catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 11, Num 12 :: 2012.06.08 — 2012.06.21


Drinking to remember

I don’t remember whose quip it was, but it’s actually kind of nice to think it belongs to the group.  It was last fall and we’d gotten together as a *culture is not optional staff for a retreat to discuss our identity, mission and programming as an organization.  The word “community” kept popping up in various forms — building community, modeling community, intentional community.  As the brainstorming turned to the qualities of our community on the ground here in Three Rivers, someone named our identity as an “intestinal community.”  We all laughed then, and we still laugh now, because we like to play with words.  But also, in the wise words of Homer Simpson, “It’s funny ‘cause it’s true.”

Sharing meals as an expression of welcome, connection, creativity and hospitality has been a consistent practice, but so, we noted that day, has drinking together.  Beyond just the practical act of hydrating the body, drinking various beverages has become one of the rituals that expresses and reinforces who we are and what we value.

At our morning staff meetings, the coffee is prepared with the practiced attentiveness of an acolyte.  The grounds and water measured, the scent rises like incense as we begin with our centering reflection — a poem or another reading or a prayer, which may be redundant; our senses are already reminding us where we are, why we’re here.  For the most part, the caffeine is far less significant than the quality of the flavor and the integrity of the production: beans roasted to order in our state by entrepreneurs who partner with the farmers to establish a life-giving wage.  We receive this luxury with gratitude in our hearts and in our mouths.

Afternoon service might find us enjoying tea, steeped in a pot handmade in the local ceramics studio by one of the artists in our community, sipped from a motley array of mugs that remind us of our commitment to radical hospitality.  “All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place,” we might as well be singing.  And likewise, each tea finds its liturgical season: Creamy Earl Grey from the local fair trade store in the fall, Heartwarming Cinnamon in the winter, Moroccan Mint on ice in the summer.

Vespers sometimes finds us at the neighborhood bar, a little place attached to the beautifully renovated historic theatre.  Here we pass the peace in the form of conversation or euchre, over a Michigan microbrew or a favorite bourbon or, on a very special occasion, a local whiskey with innumerable layers to its complex, north-woods personality.  As opposed to drinking to forget ourselves by drowning our worries in the cheapest anesthesia, at our best, we are drinking to remember: to remember the value of lifelong friendship, to remember the astounding creativity of human beings with such stuff of earth as hops and grapes, to remember what it feels like to be loved.

I don’t doubt that any beverage, like any thing, can be misused.  Nothing on this good earth escapes the trouble of pride, of greed, of violence.  But in good use, beverages have the capacity to become one of the essential tools of intentional, intestinal community as we brothers and sisters drink, remember and believe.

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