I have a confession to make. Over the years, the recurring sin to which I have proven prone is that of gluttony. I am always tempted to accept the second helping of food, even though I am no longer hungry, or another glass of wine or ale even though I have imbibed as much as is prudent. I make this confession as we enter the season of good cheer when such temptations will be all the more tempting.
Over the years, not always very successfully, I have sought to use the wisdom of G. K. Chesterton to guide me by the path of prudence and temperance. Considering Chesterton’s legendary corpulence and his equally legendary appetite for good food and drink, he might seem a strange choice for a guide. And yet he is almost always the conveyer of wisdom.
With respect to fermented and distilled beverages, he cautioned that they should always be treated as a food and never as a drug, that they should be seen as a meal and never as a medicine. A healthy man might have bacon and beer for breakfast, as was common enough in the England of yore, but he would not have forsaken the bacon for the beer or the breakfast for the booze.
In similar vein, Chesterton cautioned that we should always drink because we’re happy and never because we’re unhappy. Ale and wine are natural accompaniments to conversation and conviviality, or to what Chesterton’s friend Hilaire Belloc called “laughter and the lover of friends.” It is one thing to make merry with friends and another to drink silently and all too often sullenly by ourselves.
Finally, Chesterton quipped that we should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of them. This is sage advice indeed.
It might be suggested, considering Chesterton’s corpulence and merry joie de vivre, that he did not always practise what he preached. Speaking personally, I am too concerned about the plank in my own eye to begin pointing at the mote in the eyes of my betters.
I hope and pray that I might practice what Chesterton preaches during the festive season. I hope and pray that I will drink without drunkenness and that I will raise a glass or two in praise of healthy drinking. My prayer this Christmas is that I will thank God in love and laughter for laughter and the love of friends and that I will thank Him for the gift of beer and burgundy by drinking them merrily but in moderation.
This is part of the series called “The Human Being Fully Alive” found here.