Coffee at the campfire

The immediate (practical) purpose of drinking a cup of coffee is to wash the biscuit down; the proximate (ethical), the intimate communion of, say, cowboys standing around a campfire in a drenching rain, water curling off their Stetsons, over yellow slickers, splashing on the rowels of spurs, their faces creased with squinting at the sun, drawing the bitter liquid down their several throats into the single moral belly of their comradeship. The remote (political) purpose of coffee at the campfire, especially in the rain, is the making of Americans — born on the frontier, free, frank, friendly, touchy about honor, despisers of fences, lovers of horses, worshippers of eagles and women. Nations have their drinks: the English, tea, the Irish, whiskey, the Germans, beer. Drinking coffee from a can is us. The ultimate purpose is mystical. To drink a can of coffee with the cowboys in the rain is, as Odysseus said of Alcinous’s banquet, something like perfection.

The Restoration of Innocence: An Idea of a School (his last, so far unpublished book)