Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

Cape Cod

Reflections: Temperance vs. Abstinence.

The weekend papers introduced me to Charlotte Stockdale this week. I will admit that I’m a bit conflicted about Ms. Stockdale. My first impulse is to view her as inconsequential given her high birth and the subsequent layering of additional wealth garnered solely through genetic entry into the business of “pretty”. However, in an otherwise vacuous interview spent mostly discussing her personal relationship with skin care products, she provided me with the yin for a hanging yang.

You see, Beth and I have been on an adventure cruise, a quest of sorts. We’ve been exploring the wonders of the classic cocktail. Equal parts alchemy and indulgence, our trip has been more exciting (as all adventures are) because of the little bit of risk involved. What if we find one (or two, or…) we really like?

Like many pleasures to drink is to willingly hold the proverbial double-edged sword in your hand; in this case the sword just happens to look like a martini glass. Alcohol as both a substance and a subject is complex and rife with controversy. It’s legal, but only to a point. It’s beneficial, but with a caveat–people who drink just enough live longer than those who drink more or not at all. As a chemical it’s a depressant, and yet in many circumstances it imbues joy in those who imbibe. It all comes down to a fine and delicate balance, not unlike that found in a perfectly aged wine.

The matter of regulation intrudes on the pleasure. Knowing the existence of the second edge and maintaining an awareness of its cut is both necessary and nettlesome. If you find this lurking behind every glass, cannot escape it’s specter, it may rob you of the joy; if you careen from joy to joy you will inevitably suffer the cut and bleed. Temperance, then, is the essential ingredient, the co-pilot who must be ever present on this particular trip.

Ah, but temperance, willful self-control, can feel like a 50 MPH governor on a Ferrari, especially if you make the Indiana Jones-like discoveries we’ve recently made. It might be so difficult and so distasteful, temperance that is, that you decide to roll your dice on the “not at all” line. “Abstinence is as easy to me as temperance would be difficult.” Samuel Johnson. Indeed, temperance seems so often driven by that wraith “guilt”. There’s joy and pleasure to be had, but what if there’s too much? Ah, guilt.

It’s all so complicated, not unlike the math involved in the archaic elixirs we’ve been experiencing. So very hard sometimes to ease off the throttle without the aid of the governor. If the “Gizmo”, the “Sideswiped”, and the “Carro del Lô” be guilty pleasures we might ask my interesting discovery Charlotte Stockdale what she thinks of such things.

“I don’t have a guilty pleasure. I don’t really feel guilty about anything. What’s the point?”

As out of the corner of your eye you see it, the shadow of the double-edged sword, one edge Samuel, the other Stockdale, as the light dances off the blade.

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