[Crusader's Gate, Jerusalem]George Herbert: "The Church-porch"

Day 4: Morning


He that is drunken, may his mother kill

Bigge with his sister: he hath lost the reins,

Is outlawd by himself: all kinde of ill

Did with his liquour slide into his veins.

     The drunkard forfets Man, and doth devest

     All worldly right, save what he hath by beast.

     One who is drunken may hurt others beyond his later regret. He may kill his own expectant mother together with his unborn sister. Because he has given up self control (the reins), he becomes his own outlaw, outside his own law, governance and regulation. Many other ills, wrongs, evils and injuries slide into the veins with intoxication. He gives up being human and all the worldly rights that go with his humanity. All that is left is the beast, its nature and its rights.

     The point of no return, the crucial decision, is the third glass, and the responsibility to give up self control. This is the decision to give up everything human. An outlaw breaks laws set down by governments, society and those around him. But what is a person who makes himself an outlaw to his own rules. He disobeys his own morality, precepts and conduct. He excludes society by rejecting the rights of others who expect to deal with a reasonable person. He denies law and the security of government by his actions under the influence. The restrictions that exist to restrain our lesser nature lay deserted. We have, of our own will while we were still responsible, abandoned all we are as human beings and children of God. We make ourselves an outlaw to the same laws that we expect others to keep. All we have left is our bestial nature, needs and instincts.

     As children we are taught to say we are sorry when we hurt someone. But as we grow older we should understand that "sorry" does not end the harm we have thoughtlessly done, and it does not change our carelessness for another's injury. When we decide to abrogate responsibility, we sacrifice forgiveness. Thoughtlessness is no accident, and a "sorry" does not cancel irresponsibility.

© 1997 J. R. Arner

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