In a world of Top 100 lists and a thousand and one books about 1001 things you’ll never be able to afford to do, us Homo Sapien types often lose our perspective. We had caught up in the whims of our tiny, insignificant lives and convince each other that we are more important than we really are.
If I was compiling a list of photographs that you must see before you die, there is no doubt that Pale Blue Dot would be somewhere near the pinnacle of my list. The photo, taken by NASA in 1990, illustrates just how insignificant our little Blue Planet is in the vastness of our solar system. The image of a small dot – less than 1 pixel wide – does not even illustrate what a microscopically tiny part of our galaxy the Earth is, let alone the Universe.
Carl Sagan, at who’s request the photo was taken, summed this up beautifully. He cooly points out that every life, every birth, every death, every war, every fight, every breath, every human thought, all took place in this infinitesimally tiny piece of rock amidst an infinity of rock, gas and nothingness. And that includes every pint in every pub.
So, in the grand scheme of things, beer really doesn’t matter. All the beer ever brewed, ever drunk and ever dreamed about amounts to a relatively tiny bundle of charged particles, given energy by the star we call our Sun and ultimately delivering intoxication to a teeny bunch of people who are doing their best to put their everyday lives and strifes behind them.
One day, that same Sun will eat the Earth in a mind boggling display of unstoppable solar bravado, dwarfing it’s heavenly subjects as it accelerates towards it’s ultimate fate, collapsing under the weight of the universes’ weakest force and destroying, potentially, all the life that there ever will be or has been.
So in some ways, human fate is ultimately doomed. There’s no point to anything we do, we may as well drink, get fat and fuck off, leaving a dead planet behind to rot and burn.
But, as we all know, size isn’t everything.
Our human lifetimes which flash by in an instant are a speckle on the astronomical time line, but to each and every one of us, those moments when we breathe, think and drink are all we will ever have. They are our own personal time-constrained eternities. We will never have any one elses moments, we will never be able to see everything in the world. We will spend our lives missing out on everyone elses moments and clinging desperately to our own.
There are times we come together and share in our (utterly pointless and insignificant) lives. We celebrate the fact we have each other. We celebrate our health and happiness. We counter our grief and illness by coming together and offer our company to those in despair.
And during these moments, at these good times that we remember (and often at the bad ones we can never forget) many of us have beer as the focal point of our communion.
Beer is touted as the most social of our tipples, a drink for the masses, for all of the classes, with simple, earthy ingredients, served in community centres for the local people, ‘public urban boundary systems‘ where people come together and network, socially, without the need for technology nor pixels.
Beer is arguably no more important than wine, than vodka, whiskey or cider. It’s rarely shared in the same way as the sambucas that you set on fire or the tequilas that we neck along with salt and lemon. It doesn’t have the shock and headfuck kick of a jagerbomb.
It is though, the most popular of all the alcoholic lubrications1. There are beers of various different levels of potency. There’s a beer for every occassion. A gueze to share, a kriek to start a party. A bitter after a long walk, a porter to sit in front of an open fire with. There’s a beer to cool you down in summer sun, a beer to warm you up after a cold winters day.
There’s a beer for a chat, beer for a session. Beers to knock you for six and beer to stay up all night with. There’s beer for drowning our sorrows and beer for celebrating milestones. There’s beer for beer geeks and beer for John Smith down the local WMC.
Arguably no other drink shares this diversity – no other drink can match beer for depth, diversity and refreshment.
‘Nothing ever lasts forever’ sang Echo & his Bunnymen. Not even the sun, this Earth or maybe even time. But in each and everyone of our worlds, our lives are our eternity and to us, everything matters. If beer matters to you, then beer matters.
1 So says a source on Wikipedia, and who am I to argue. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beer#cite_note-1