You remind me of Ivan Illich, when he praised Muslims for an absolute NO (in theory, at least) when it comes to drinking alcohol. I believe he said this in an interview with David Cayley.

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I have a book recommendation, if that is appropriate?

For my Epiphany reading this year I enjoyed Kenogaia (A Gnostic Tale) by David Bentley Hart. I’m still ruminating, but I feel Hart has put out a kind of refinement on Orwell’s 1984. Its prose may be like 1984 - with full-on bleakness - but with a rollicking good story, and a happy ending. His opening aphorism is in French:

C’est nous qui fabriquons la machine,

et nous qui creons son Dieu.

It is we who make the machine,

and we who create its God

Highly recommended ✌️

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Thank you Paul! I've considered giving up alcohol for a length of time, and find it challenging. You have given me a "boost" in this effort. Tack så Mycket

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Any readers (or writer) familiar with the works of Epicurus? His belief that a happy and contented life can be attained by the presence of good friends and without excess might appeal to you. Following his philosophy on a good life has certainly helped me reach contentment.

"Nothing is sufficient for the person who finds sufficiency too little". Sound familiar? GK Chesterton echoed the same sentiment a couple thousand years later: "There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less."

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Jan 5, 2023·edited Jan 6, 2023

Happy New Year to you, Paul, and to all fellow readers and commenters.

I gave up alcohol back in 2016, having become far too intimate with it, to a degree that bordered on putting my relationships (and possibly even my health) at risk. Barring a couple of slips along the way, I'm still sober and I don't regret it.

What I found particularly interesting after I stopped drinking was that the "social pull" of alcohol persisted much longer than its physical/biological attraction. I found myself feeling like I was somehow missing out if I was at a social gathering where others were drinking and I wasn't; I even remember times when I felt it simply wasn't fair that I couldn't enjoy a beer or a glass or three of wine like others. I had to work through this and come to a realisation that social ease and enjoyment is not in any real way dependent on ethanol-based lubrication. Took me a while, but I got there eventually.

I also began to notice just how deeply embedded alcohol is in society and, in particular, the extent to which so many people unconsciously view it as an unquestionable good, something that can safely be celebrated, extolled and enjoyed; as long as you don't become one of those alcoholics, it's all good. I continue to notice this, and to ponder about it.

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As regards reading matter, in November I read a book that I'd picked up from a comment on one of your posts (I remember neither which post nor which commenter recommended it): Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban. My goodness, what a read: wonderfully and cleverly crafted and a profoundly sobering commentary on the fragility of human culture and society. I opted to follow it up in December with a book that had been on my reading list a few years but which I'd not yet got around to reading: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. Another "wow" from me: exploring much the same ground as Riddley Walker but from a different angle and in a different style and tone.

Now I'm reading Orwell's 1984 for the second time – the first was 30+ years ago and I find I'd forgotten most of it.

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Not very related to the usual themes, but for something more lighthearted Robert Harris' new historical fiction, Act of Oblivion, is a fun read. No profound philosophical lessons to be gained, really, but you can immerse yourself in seventeenth-century England and New England, alternately sympathising with the hunted Puritan regicides and the bloodthirsty restorationists hunting them down. Quite a nuanced insight into the fierce religious and political battles of that period. History can be great escapism.

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Happy New Year to you and yours. I am on day 320 of my pledge last year to abstain from any alcohol. I restarted mid Feb. after a dry Jan. The restart was what I call the emergence of spontaneous sobriety. Maybe grace. Drinking was never a serious issue, but it was taking up more space in my life during the Covid years and I didn't like where that was going. With Irish heritage in my veins, some of my ancestral proteins do not know what to make of it all, but it feels like I have some veils lifted from my eyes and I am enjoying the clarity. So, this is a long winded way to say, all the best with your pledge of sobriety.

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I have been working on giving up my 'need' for information. I am pulled in the direction of the computer to get my fix. I know that to keep up with the information I want to have I could read maybe every two weeks. I may have to make a two week break (or longer) to see what happens and to really know how this addiction is affecting me. So far I have been cutting down, deleting some sources of info, reading less of what comes to my inbox. I have been studying St. Augustine's 'Confessions' which is helpful as he always had a push/pull between outside stuff and inside stuff.

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Not a physical book but an audio book I can heartily recommend, is Thomas Merton's Path to the Palace of Nowhere, by James Finlay.

For someone at the very beginning of their journey into Christianity like myself, I have found it full of "lightbulb moments", where things that made no sense at all now do, albeit some with greater clarity than others.

I'm also not ashamed to say it's reduced me to tears on more than one occasion (tears of joy and tears of great sadness).

James' narration is also a joy to behold. Although I would challenge anyone not to fall asleep listening to it at night.

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I've been considering doing the same this year, taking a break from any and all alcohol. I do not ever get drunk anymore (thank you Holy Orthodoxy) but still I find even a drink or two lead me into sloth, to the couch in front of the boob tube, or to other distractions or tiredness in the morning.

Also, your series on The Machine has inspired me, or confirmed my instincts, to not pursue yet another dead-end job for the sake of money, but to 'rewild my roots' so to speak and get some skills I've been wanting to obtain for a few years now. I'll be starting a market garden on my landlord's property and doing a blog to record my experiences. It feels like the perfectly correct decision, spiritually and otherwise. I feel energized and liberated. Thanks, your articles were a big help in making me see that these anti-Machine values we hold in our hearts are real, actionable, and not to be discarded merely for money. Being in touch with the other creatures of God's Creation is literally what makes us Human and we get distracted from that all too easily in the midst of The Machine and its, well, machinations.

God be with you this year.

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Jan 5, 2023·edited Jan 5, 2023

Happy new year. I gave up drinking a little over a year ago, and it's been very positive. I hope it's the same for you. What I've noticed is that the hardest part is how other people feel. I don't mention it, but if I'm out and ask for a non-alcoholic beverage, it seems to make others uncomfortable. I switch the gears and volunteer to be the sober driver and then try to change the subject. More and more there are non-alcoholic drinks being offered, even wine. After you give it up, it all seems kind of boring to be thinking about!

On a different note, I'm wondering if you've been thinking about experimenting with or simply reading about ChatGPT. I'm pressured by my business partner to use it, and like so many other technology-oriented developments, it is fascinating but absolutely terrifying in terms of the potential for harm. It's making me feel rather hopeless about goodness in the future.

ChatGPT: Optimizing Language Models for Dialogue - OpenAIhttps://openai.com

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Hi there I wish you all the best in your new sobriety. I write because I decided this was the year to drink better wines... the good Nuit st Georges AxelCortons etc the truly beautiful Bougogne wines.Since budget is limited I will be drinking less but more appreciably. If you have ever had the experience of looking into the eyes of a good french vinter will they are talking about the 'slop' they rest their wine bottles or any other aspect of its making the word alcohol won't come to mind but possible 'art'.

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I agree with the 'no no no' stance resisting a lot of what our culture is dishing up is freeing and enjoying the simple things, gifts of family and friends, doing good and celebrating the mysterious ways in people and nature that the machine can't really measure ! Im reading 'orthodoxy ' by GK Chesterton.( the title even he says doesn't describe it so well!) He is so creative in describing his journey and reasons to believe. The chapter 'The politics of Elfland' sent me reeling with appreciation of my Maker and the gift of life and wonder of it ( despite all the corruption) . He talks about how we tell fairy tales with 'magic golden apples 'and the like because they are a reminder of the initial wonder of the magic of discovering a normal green apple !

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My recent reading (all of which I recommend) includes "The Door on Half-Bald Hill" by Helena Sorensen, a story of a society in collapse set in the twilight of Druidical times in a land that sounds much like Ireland; "Rembrandt Is in the Wind: Learning to Love Art through the Eyes of Faith" by Russ Ramsey (subtitle is a good summary); "English Literature in the Sixteenth Century (Except Drama)" by C.S. Lewis, originally published in 1954; and "The Saddest Words: William Faulkner's Civil War" by Michael Gorra.

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All the best in your quest to abstain from alcohol. The benefits are plenty; I've never felt better. For the social aspect of raising a glass now and then, I can recommend a good non-alcohol IPA. :-)

Just finished Marilynn Robinson's "Gilead," and now reading the first of three sequels, "Home." Lovely books, beautiful writing, a robust and challenging kind of nostalgia for community, faith, family, historical continuity, and the Big Life Questions. Her writing pairs well with Wendell Berry's recent essays, "The Need to Be Whole," which I'm also reading. The effect of these with your writing here, is giving me a lot to ponder. In the best way.

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