This evening while I was writing my earlier blog entry I happened to see a scene that was lamentable but also sadly not very uncommon. I happened to see a person who had gotten drunk and was slightly underage who was a happy and a silly drunk, saying goodbye to everyone several times, including “goodbye to the person who is on the computer.” There are many worse ways to be drunk, I suppose. He wasn’t an angry drunk, or a flirtatious drunk, but he was a silly drunk. Not being someone who likes to drink except under very specific circumstances (it being a safe and comfortable place with good company where I will stay long enough), I tend to find drunkenness to be highly unpleasant of a matter, especially because I know personally that it could be a considerable temptation for me to self-medicate in such a fashion were I not so compulsive about dealing honestly and openly (perhaps a bit too much so) about unpleasant truths.
Nor is this an isolated story. At one Feast of Tabernacles in years past, a large group of people received a free bottle of some kind of alcoholic beverage (I think it was a type of brandy, if I remember it correctly). I received a bottle of it and was hoping to bring it home for those friends and relatives of mine who would appreciate such a gift, but the glass bottle was so fragile that it broke apart during the course of a night because some wire or book had knocked it over, and so for the rest of the feast the room and some of my personal belongings smelled of brandy. There are worse things, I suppose. There are also many stories I have heard about people who were so embarrassed at their alcohol consumption during the Feast of Tabernacles (or the Feast of Booths) that they felt it necessary to hide the bottles lest the Feast of Booths be thought of as the Feast of Booze. From what I have heard (and I believe the accounts), the concern was serious enough to have been mentioned at church services as part of the announcements.
How did this come to be? There is one unmatched passage that used to be quoted a lot more than it is these days to justify this rather disreputable sort of behavior. Let us begin with Deuteronomy 14:26: “And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires; for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat them before the Eternal your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.” This particular verse served to legitimize the desire of people to eat and drink in excess. To be sure, the Bible is very clear about the legitimacy of drinking in moderation, and God has nothing wrong with the responsible and temperate enjoyment of food or drink, nor of music or literature nor a great deal else, so long as they are kept within the proper boundaries. That said, no one should ever consider it acceptable by God to drink so much that it would cause dishonor among others.
I do not wish to be or to be seen as a killjoy who views fun as a bad thing. Although I must freely confess that I am not the sort of person who has lived a very fun life, I am also not particularly difficult to please. I enjoy good food, pleasant conversation, or tender affection from a lovely young lady. None of these things are bad, so long as they are kept within the boundaries of law and propriety. The same, of course, is true for those things which I find little or no pleasure in but that are also perfectly acceptable in moderation. The difficult trick is to understand those boundaries and to live by them, and to find enjoyment in that which is innocent without feeling the need to justify one’s habits by seeking proof texts that point to the legitimacy of proper use but do not sanction abuse. To achieve such balance is a matter of great difficulty in many areas of life, but the difficulty of finding that balance does not make it any less important or worthwhile to do so.