The Evolution of Debauchery
It’s one of my Top Ten Sentences of 2021 so far:
“A huge step in the evolution of debauchery was the invention of agriculture because farming made booze possible.”
I’ve never thought too deeply about the “evolution of debauchery” in general, but rather just my own. The story of my own debauched evolution is far less interesting than this little article at Phys.org, from which this awesome sentence originates: “When Did Humans Start Experimenting with Alcohol and Drugs?”
While it appears that the first evidence of a type of fermented wine for consumption dates back to about 9,000 years ago in China where rice was the vehicle for a debauchery-inducing liquid substance, the article notes that the West was particularly devoted to the substance:
“Eurasian and African civilizations seem to have preferred alcohol. Wine was central to ancient Greek and Roman cultures, was served at Plato’s Symposium and at the Last Supper, and remains incorporated in the Jewish Seder and Christian communion rituals.”
The article ends with a question we often see posited concerning the development of fermentation and the imbibing of alcohol: Why or how did civilization lead to a dedication to alcohol? Any number of explanations are suggested in response to this question. But the one I like the most is this (it ranks in my top 25 sentences of the year): “It may just be safer to get drunk or high in a city than the savannah.”
What I wonder is not so much when humans first started drinking wine, but when humans first started critiquing different wines. It has been suggested by many that the first serious wine writer was Pliny the Elder, who died at the hands of Mount Vesuvius in AD23. However, surely the first wine critics were those folks who had access to more than one wine. Who can tell exactly when this was.
It’s worth noting that despite our sophistication today where wine is concerned, despite our interest in different wines from myriad terroirs, in the end, it is the invitation to debauchery that makes wine special enough that we continue to drink it (and think about it) today. The key to wine being wine and appreciated for what it is boils down still to the fact that it is a vehicle for mind-altering alcohol. I’m reminded of this more today than at any time previous. As I age it is absolutely clear to me that my body metabolizes alcohol differently than it did with I was younger. Today, the effects of alcohol come on much more quickly and with fewer drinks than they did in my youth or even a decade ago. However, this is not to say I am more debauched today than I was in my 20s or 30s or 40s.