Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Borgart), having had a bit too much to drink the night before, awakens to find Rose Sayer (Katharine Hepburn) pouring his bottles of gin into the Zambezi River. “Whatcha bein’ so mean for, miss?” he pleads. A man takes a drop too much once in a while, it’s…it’s only human nature. “Nature, Mr. Allnut,” she replies, “is what we are put in this world to rise above.”
In this dialogue from the film The African Queen, Rose Sayer is the voice of reason, temperance, and fundamentalist rhetoric, while poor, intoxicated Charlie is just a little weak when it comes to resisting the bottle. It’s no mystery who, of the two of them, would be considered the most righteous.
In the Preface of his book Love Poems From God, author and translator Daniel Ladinsky offers a different and delightful twist to being intoxicated when he says, “I hope you fall into this wine barrel (book) and crawl out legally drunk, and get arrested for doing something that makes God proud of you, like being too happy.” In his mind, becoming drunk (with the spirit) and being arrested (found guilty) can be the cause and result of doing something outrageous that God applauds. Speaking on behalf of mystical poets East and West, Ladinsky posits that openness to the divine can bring one to a state similar to inebriation – an enthusiastic, ecstatic, exuberant aliveness. I don’t know about you, but I’m a little hesitant to go there, not sure I’d want to be seen reveling in the spirit! However, I do admit that the notion of being “too happy” has some appeal.
It is often the case that our sober, cerebral approach to connecting with the God of our understanding is a bit lifeless. Speaking of Christians, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once opined that “his followers should look more redeemed.” I’m not encouraging anyone to dance in the pews or to be wildly demonstrative in the expression of their faith, but the seriousness that too often characterizes religious folk, can send a less-than-life giving message. I believe the best demonstration of religious/spiritual intoxication begins with the inner stirrings of our heart, and is then expressed outwardly in compassionate self-care and service to others.
Perhaps Charlie Allnut isn’t such a bad “nut” after all, he just needs to imbibe a different type of “spirits.” And Rose, well, maybe she needs to lighten up a bit!