CHAPTER VIII: Leisure Put to Good Uses
Take books though books
may not be a fair test of time employed in my case,
for I always have read books in great numbers but
take books: In the past three years and a half
I have read as many books real books as
I read in the ten years preceding. I have read
books I was always intending to read, but never got
round to. I have kept up with the new good ones
and have helped myself to several items of interesting
discovery and knowledge that in the old days would
have been known about only through newspaper reports.
I have developed a good many half-facts that were
in my mind. I have classified and arranged a lot
of scattering information that had seeped into me
notwithstanding my engagements with the boys.
I have had time to go to see some
pictures. I have had time to hear some music.
I have had time to visit a lot of interesting places,
such as great industrial concerns and factories, which
I always intended to see but never quite reached.
I have had time to make a few investigations on my
own account. I have met and talked to a large
number of people who were formerly outside my range
of vision. And I have done better work in my
own line I have more time for it.
If I have lost any friends they were
friends whose loss does not bother me. I find
that all the true-blue chaps, the worth-while ones,
though they look in most instances on
my non-drinking idiosyncrasy with amused tolerance,
have not lost any respect or affection for me, and
are just as true blue as they formerly were.
Most of them drink, but I fancy some of them wish
they did not; and none of them holds my strange behavior
up against me.
To be sure, they often have their
little gatherings without me; but that is not because
they do not like me any the less, and is because I
do not happen, in my new rôle, to fit in. There
are times, you know, when even the most enthusiastic
ginger-ale specialist is not persona grata.
We have reached a common basis of understanding.
The real man is tolerant. Intolerance is the
vice of the narrow man.
Now, then, we come to the real question,
which is: With our society organized as it is,
with men such men as they are, with conditions that
surround life as it is organized, with things as they
stand to-day is it worth while to drink
moderately, or is it not? The answer, based solely
on my own experience, is that it is not. Looking
at the matter from all its angles I am convinced that
the best thing I ever did for myself was to quit drinking.
I will go further than that and say it is my unalterable
conviction that alcohol, in any form, as a beverage
never did anything for any man that he would not have
been better without.
I can now sit back and contrast the
old game with the new. The comparisons fall under
two general heads physical and mental.
The physical gain is so obvious that even those who
have not experienced it admit it, and those who have
experienced it comment on it as some miracle of health
that has been attained. Any man I do
not care who he is who was the sort of
a drinker I was, who will stop drinking long enough
to get cooled out will feel so much better in every
way that he will be hard put to it to give a reason
for ever beginning again.
Take my own case: I was fat,
wheezy, uric-acidy, gouty, rheumatic not
organically bad, but symptomatically inferior.
I was never quite normal no man is normal
who has a few drinks each day, though most men boast
they never were under the influence of liquor in their
lives, and all that sort of tommyrot and
never quite up to the mark.
Now I weigh one hundred eighty-five
pounds, which is my normal weight, for that is what
I weighed when I was twenty-one; and I have not varied
five pounds in more than two years. I used to
weigh two hundred and fifty, which was the result
of our friend Pilsner beer and his accomplices.
All the gouty, rheumatic, wheezy symptoms are gone.
If there is anything the matter with me the best doctors
in these United States cannot discover what it is.
My eye is clear, instead of somewhat bleary.
I have dropped off every physical burden and infirmity
I had, and I am in the pink of condition. I have
no fear of heart, kidneys, or of any other organ.
I have no pains, no aches, and no head in the morning.
I sleep as a well man should sleep and I eat as a well
man should eat. I am forty-five years old and
I feel as if I were twenty and I am, to
all intents and purposes, physically.
So much for that side of it.
Mentally I have a clearer, saner, wider view of life.
I am afflicted by none of the desultoriness superinduced
by alcohol. I do not need a bracer to get me going
or a hooker to keep me under way. I find, now
that I know the other side of it, that the chief mental
effect of alcohol, taken as I took it, is to induce
a certain scattering and casualness of mind.
Also, it induces a lack of definiteness of view and
a notable failure of intensive effort. A man
evades and scatters and exaggerates and makes loose
statements when he drinks.