Friday, September 25, 2009

Dancing on the Table

Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That'll teach you to keep your mouth shut.~ Ernest Hemingway.

I'm not a Hemingway scholar -- the closest I've come to reading him is seeing The Old Man and the Sea with Spencer Tracy. The closest I've come to the condition he describes took place on my eighteenth birthday and once was enough. I never, ever wanted to feel like that again, so I took the cure gladly. From what I know of Hemingway, though, this quote sounds like him and it's good advice. Not that I'm writing about how to behave when intoxicated -- like I say, my only expertise on the subject is about avoiding it in the first place.

But I imagine him telling this to a group of men, perhaps younger ones, whom he felt could benefit from his experience. It's the kind of thing you say when you

Hemingway posing for a dust jacket photo by Ll...Image via Wikipedia

realize you've stuck your foot into your mouth and bitten off more than you can chew. We do that when we're disinhibited, when we've shed a few pieces of our usual social attire, and dancing on a table suddenly seems like the most reasonable thing in the world to do.

Hemingway might also have said, do the things you say you'd do when you're tired, angry, frustrated, or in love, because the effect is similar to the one produced by a fifth of Jack Daniels (one fifth of a gallon, in case you've ever wondered). The adrenalin flows and we feel invincible or at least more honest. And that's when the speech centers in the brain can disconnect from the judgment centers and our words come home to roost.

Not that this is always a bad thing -- I don't mean that. Thank God for the limbic system (emotion processing areas of the brain). If we didn't feel, we might not say half the things that need to be said at the right or the wrong time. Or write them. Sometimes you have to call a spade a dirty, damn shovel, as some might say. But it can also help to wait until the "lubrication" wears off before we do.


(Public domain image of Hemingway via Wikipedia)
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