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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Parts I, II, and III of "Why I Don't Drink"

This six part series was originally posted 4/4/07, but had been intended to follow the above story about my Irish great grandfather's important role in my mom's life. That story was a "preface" of sorts to this post and the three that follow.

Part I: My purpose in writing these posts
Part II: My background
Part III: My temperament (These three parts are in the post you're now reading.)Part IV: My disdain for “Glamorized Alcoholism”
Part V: My desire to be “exemplary" to teens in this matter
Part VI: My wife, weddings, and some thoughts on Jesus at Cana

Part I:
Since adults who drink slightly outnumber those who don't drink. It's possible that half of the people reading here will disagree with me, but remember... these thoughts are about why I don’t drink—I’m not casting judgment on adults who choose to do otherwise. After reading this you may very well say, “Wow, Tom. Sounds like YOU shouldn’t drink. Good call. But I don’t have all that baggage. I drink but it’s simply not a dependency in my life. It's been a long time since I've had too much, etc.” I’m okay with that, if it’s true, but if you’ve ever been curious how a guy my age could “not drink and not even want to,” you may still find this an interesting read.

As my blog "header" indicates, I'm a Christian and a school administrator. Neither of those titles in and of itself precludes imperceptible consumption of alcohol from one's life. We all know teachers and administrators who drink regularly and publicly with little regard to who might be watching. They might first point out that what they do on their time is their business. They would then explain that it's perfectly legal and therefore “exemplary.” They may further mention that even “being tipsy” is not illegal—as long as one doesn’t drive a vehicle or engage in “disorderly conduct” while under the influence.

So from a legal standpoint, a large percentage of educators may find this discussion moot because, to them, “happy hour” after school or having a table full of beer bottles at the local sports pub with their students sitting at the next table is “exemplary” if indeed they are expected to be exemplary on “their own time,” which some may argue is not in their contract.

Do you remember your first alcoholic drink? None of us remembers our first drink of milk or water or any other “drink” not regulated by law, but in American culture, most adults remember the first time they took or declined “a drink.” They may even remember the second and the third time they made that choice. Habits are recurring choices that require less thought with repetition. They are patterns of behavior.

When substances are involved, the line between habit and addiction is more difficult to draw. Most people claim they can take or leave drinking, like W.C. Fields who snarled, “I can quit drinking whenever I want. I’ve done it a thousand times.”

Fields, of course, was the anti-tee-totaler poster boy during prohibition in the Roaring Twenties and early 30’s. Most people consider “prohibition” either a disastrous revelation of man’s addiction to alcohol or the futility of trying to legislate it from existence.
In truth, it was probably both.

Some argue that it was the failed “prohibition movement” and the imposed “minimum legal drinking age” (MLDA)laws that followed its repeal in 1934 that set the wheels in motion for today’s staggering alcohol statistics in the U.S. In other words, some argue that it’s because drinking is considered a “no no” that young people are drawn to it. We know there is some truth to that flaw in human nature. (Proverbs 9:17 says “Stolen waters are sweet.”)

To further support this point, some claim that in Europe and other less “Puritanical” cultures where drinking is not such a big deal—under-aged drunk driving is almost unheard of, but they fail to note that teens having access to cash, Coors, and cars is a very American phenomenon. Germany's beer-drinkng age may be 16, but teens don't get their driver's license until they are 18. In many other such countries, the average family (much less teen) simply doesn't have a car.[More about that in part IV.] So let me point out that this discussion is indeed about this current American culture—not a global Utopian village… not “ancient times.” These thoughts are about this culture; the one that I live in, the one my students live in.

Part II: My background
Like many Americans, I've never really checked my ethnic roots, but I've taken my parents word for it that I'm a "mix" of English, German, Irish, and as my Grandpa used to say, "a fifth of Scotch."

As you’ve read here before, my grandfather (whom I loved and who never did me harm) was an alcoholic. I never spent a day with him that he did not drink. I never went on a road trip with him that he did not stop at a bar. I didn’t know it at the time, but his persona, his smile, his uniquely “fermented” scent, came in part from the bottle that was nearly always within reach.

My other grandfather died when I was an infant, but later on in life, when I was old enough to “need to know,” my father shared with us that he, too, had a life-long dependency on alcohol. Back then, the terms “alcoholic” and “alcoholism” were not used, but the alcohol in my “bloodline” goes back many generations. I suspect this is true for more people than would care to talk about it.

I grew up in the home of a couple that wanted to break the chain of alcoholism in both their families. My mom and dad simply chose not to drink because they had grown up seeing what it did to marriages, to families, to family budgets, to failed businesses and so on. It was not a “religious” matter—indeed, the churches they grew up in were silent on the subject. True, when I was about ten, we began attending a Baptist church that encouraged abstinence, but this was not an imposition on my middle-aged parents; it was a point of agreement. [More about that in Part VI.]

I loved the alcoholics in my life, but they served as reminders of why I never wanted to begin drinking. When my great grandfather begged my mom not to drink— “not even a sip,” it was because he was afraid for her. Afraid the cycle would start all over. I do not drink for that same reason.

I know me. I know my strengths and weaknesses. If I had acquired a taste for liquor, I think I would sometimes want that taste. If I had a fondness for how a few drinks made me feel, I think would want that feeling too much. As it is, I actually prefer non-alcoholic grape juice over wine. I’d much rather have a glass of fresh cider than a pint of beer. I confessed in a previous post that I’m a Vernors man. I simply have no taste for cocktails and "adult beverages." I confess that I don’t know what I’m missing, but I suspect I’ve been spared from a lot.

Part III: My temperament
Those of you who read here, can probably sense that I’m sometimes prone to the “creative melancholy” common to many writers. (I’m not claiming the skills of the writing profession—just occasional lapses into the disposition.)

Study the great artists, actors, musicians, and writers through the centuries, and you’ll see a high proportion of “romantics” and bohemians. It seems as if the very gifts that helped them understand the highs and lows of life in their art made them vulnerable to real highs and lows in their lives. Many of them tried to maintain the “highs” with alcohol.
(I know, I know. It’s a depressant not a stimulant.) It seems to be an occupational hazard from Poe to Hemmingway; Sarah Teasdale to Edna St.Vincent Millay; Picasso to Van Gogh.

It may seem cliché to drop these famous names, but even a casual study of many gifted people not mentioned above will bear this point out. So I’m merely saying as a friend that it behooves those who have a hint of an artistic temperament to be very careful with alcohol.
Part IV follows...

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Blogger Dr.John said...

I don't drink either and for pretty much the same reasons. I wwas at a wedding reception and I declined a drink and the fellow got snippy and said " Against your religion Rev." My answer was no " Against my intelligence".

4/4/07 6:04 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Good answer. You'll enjoy a similar response I heard from a priest at a wedding. It's in Part V.

4/4/07 6:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your response to me re: the Phyrric war re: my church. I agree with you!

As for alcohol...it too is in my "genes" and we had a child that once struggled with addictions and thankfully doesn't any longer!
My spouse was once a teacher and I'd have to say from experience they were some of the biggest partiers (his co-workers) that I've ever since experienced.
What every happened to being "above reproach" and serving as an example of the better good of a society..rather than trying to blend in?? I think teachers could well serve their students by being role-models of a higher standard...and I think that's somewhat of what you're getting at.

As an FYI...there is a book written with a Christian emphasis that I believe is called "The Heart of An Artist". It's not very thick and is quite interesting in that it talks about "artists" of all types have a different "bent to life" than the rest of the population. I believe it's true!!!

4/4/07 6:22 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Thanks for the prompt comment and follow up.
I will look for that book.
I hope you find the remaining posts equally interesting.

4/4/07 8:24 PM  
Blogger HeiressChild said...

hi, you have a very interesting blog here. i'm still reading the different parts, but wanted to thank you for visiting my blog. i've left comments on josie's and dave's blogs, so you may have seen me on either one. i hope you were able to glean some tidbits from my blog posts to help you in your writing. as a matter of fact, one of my previous posts was about the connection of bloggers from all over the world, and how you can tell a lot about the different bloggers thru their posts and comments. now to finish reading here.

5/4/07 10:55 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Welcome to POI. I hope you found some interesting posts as looked through the archives. Come again. I did find the post you mentioned. It helped confirm what so many bloggers say on the subject.

5/4/07 8:31 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

"Starry Night" is absolutely one of my favorites and that is what I love about your blog... I always feel at "home" reading what you write. You just pull out that one little something that reaches out and "grabs me", making your writing seem so personal to me.Thanks for blessing me with your writing and good for you, now that drinking cycle is broken and hopefully for good. A lesson that everyone could use.

The walking stick in the picture from my previous post(that you mentioned in your comment) was made by my Dad. Every family member has one and my son took his with him when he hiked the Appalachin Trail. (Future Post?) What a keen eye you have! My Dad always said, "keep your eyes peeled".

Happy Easter to you and your family. I hope the wedding plans are coming along.

6/4/07 11:01 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Nancy, Thanks for the update on the walking stick. That is so cool that your dad made it. I have a post from about a year ago (May 2006) called "As the tree is bent" about some walking sticks I have. I have a post coming about a spiral sassafras root cane made by some Kentucky "hill people." I got it at an antique store yesterday. I'll look for the one about your father's.

6/4/07 9:43 PM  

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