How a $16 Cocktail Can Save Your Health and Rationality
I live New York City. Last weekend I took my Mom and sisters to an amazing little speakeasy in the Flatiron district. Slowly walking down the side street with observant eyes, we spotted the large unmarked door and made our way over to it, paused for a second, then rang lightly glowing bell button. We waited a few minutes, my girlfriend asked if they might not be open. We waited a bit more and eventually a large gentlemen wearing a vintage black suit cracked the door open and asked simply for my name. He closed the door, leaving us with another moment of anticipation before it was again opened. This time we were gestured in. We went in and proceeded with a wonderful evening of soft, intimate conversations in a dimly lit 1920's, prohibition time capsule.
Walking through this place, I was reminded of just how our society was willing to go to for their right to consume alcohol. It was this thought that led me to question the fact that our cocktails, though outrageously taste, were $16 a piece. And even more than that, we all paid it with enthusiasm. Now we all need to eat and drink to stay alive but these are non-necessary drinks filled with what can easily be considered liquid poison (alcohol is in fact a mild poison). But, the initial $16 price tag of a cocktail, or even a $5 beer at your local bar is not the only cost you will be paying. The next morning you pay physical costs- headache, indigestion, inflammation, brain fog and low motivation. Why are we so willing to give up money, short term and long term health and even tomorrow’s performance for a fun night out? That an easy, it’s fun!
I am not here to challenge alcohol consumption; I would be a complete hypocrite if I said I didn’t indulge from time-to-time. What does seems worth challenging however is how irrational people are when it comes to spending money on health compared to unhealth. Most of us see the food we eat, along with the supplements we take and the gym memberships we buy as costs that need to be closely monitored and restrained. We gladly buy $100 in drinks, $15 desserts or $30 bottles of wine but then turn around and pinch pennies buying things like non-organic foods or cheap vitamins. $11 for a beer at a ballgame is no big deal but if it is something that is healthy, something that has been proven to prolong both life and the quality of life, that’s when we get cheap and tighten our belts.
In his Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker writes in length on the idea that all human actions are directed by the avoidance of death. “it is the mainspring of human activity- activity designed largely to avoid the fatality of death, to overcome it” (p.ix). If this is truly the case, that humans are primarily motivated by avoiding death, why are we so frugal when it comes to buying things that will prolong the quality of our life and likely our lifespan altogether? Pretty dark I know, but it does seem quite irrational doesn’t it?
Take it from one of the greatest minds in the last few thousand years. Lucius Seneca, in a letter to his friend discussing the fascinating irrationality of humans and our general attraction to alcohol said, “Proven- and an easy task it is- that so called pleasures, when they go beyond a certain limit, are but punishments.” (Letter LXXXIII) Though I somewhat agree with Seneca, in that we seem to be punishing ourselves, that is not the most fascinating part of this whole dynamic. What is most fascinating is that we are willing to spend far more frivolously on punishing our bodies than we are on nurturing our bodies.
I am not telling anyone to quit drinking, Cheers! What I am suggesting, is that we spend as frivolously on the things in life that make us healthier and happier, as we do on the things that make us less healthy, and happier. Increasing our willingness to spend money on our health seems a good way to balance the irrationality of paying the price we do for these indulgences, or punishments if you agree with Seneca.
Mediate a contract between the little devil on your left shoulder and the angel on your right. For every dollar spent on a bottle of wine, case of beer, pack of candy or box of pizza, spend the same on something that benefits your health. So, how can we do this? Choose organic, buy some vitamins, minerals, supplements, pay the extra dollar a pound for grass fed meat, force yourself to get up for a morning walk, take a meditation course, go to the chiropractor, get a massage, buy the chemical free soap, the nice Himalayan salt or splurge on a top notch water filter. Spend as frivolously on health as you do unhealth and you will look back and be proud of yourself for the foresight you had in these years.
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Questions or comments? Great, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org