Jewish Journal

Pub theology, topless bars and the basis for mental breakthroughs

by Brad A. Greenberg

July 28, 2008 | 1:03 pm

Pub theology has a newfound place in the modern Christian church. But the intersection of alcohol and divine revelation goes much further back.

There was, of course, the wedding at Cana. Martin Luther was reportedly a fan of his home-brewed German hops. And it was over the daily pints with Tolkien that C.S. Lewis became a believer in God.

I know this is discomforting to teetotalers, but all Christians should consider ourselves fortunate that Lewis and Tolkien chose such high-brow establishments for ruminating life’s mysteries. Some have chosen less, um, family-friendly venues.

Richard Feynman, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, preferred the relaxed atmosphere of a topless bar, where he would sip 7 UP, “watch the entertainment,” and, if inspiration struck, scribble equations on cocktail napkins.

That factoid comes from an article in this week’s New Yorker titled “The Eureka Moment.” In it, Jonah Lehrer discusses the quest to understand the neurological basis for breakthrough insights, or Aha! moments. New research has found is that a portion of the brain responsible for insights is actually inhibited by focus and concentration.

This explains, for me, why writing can be incredibly cumbersome when I am sitting in front of my computer and totally facile when I am driving my car. It doesn’t, though, explain Feynman’s affinity. As we know—sorry, this is too easy—staring at the boob tube often makes you dumber.

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