the art of hangover

There were a lot of beautiful, practical examples in the book about paying attention to the little details of life, but I wanted to keep this one as a reminder as a drinker. A random French philosopher would have conceptualize this state as a ‘liminal’ one. I’ll filter the pieces from the book I might enjoy and start experimenting, especially the playful urban interactions and the forever-alone activities. Thanks to M. for recommending this.

“DRINKING TOO MUCH is a bad idea, and I’m not here to endorse it.

Some of you, however, will do it anyway, perhaps in part to experience the curious effects that alcohol can have on perception—heightening some feelings while suppressing others. That’s really none of my business. But I will pass along one piece of surprising advice, from my friend Josh Glenn: When the morning after rolls around, don’t try to squelch your hangover. Because it’s not a problem, he argues. It’s an opportunity.

“So what’s good about a hangover?” Glenn has written. “The hungover person is abnormally aware of sights, sounds (everything seems TOO LOUD!), tastes, odors, and textures which normally would go unremarked. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing. The hungover eye, for instance, because it is neither obstructed by the blinders of our everyday biases, nor deceived by intoxicated hallucinations, is magnetically attracted to seemingly ordinary objects which take on an incredible, luminous significance: anyone who has ever experienced the ‘stares’ when hungover knows exactly what I mean.”

Glenn compares the hungover state to conditions of nirvana or grace.

You may or may not take his thinking seriously here—and I certainly don’t recommend a drunken binge for the sole purpose of obtaining a hangover. But should you find yourself in an altered state, you ought to inhabit it fully rather than struggle to find a shortcut out. Embrace it instead “as a form of reaggregation from the extraordinary into the ordinary, as a ‘middle state’ of perception in which one can for a brief time see the usual in an unusual manner.”

And if you conclude that this unusual manner isn’t one you enjoy, perhaps you’ll remember that the next time you start drinking.”

Rob Walker, The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday, Knopf Publishing Group, 2019

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