Stoicism: Day 5 – Social Drinking

The ice baths are getting easier, but the post-ice bath shivering is getting worse. I’m not sure why. But the anxiety of taking an ice bath is mostly gone. There is a little bit of nervous pacing while the bathtub fills up, but I don’t dwell on it too much.

Yesterday, a co-worker sent out an e-mail to a bunch us announcing he is setting up a ‘pub golf’ tournament in a few weeks.  You can read up on the rules, but all you need to know is that to win, you will need to drink excessively. If you don’t perform well, you will hurt your team.

From a career development perspective, it pays to go to these things. Being social outside of a work context makes you more likeable and helps establish good relationships. It gives you social capital. Plus, it’s fun!

The Stoics, however, would not condone getting ahead in your career as a good goal. You should do your job well, but you should be ok if you never get ahead, or even fired.

The Stoics also encouraged moderation. Consider this passage from Epictetus:

Remember that you must behave in life as at a dinner party. Is anything brought around to you? Put out your hand and take your share with moderation. Does it pass by you? Don’t stop it. Is it not yet come? Don’t stretch your desire towards it, but wait till it reaches you. Do this with regard to children, to a wife, to public posts, to riches, and you will eventually be a worthy partner of the feasts of the gods. And if you don’t even take the things which are set before you, but are able even to reject them, then you will not only be a partner at   the feasts of the gods, but also of their empire. For, by doing this, Diogenes, Heraclitus and others like them, deservedly became, and were called, divine.

I’m a little stumped on what to do at the Pub Golf outing. The entire excursion is designed to encourage drinking to excess, which the Stoics would reject. On the other hand, there is an element of “go with the flow” in Epictetus’ passage (though he does advocate abstaining as the highest value).

I think I have a few options here:

a)    Not attend
b)   Attend, but drink moderately
c)    Attend, but not drink

If I don’t attend, no one would blame me. I wouldn’t suffer any consequences, but I would miss out on an opportunity to maintain my relationship with my colleagues.

If I attend, but drink moderately, I run the risk of drinking excessively, and I haven’t been good about rejecting pressure to drink more in the past after I have the first one or two

If I attend, but do not drink, I might be overly conspicuous and end up being ostracized. In this case I might as well not as go as it’s worse to be conspicuously not drinking than not attend at all.

I’m leaning to attending, but not drinking. Yes, I will miss out on the pleasure of getting drunk, but I believe it has a few benefits from a Stoic Perspective

a)    It will give me an opportunity to resist peer pressure

b)   It will give me an opportunity to be serene in the face of super drunk people (who are really annoying if you are not drunk)

c)    I can act from “virtuous” intentions, which is to maintain good relations with my co-workers without partaking in debauchery

The more I think about it, the more this seems like a good test of Stoic behavior.  I haven’t successfully resisted social drinking before, so this will be an interesting experiement. Plus, it is after my Stoicism month is over, so I will have a few more weeks of Stoic practice to prepare myself. If  you believe Seneca, I will avoid “bestializing the soul.”

Cruelty usually follows wine-bibbing; for a man’s soundness of mind is corrupted and made savage. Just as a lingering illness makes men querulous and irritable and drives them wild at the least crossing of their desires, so continued bouts of drunkenness bestialize the soul. For when people are often beside themselves, the habit of madness lasts on, and the vices which liquor generated retain their power even when the liquor is gone.  

I’ll report back on the Pub Golf when it happens.