Good day, my fabulous Fantastic Friday’s Feature readers! Last week, I featured an essay by G.K. Chesterton on the glories of cheese (which can be found here) and so this week, as you may have gathered from the title, I am featuring another delectable dainty, known by some as the dew of heaven: coffee.
Yes, coffee. But no, I am not the one to wax eloquent about this tasty treat. My brother, Zak (who also has another guest post here on “Embracing the Fairy Tale Life”), has written a brief essay called “The Romance of Coffee” in true Chestertonian style expounding upon the wonders of this drink we enjoy known as coffee. I hope you enjoy:
Chesterton once said that we all have a tendency to overlook the startling quality of the world around us. We are inclined to use the terms “normal” or “ordinary” to classify things which in fact viciously defy these categories. Recently, it dawned upon me that I was guilty of this crime as it pertains to my view of coffee. I had allowed my daily contact with this magical substance to blind me to its extraordinarily poetic properties. Filled with remorse at such a heinous offense, I have resolved to appease my conscience by writing this eulogy for coffee, the greatest of all beverages. Indeed, the act of drinking coffee is an act of such tremendous romance that it is with great trepidation that I wade into the waters of such a deep and mysterious subject.
The essence of romance lies in thinking that the more dangerous something is, the more beautiful it is. Falling in love is romantic because it involves a loss of control over our actions, which is a very dangerous state of affairs. Sacrificing your life for someone that you love is romantic because it involves danger to the physical body. Now, the romance of coffee lies in its association with two of the most dangerous things in our world: fire and death.
One of the most attractive qualities of coffee is the warmth that it brings to those who partake of it. However, it is sobering to realize that the warmth of coffee is quite capable of being turned to more harmful purposes. The mugs that allow us to drink this beverage are all that restrain the destructive power of this fiery liquid. By such modest means, we casually harness the ancient qualities of Greek fire. However, only a slight movement of the arm would thrust this fire into the face of another, thus releasing all the potential of this primeval weapon. We have laws that set limits to the carrying of firearms, but what laws protect us from those who carry an arsenal of portable lava? When we see a man carrying a cup of coffee, we see a man who dares to fill his goblet at the fountain of flame. When Prometheus gave fire to man, could he ever have foreseen how contemptuously man would regard this gift, that he would have the boldness to transform it into a consumable substance? Not content merely to wield such an awesome power, we daily flaunt our mastery of this element by absorbing liquid fire into our very being.
Coffee also has a bitterness to its taste that carries with it an echo of the bitterness of death. Yet, it is this bitterness that the coffee drinker loves. Is there anything more romantic than how we so willingly give ourselves to this drink of death? I cannot think of a more prevalent and evocative memento mori in our culture. Even the blackness of coffee is reminiscent of death. I never drink a cup of coffee without thinking of Socrates, who cheerfully drank the hemlock that destroyed his life. As I drink, I participate in a symbolic martyrdom, because the essence of martyrdom is a willingness to embrace death. The paradox of coffee is that it stimulates life and vitality, while cloaking itself in the blackness and bitterness of death. When God gave us the gift of coffee, he was giving us the gospel in liquid form.
In all truly romantic things we will find the gospel, because the gospel is the greatest romance story of all. It is the story of God embracing death, so that we could find life. It is a beautiful mystery, and a mystery that no one is better suited to understand than the coffee drinker.