A.E. Housman in “Terence, This Is Stupid Stuff” from A Shropshire Lad has much wisdom to impart, but none of more magnitude and maltiness than the above lines; while Eduard von Grützner oil painting of Monks Drinking Beer In A Cellar portrays our current post out quite nicely–beer and God. Let’s start down below; let’s start with death.
Κωκυτός, meaning “lamentation,” an outpouring of grief, a ritual of sadness filling the absence of a loved one, the dying of a living person which grounds all human experience in the fact of our mortality and the fact of our consciousness. Out of necessity, out of brain waves and mental constructs, with a dash of beyond-our-control yet we aspire to control contemplation of death, we birth all gods and all philosophies. Oh, we give birth. No need for anything divine if we don’t fall to the earth and decay; no need for ontology or phenomenology if we don’t cease to exist. The new thinking of death is much like the old thinking of death–create a story to soothe the heart when your father or wife or son falls, create a story to soothe yourself when you know the unique, individual existence you live will perish and never be seen again. My, what beautiful artwork on the box of two 12 oz cans Imperial Stout aged in rye whiskey barrels with handfuls of cacao nibs thrown in for an even darker pour. Martin House Brewing in Forth Worth Texas favor rivers deep underground with Acheron (also an Imperial Stout aged in whiskey barrels) as well as Kokytus. A 13.8 abv Imperial Stout launched this August which hosts pale malt, roasted barley, chocolate malt, and hops, then ages the concoction seven months in rye whiskey barrels. Oh yes, and cacao nibs. Κωκυτός refers also to a river surrounding Hades. In Dante’s Inferno, Kokytus imprisons Satan in its ice, Satan whose three mouths gnaw on the traitorous Judas, Brutus and Cassius for all time. The frozen ice of Kokytus also contains Count Ugolino who bites into Archbishop Ruggieri’s skull for eternity. Is that Satan on Martin House Brewery’s colorful packaging? Does the devil drink beer? Also, yes, death births aesthetics.
Really loving this artwork, which offers “beauty,” offers the fascinating and intoxicating as a remedy, as a little medical potion to offset the grim melancholy of positing one’s dying. By the way. Martin House Brewery credits 9 Digit Productions with creating this artwork. Kudos to those lads and ladies. John Keats sums up the dilemma of art and mortality in his poem “Ode On A Grecian Urn.”
What Keats posits for art, I’ll slide on over and apply to the gods, to the divine. We want that which never changes, never loses a moment of its fresh, ever-new state of being, something that though we die, our death gives us passage into and transforms us into the very same thing. We want to stay fresh and every-new forever, never dying, never tasting mortality again, and if a god dies for us all, well then we all join him or her in the skies above. Plato in The Republic and then the Timaeus offers us an ideal state of existence on Earth and in never-changing forms and in the work of a divine craftsman who of course builds a symmetrical, ordered world that Leibniz would call his own. Isn’t Heidegger after something similar in his Da-Sein from Being and Time? And what of Derrida? When he explores the remedy and poison of writing in Dissemination, is he nullifying a unified being we may partake in or is he just pointing out writing is just a hand pointing in one direction and nothing more? Follow the figure of the Lord of the Dead as he points out from the can, as he points you to tipping the dark liquid into a glass.
Dark, thick and creamy. Rye whiskey and chocolate fills the air, with swirls of steam from an espresso machine. On the tongue? Plum, cherry, dark chocolate, molasses, hint of maple syrup, plenty of coffee, brown bread, always that rye whiskey coming close to a single malt scotch. Of course oak, of course vanilla. Sweet, roasted and slightly bitter. My, my. Taste also stays our pain as we contemplate Death’s pointing finger, a figure of mortality I see in the artwork of Kokytus more than Satan. I find Death a far more chilling (Ha!) figure than Satan, who always appears too much as a Judeo-Christian boogeyman, a huckster form the Desert Religions who might work for Hades, but certainly does not rule the roost. Taste like gods, philosophy and our man-made technology taking over more and more of our lives offers us the simple lullaby, the forthright bedtime story . . . please, keep me ignorant of death . . . and of breakfast slop. Bon Appétit!