that was here in Montana, which was much less socially stratified than California was, or than Montana is now. So you met all types of people, loggers, tradesmen, foreign grad students (very sciency), retired officers. And yeah the booze brought us together. Really don't know how to do these kinds of things without it.

In social situations now, we all draw back a little. So many weirdos, you just never know if someone's going to hit you up for money or ask to sleep on your couch. Where did all the great people go.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Alcohol progressively shuts down the part of our brain that makes us uniquely human. Just saying

Alcohol gradually loosens you inhibitions. Takes that little man sitting on your shoulder (The No No Man) who keeps telling you what you shouldn't do or shouldn't say and gives him a small time out. Removes the filter.

A little bit of alcohol loosens everyone up and can create a fun, convivial time with jokes, laughter. It reveals a bit of your inner self; your own uniquely human qualities that you may have hidden when you have a fully alert "No No Man" sitting on your shoulder.

(Granted, some people's unique qualities are NOT attractive at all and they should refrain from drinking, but they do reveal who you are so others can avoid you)

Too much alcohol and you have totally incapacitated the mental filter and you begin to do stupid, harmful, dangerous things.

Moderation in consumption with occasional drinking is a good thing.

RK said...

I have a hangover this morning. So there's that.

SteveR said...

The decline of my healthy body and healthy mind have been going on but I don’t think they are correlated with each other beyond happening.

robother said...

Even in my day, you had to be careful in Montana bars. I recall a story about a belligerent bear in a bar in Billings....

Mark said...

A lot of folks eventually give up the bar scene because it can be so soul-sucking.

rhhardin said...

As I recall Vancouver in the 60s, the bars had separate entrances for men and women.

Annie C said...

It's been a long time since I looked at anything from Pauli. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed his work, especially the early 1900s. He reached and I think he succeeded.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Alcohol use leads to many bad decisions, including about alcohol use.

rcocean said...

Martini's are like a women's breasts.

1 isn't enough and 3 are too many.

Karen said...

Wow! That poem perfectly summarizes 80 hours of lectures by Jordan Peterson.

FIDO said...

Althouse gets me to want to Juvenal.

Augustus and his exile made me want to read Ovid

FIDO said...

Alcohol: helping ugly people get laid for 7,000 years

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Lots of companies allow and encourage drinking at work and at work-sponsored events - I don’t know how this passes muster with legal in the era of MeToo. How many sexual harassment headaches start with too much to drink at that dinnner with / party for clients, for example. At Amazon there was open drinking at work (some managers had minibars in their offices) and more than once Mr. Pants walked in on heavy making out or actual intercourse in stairwells or empty conference rooms; can’t imagine those things were unrelated. Where is legal in this kind of thing?

Char Char Binks said...

I absolutely detest alcohol. I used to drink socially, but I'm really not that fond of most people or chitchat, so I don't need that anyway.

PM said...

I learned how to snort tequila in a Montana bar. Technically, it's not drinking.

M Jordan said...

Ibsen was an a-hole. That needs to be said.

Big Mike said...

Mens sana in corpore sano may be a Latin phrase, but I believe that as a concept it goes back to the Athenians.

Big Mike said...

Ibsen was an a-hole.

The man who wrote the line "The strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone" cannot be all bad.

M Jordan said...

“The man who wrote the line "The strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone" cannot be all bad.”

Touché. I didn’t say being an a-hole was all bad. A-holes have changed the world many times for better and worse.

YoungHegelian said...

In Regards of the Pauli painting, someone oughtta write a book on the Nordic peoples & their cultural affection for nudism. Even the Nazis had nudists among their ranks.

Talk about a bunch of people who live in real "weenie-shrinking" climates!

Two-eyed Jack said...

I think the message of the Pauli painting is that if you put a little liquor into a Swede, he will most likely strip down and start throwing javelins at Cezanne paintings. (Cf. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d2/Paul_Cézanne_112.jpg )

Ann Althouse said...

But who was Sardanapalus?

"Diodorus says that Sardanapalus, son of Anakyndaraxes, exceeded all previous rulers in sloth and luxury. He spent his whole life in self-indulgence. He dressed in women's clothes and wore make-up. He had many concubines, female and male. He wrote his own epitaph, which stated that physical gratification is the only purpose of life. His lifestyle caused dissatisfaction within the Assyrian empire, allowing a conspiracy against him to develop led by "Arbaces". An alliance of Medes, Persians and Babylonians challenged the Assyrians. Sardanapalus stirred himself to action and routed the rebels several times in battle, but failed to crush them. Believing he had defeated the rebels, Sardanapalus returned to his decadent lifestyle, ordering sacrifices and celebrations. But the rebels were reinforced by new troops from Bactria. Sardanapalus's troops were surprised during their partying, and were routed.
Sardanapalus returned to Nineveh to defend his capital, while his army was placed under the command of his brother-in-law, who was soon defeated and killed. Having sent his family to safety, Sardanapalus prepared to hold Nineveh. He managed to withstand a long siege, but eventually heavy rains caused the Tigris to overflow, leading to the collapse of one of the defensive walls. To avoid falling into the hand of his enemies, Sardanapalus had a huge funeral pyre created for himself on which were piled "all his gold, silver and royal apparel". He had his eunuchs and concubines boxed in inside the pyre, burning himself and them to death. The Greek writer Choerilus of Iasus composed an epitaph on Sardanapalus, which he claimed to have been translated from Chaldean..

Ralph L said...

When my dad was a midshipman in the late 40's, on a cruise to Sweden he somehow became friends with a Swedish-American couple (she faded nobility, he American musician) and went to a nude beach with them. Several years later, they stopped by my grandparents when traveling and sent him a nice wedding present. Nothing kinky about it, I'm sure, but perhaps Dad rearranged the chronology in the first sentence.

YoungHegelian said...

[Sardanapalus] had his eunuchs and concubines boxed in inside the pyre, burning himself and them to death.

I can't believe that this was permitted under the contractual work rules between the Crown & the Union of Eunuchs, Concubines, & Catamites! I hope someone survived to file a grievance!

Nineveh Local XXIX of the Union of Eunuchs, Concubines, & Catamites. Our Motto: "We suck at our jobs!"

tim maguire said...

I get where Ibsen’s coming from. That’s the same reason I comment under my real name. And I did just as much to earn my name as he did his medals.

Stephen Cooper said...

Ibsen was a really big deal for awhile because he was "realistic" and nobody had ever been "realistic" before, according to the fake media of the day.

Not a very self-aware guy, though.

By the way, that is one bad painting. The painter does not have any idea of what the human body looks like, does not have anyidea of what color and perspective are capable of, and also he seems to be a pretentious and boring little rat of a man.

If he were my son, though, I would say that is a great painting. But obviously, this is 2018, almost 2019, and I am not old enough to claim that a pretentious painter of that era was my son. That being said, I hope he had lots of friends, and that his wife loved him, and his kids too, and that he died fully aware that God loves him, as God loves us all.

Jose_K said...

Yes, the phrase traces back to the Roman poet Juvenal and he did not mean"physical exercise is an important or essential part of mental and psychological well-being" but that physical and mental health the sole goods.