It’s time to come clean. As you know if you’ve been with this blog since the beginning, I didn’t drink an ounce of coffee for ten straight days a few weeks back. After the headaches stopped on the second day, I didn’t even miss it. As far as I was concerned, coffee was no longer part of my routine. I’ll even confess that when I saw others drinking it, just as I had been doing for months (years?) previously, I judged them a bit. Can’t you see you’re a slave to that green and white cup? Get out of that warm, fuzzy, caffeinated pseudo-reality and enjoy how it feels to just be natural. I even told the story on this blog about when I did reward myself at the end of the ten days with a single small (tall) coffee from Starbucks, and subsequently felt uncomfortably jittery and dizzy. How could I have been drinking this crap every single day, when it causes that sort of reaction now that I’m not used to it?
But even that ten-day experience wasn’t enough for me to stop, because as I write this post I’m drinking another nice cup of joe. And it’s not my allotted one or two per week. This is the third consecutive day. And let me tell you, it still feels great.
I am very hesitant to call this an addiction. Spoken like a true addict though, isn’t it? The reason I won’t call it the a-word is that I don’t think I need coffee. I wouldn’t have had a headache if I didn’t drink it today. And I didn’t drink it because I was tired and needed a jolt to start the day. I drank it because I love drinking it, because I love the mood it puts me in. To further support my case, let me explain that I never drink coffee if I wake up tired or on the wrong side of the bed, or even if I have a busy day of not-so-exciting math classes ahead of me. I just don’t want it then. But when I have a light schedule, some time with myself to read, think, or now write, then coffee just makes a good time that much better.
Then again, this isn’t completely innocent. I’m not drinking coffee solely for the taste; if that were the case then decaf would probably do. I’m drinking it for its ability to make my happy moments even happier. And in this way, I’m using it for what it really is, a mood-altering drug. Yes, drug.
I do know that if I believed coffee were terrible for me and could not possibly be part of a healthy lifestyle, then I wouldn’t drink it. I value health more than whatever it is that coffee gives me. Problem is, I’m not convinced that the net effect is bad. I hear about so many studies showing a reduced risk of cancer, Alzheimers, and heart disease from as many as three to five cups of coffee per day, an amount that I don’t consider moderate. Of course, plenty of negative effects have been shown too. My point is that if coffee’s net effect is bad, then it’s not at all clear to me yet.
I like this picture of Starbucks signs and all the paradoxical staircases. Its point, of course, is that Starbucks is infiltrating our lives by popping up on every street corner, turning lots of us into mindless drones whose sole quest is to remain caffeinated. But for me it has more meaning. The picture references the well-known M.C. Escher drawing Relativity. And when I talk about getting blissfully lost in a book with a cup of coffee, the book that comes to mind is Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, by Douglas Hofstadter. The book’s central theme is self-reference of the type used by Escher, as it appears not just in art, but also in music, mathematics, computer science, biology, and most profoundly, consciousness. Of course that has nothing to do with coffee (though caffeine addiction is the subject of J.S. Bach’s famous Coffee Cantata). But to realize that I was caffeinated during most of the time that I spent enjoying my favorite book in the world saddens me a little, and this picture reminds me of that fact in an amusing way.
So that’s where I am with coffee– not sure if it’s good or bad, and not sure how not to love it so much. I hope to hear if there are any others with the same dilemma, and to get some convincing feedback from you diet-conscious readers about whether you think health and coffee are mutually exclusive.
And don’t worry; Erin and I didn’t go hungry last night! I just thought something other than a recipe today would provide a nice change of pace. Recipes will be back tomorrow!
(UPDATE: A few weeks after this post, I decided to drastically reduce my caffeine intake. See Giving Up Coffee, and Other Nonrandom Sunday Thoughts.)