The role of alcohol in creativity
Some people do not drink alcohol for one of several reasons – health, belief, tradition, age, possible predisposition to becoming an alcoholic, dislike of taste or effects. All these are valid and compelling reasons which will make this article irrelevant as far as these people are concerned. It is not our intention to encourage those who do not wish to drink to do so.
For those who have no objections to alcohol it can, in moderation, be useful. It should never be consumed by those who, within the next eight hours, are to operate machinery, drive a road or other vehicle or perform delicate procedures, medical or otherwise. The advantages alcohol can infer can quickly become dangerous disadvantages in situations where absolute control is needed. And that is a good way of looking at the good and the bad of alcohol.
Our upbringing will have provided us with many inhibitions. Over-disciplinarian parents and teachers can be as dangerous to a child as over-indulgent ones. Parents are not, and should never be, “qualified” to become raisers of the next generation. If the world were such an organised place that everything could be predetermined we would all be – and may indeed yet become – robots. Such a situation would end the human species as we know it.
The inhibitions we acquire when young usually stick with us for life. We may learn to modify or, more likely, live with them. We will probably not shed them altogether. Whatever their nature they will work against creativity, that ability to perceive relationships that is a precondition for all innovation, joy and development of the human spirit. Inhibitions force us into a mould someone else has determined is right for us or for society. They are essential for an orderly world. But being creative requires some disorderliness, some chaos.
Relating one event to another requires a leap of the imagination. Certain drugs can enhance the leap of sporting performance. They are necessarily illegal for competitions. In the same way the drug of alcohol can, in small doses, release the mental inhibitions that straight-jacket our thinking. Wild thoughts have to be handled carefully for they too can be dangerous, as the current American Presidential Election campaign testifies. All innovation, however, starts with the uninhibited. Sensible people then test their excessive hypotheses and modify them.
Modest amounts of alcohol release the knots that tie us to the familiar. They let our imaginations run free, giving us the chance to see the sunset as a promise of tomorrow, not just a series of astronomical movements. They unstick the rigidity of excessive order and allow us to invent the future for the befit of our fellow human beings and ourselves.
Used well and responsibly, alcohol is a spur to the future.