Americans are now drinking more bottled water than beer. The persons who reported on the study comments that this has got to be bad for our future as relational and political beings.
We drink beer to loosen up, to clamp down on our inhibitions. Then we anxious autonomy freaks can open up to others, be conversational, tell the truth with uncalculated abandon. Bars, of course, are among the most conversational places in America. And beer, we all know, is the mean between the extremes of hard liquor (that will get you too drunk to talk and cause you to lose any control over your moods and so might make you more solitary and melancholic than ever) and not drinking at all (which is a sure sign of a lack of conviviality and openness to the joys of life).
Beer, of course, is somewhat unsafe. I'm not going to lecture you on the dangers of drunk or even tipsy driving. Because having a real beer is sort of like drinking a loaf of bread, it doesn't take much to make you fatter. I don't know of any diet plan that includes beer. Not only that, beer can cause you too loosen up too much, and so your conviviality might too easily slide into more than mere talk. It can make you into a sucker in general, easy prey for all the evildoers that surround us all these days. That's why beer is best consumed at the neighborhood bar, where friends look out for friends and everyone walks or staggers home.
I myself am getting too old and fat to pretend that I'm completely unafraid of beer. I've tried -- with uneven success -- to switch to the safer and alleged more tasteful wine. Wine, in my opinion, does facilitate the social virtues about as well as beer. It was an excellent replacement for the martini (which tastes ridiculous and gets you drunk fast) among sophisticates such as us BIG THINKERS. So I endorse wine as long as it's fairly cheap. The movie's passionate argument against Merlot, to me, is an argument for it: It's impossible to screw Merlot up, and that can't be said of even Cabernet.
I rarely drink water unless I'm really thirsty. After all, what's the point? Where's the pleasure, the fun? If I do drink water, I make sure it's from a tap. Bottled water is the biggest scam going; it's not really less dangerous or better for you. I have to admit I do like carbonated water a little, especially the very cheap Kroger brand (and I guess Walmart has some equivalent). Drinking water, as the article says, is a shamefully privatized, narcissistic act.
What about coffee? Well, I really like it and drink a lot of it. Some say I don't believe in progress. But who can deny that there's been remarkable progress in the coffee readily available to Americans over the last generation? Starbucks coffee is swill. But there are many better kinds of designer, grind-your-own bean coffee everywhere now. And coffee shops that serve all kinds of special roasts even in the sticks of our country.
The new coffee we all enjoy (and lots of us to excess even in this safety-conscious time) is much stronger than the traditional Maxwell House. And so we're more wired than ever. Someone might say that the resulting paranoid edginess is keeping us from being relaxed enough to reproduce.
But I tend to think that multiple large cups of powerfully caffeinated beverages assist us in our efforts to find genuinely relational ties in our lonely, ghostly time.
In my profession, coffee is indispensable. Studies show it makes you smarter in the short term (that term being about as long as a typical class), and it induces you to talk fast and straight. It releases you from some inhibitions and triggers others, making you charmingly quirky and vulnerable.
Coffee is certainly the beverage for philosophers. Wine might lead some to speak the truth, but often in a stupid, blowhard way. Coffee, take it from me, is the more erotic beverage.
This post originally appeared on bigthink.com. It is republished here with permission.