You have to be always drunk

I went to a bar called The Beerhive the other day, and as I sat there with my friends sipping on an intriguingly flower-scented beer, we suddenly noticed a quote on the wall behind us:

You have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it—it’s the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.
But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking…ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: “It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.”

We laughed as we started to read it, thinking that it was literally only a quote – appropriate for a bar – about the wonders of being tipsy. But as we continued to read we realized that it was not necessarily about being drunk on alcohol, but that it was about finding something you care about so much in life that you are perpetually intoxicated by it, euphorically drowned in it, blissfully consumed by it. “Have you guys found a passion like that?” we asked each other.

Among us we had a physics major, an electrical and computer engineering major, a business major, a psychology and human-computer interaction double major, and a mechanical engineering and philosophy double major, all of whom are graduating from Carnegie Mellon in less than a week. This is a pretty random sample, I think (my statistics major roommate might disagree, but shhh), and yet out of the five of us, not one felt as if we had truly found something we are passionate about.

I’ve always envied the people who take the unconventional path. You know, the ones who move to the city of their dreams and bartend at night while writing a novel during the day. The ones who start a band that maybe makes it big and maybe falls apart but never for a moment was something they didn’t love. The ones who start their own company from scratch and give it their all, despite the risk of failure. And I don’t know, maybe they’re not always happy and maybe their salary isn’t pretty and maybe I’m just being a romantic, but at least they had the guts to chase their dreams, right? At least they found passion.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m excited about my future. I look forward to going to Penn State and getting my Ph.D. and I genuinely hope that the research I do can benefit society in some way. I chose Penn State because the lab group I’ll be working in specializes in organic photovoltaics (in other words, new solar cell technologies!) and I want to be a part of this cutting-edge energy research. “I’m going to save the world!” I tell my friends naively. I think the science is really interesting and I like that it’s an applicable field that could have real-life impacts on the world…but I certainly don’t get drunk off it.

Anyways, I guess we’ll see. The world is a big place – maybe it just takes a while to find where we belong. After all, I didn’t even like beer four years ago, and now I’m going to places called The Beerhive. You just never know.


1 comment

  1. Personally, that's not how I would interpret the quote. I think that with the right mindset it may be possible to get drunk in any activity you are engaged in. Perhaps the quote is suggesting that you let yourself become enthralled to drunkenness by whatever activity you are doing in the moment? Spending your life searching for that perfectly intoxicating purpose sounds very counter to the idea of the quote to me. - Rob M