Thursday, July 27, 2006

An intellectual drink

I have been toying recently with the idea of giving up caffeine--it's like nicotine, you come to the point where you don't really notice any positive effects, just the nag of its periodic lack--only this afternoon I happily came across a heartening quotation in my current favorite evil genius Cabanis (it's from the eighth memoir in On the Relations Between the Physical and Moral Aspects of Man, edited by George Mora and translated by Margaret Duggan Saidi):

It is not without reason that some writers have called coffee "an intellectual drink." The general use made of it by men of letters, scientists, artists--in a word, by all persons whose work requires a particular activity of the thinking organ--this use has become established only after repeated observations and reliable experiments. Nothing works better, in fact, than coffee for arresting the anguish of a difficult digestion. The stimulating action of this drink, which bears equally on the sensitive and on the motor forces, far from disturbing their natural equilibrium, completes it and makes it more perfect. The sensations become at once more acute and more distinct, the ideas more active and clearer: and not only does coffee have none of the disadvantages of narcotics, of ardent spirits, or even of wine; on the contrary, it is the most effective means of opposing their pernicious effects.

And actually I had a revelation this morning that what I really need isn't to stop drinking coffee but rather to buy a new bed. I was horrified after my first night sleeping back in my real apartment in May to realize the state of the thing, the futon is paper-thin and you can clearly feel the ribs of the frame beneath it (and, worse, the sort of hump in the middle where the hinge is--it's not surprising, I remember I bought the futon in 1994 when I started grad school and the frame was a donation from my then roommate L. who had owned it in college and subsequently upgraded to a real bed).

I like hard uncomfortable beds, it's just the way my taste runs, but I must say that this futon is by now incredibly uncomfortable: I have always been an insomniac non-morning person who finds beds uncomfortable at night and impossibly comfortable in the morning as I repeatedly and shamefully snooze the alarm, but it must be said that this one starts becoming strikingly uncomfortable again (or perhaps it never stops?) around 6:30am which is not a good thing. But the initial shock wore off and I became accustomed to its uncomfortableness: NO MORE, however! As soon as I get my next paycheck, I am going to Sleepy's The Mattress Professionals to remedy the situation. I have a theory that they will even take the old one away when they deliver the new one, but perhaps this is too much to hope for....

7 comments:

  1. thank you. I will use this quote to support my habit...

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  2. Give up caffeine?! Don't speak of such terrible ideas....

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  3. Don't worry, it's not at all likely to happen!

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  4. You have described the exact same bedding arrangement we just replaced with a real proper bed. I haven't slept so well in years.

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  5. Balzac on drinking " finely pulverized, dense coffee, cold and anhydrous, consumed on an empty stomach:"

    "From that moment on, everything becomes agitated. Ideas quick-march into motion like battalions of a grand army to its legendary fighting ground, and the battle rages. Memories charge in, bright flags on high; the cavalry of metaphor deploys with a magnificent gallop; the artillery of logic rushes up with clattering wagons and cartridges; on imagination's orders, sharpshooters sight and fire; forms and shapes and characters rear up; the paper is spread with ink — for the nightly labor begins and ends with torrents of this black water, as a battle opens and concludes with black powder."

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  6. Bud, that is the most amazing quotation!

    Justine, I have a feeling that this is going to make a big improvement--sleep is basically my one big problem in life, and I realize it is ridiculous to let this bedding thing continue as is, most people would find it completely unacceptable if they had even a penny of disposable income but for some reason I have an excessively high tolerance for discomfort....

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  7. I think the move from the futon to "the real bed" is an essential part of the academic career trajectory. Get behind me, Grad School!

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