Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 83.djvu/268

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in itself desired; often enough it is hated. But the user finds himself under the rule of an imperative, an insistent idea, a tormenting presence, and this presence is his whole deep human personality crying out against the eternal urge of the "will to live." The spirit of the age proclaims that we must be efficient. Efficiency, and ever more efficiency, is demanded and the desire for alcohol is the desire for rest, for release from the tension, for freedom and abandonment. Nietzsche, crying out against this spirit of progress, says:

Why does precisely this gloomy and vehement oppressor pursue me? I long or rest but it will not let me.

The relation between the effect of alcohol and that of the drama is again clearly expressed by Benjamin Ide Wheeler, when he says:

That which was at the beginning the charm of the drama, and has been, so far as it is true to itself, ever since, is its power to release those who behold it for a little while from the burden and enthrallment of the commonplace workaday life, and bathe their wearied souls in dreams. This is the very heart of Dionysus, and this too is his claim to control the fruit of the vine.

But now, if this theory is correct, what is the conclusion? Is alcohol a means of purification through relaxation? Just so far as it affords rest to the wearied higher brain centers and relief from the tyanny of the will, it is a means of purification, but unfortunately it is at the same time a poison, bringing in its train a heavy residuum of damage not only to society, but to the individual. The imperative need of relaxation is apparent, but, while play and sport are relaxing and recreative, alcohol is relaxing and destructive. The colossal evil of its excessive use is evident to every one, but there is reason to believe that even its moderate use detracts from the sum-total of well-being of the individual in exact proportion to the amount used. It is possible, however, that the case is still worse. Let us suppose that alcohol were not a poison, that it had no effect beyond a slight paralysis of the higher brain centers. What will be the cumulative effects of such action upon the individual and the race? This question can not at present be answered. It seems probable that this constant doping of the highest and most delicate nervous centers, while it affords the needed relaxation, may work havoc with the delicate organization of the brain. Possibly alcohol represents a factor of maladaptation in the evolution of man and will prevent the realization of his highest destiny. If we consider the degree of civilization attained by the ancient Greeks, several stages above our own in art, and on an equal plane at least in poetry, in eloquence, and in philosophy, we are impressed with the slight progress we have made, when measured by a reasonable expectation based on the time which has elapsed and our rich intellectual inheritance. Gladstone bemoaned the lack of progress in intellectual power made by man in recent centuries. Is any one in position to say that this has not, in part at least, come about from meddling with ethyl alcohol?