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A vice is an immoral or wicked behavior, often involving criminality. Which begs the question, what constitutes immoral behavior? Immorality does not conform to the accepted standards of morality. Morals are principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior. A particular system of morals is held by an individual or society. Which means morality is subjective, and there are as many opinions as there are people to hold them. 

For example, you may be against cigarettes, calling them cancer sticks, but are okay with a hit or two off a doobie. The tobacco smoker may take the high road, calling you the druggie, since carcinogenic chemicals notwithstanding, at least cigarettes don't alter one's consciousness, slowing reaction time and in the parlance of a friend of mine, merely making the user "horny, hungry and tired." I can see his point.

Drinking a bottle of wine and then driving your kids across town gets classified as immoral behavior in practically everybody's book because it involves the twin faux pas of child endangerment and drunkenness. Fine. But to the Christians in the house, having a glass of wine, perhaps even two, is acceptable behavior since it is endorsed by the Old Testament (God made wine to make men "glad") and accords with the habits of the Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ after all gave wine to his disciples, saying "Take this all of you and drink it, this is my blood, which shall be given up for you." I recited that from memory. Old parochial school habits die hard. 

However not all religions hold spirits in such high esteem. To the Hare Krishna a mere taste of any intoxicating substance, be it wine or beer or even coffee or tobacco, is strictly forbidden. And it goes without saying that drinking blood in the literal sense is pretty much unacceptable to all - excepting our vampire brothers and sisters, of course. We must remember, however, that morality is less about what goes into your mouth as it is about what comes out of it. If you speak softly and sweetly and practice kindness, then you are at liberty to defile your personal temple in whichever way you see fit. Or at least until it is no longer fun. Because enjoyment is everything. And too much of the good life can make you say stupid shit. Dope is aptly named.

Just my educated opinion, borne of observation and experience. Because let's face it. So called bad behavior is its own punishment. After a bender I don't fear fire and brimstone as much as I do the next morning's hangover, with its pounding headache, puffy eyes and leaden limbs. Cancer is an almost inevitable consequence of the injudicious use of tobacco, and the result of indiscriminate promiscuity is venereal disease, or can be. So pursue these pleasures at your own risk.

But let's allow for the sake of discussion that the common physical vices - those which people are the most vociferous and divided over - are drinking, smoking, caffeine, meat and sex. What place should these behaviors, if any, be accorded in your life? If your wish is to derive the most enjoyment out of existence with minimum damage to your physicality, can you indulge in these pastimes without harm and even more importantly, without the guilt? We are conditioned to feel guilt. About our naked bodies. About our pleasures. It is indoctrinated in school, and by religion and our parents and our elders. And once you hit adulthood, by your peers as well. There are so many goody-goodies! At some point almost every brand of fun is labeled bad, to be avoided, or at least moderated. Food, Internet, TV, porn, smart technology. Even so-called healthy addictions like exercise and sleep and reading, if indulged in excessively, quickly become too much of a good thing.

But can you be a little vicious without endangering your life or making yourself feel bad and pathetic? I think so.

If you drink, choose low alcohol varieties. I'm talking beer and wine. This is what the Bible speaks of when it says to drink and be merry. Higher alcohol content (40 to 50 percent alcohol or more, which is ten times what is in beer) results from distillations of potatoes and mash as found in the hard liquors, whiskey and vodka and their like. The strong stuff did not exist in biblical times. In modern times these spirits lend themselves to abuse, drunkenness, and the irresponsible behavior that arises, like driving your kids around town or getting busy with your neighbor's wife. I am not speaking from experience, because I lay off the hard stuff. And a little alcohol has a lot of benefits. Beer can safeguard your heart, boost your immunity, make you more creative, protect your bones, and more. Provided you are moderate. The expansive feeling and heightened well-being and confidence generally disappear after more than two drinks, maybe one if you're female. So make ETOH work for you rather than be its slave. For me drinking was always a test of manliness, a chore to get through. Shots! Or, a keg. Something to be overcome. By the time my friends and I did, we were sloshed. The fun was gone. Don't be like that me. And if wine is your brand of poison, take heed: red leads to heavy head and limbs like lead, while white is light and bright. Like you, if you have a glass.

Of the many intoxicants (drugs) out there, caffeine and tobacco have been used for centuries for their stimulating effects. The coca leaf as well, from which cocaine is derived. I've become a connoisseur of caffeine. I've had it in as many varieties as exist. Coffee and its incarnations as espresso and cold brew. Various energy drinks and sodas. I can say that the best buzz, the clearest, least jittery and without the lull that comes with adrenal exhaustion, is to be found in teas, and in yerba mate, a Brazilian holly which provides "the strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate." Sold yet? You should be. These substances have compounds such as theobromine, which works synergistically with caffeine to produce euphoria and also mellow out the buzz. My favorite these days is a couple tea bags (green and black) brewed with cocoa powder and stevia, or 12 oz of yerba mate made in the coffee machine. The caffeine content is about half what you'd find in coffee, but the buzz in much cleaner.

As for tobacco, I've tried it all. I smoked cigarettes for a time in college, but hated the lung burn and the difficulty breathing that ensued. I'm a runner, and so anything that prevents me from running fast and long is anathema to me. I have smoked a lot of cigars in the succeeding decades. They are all-natural and you don't inhale. But cigars can be expensive and they don't taste as good if they go out and are relit. So you are committed to a one-hour smoke, which is a lot of time seated on one's behind. Recently I've experimented with a pipe. After the initial purchase of said pipe, the habit itself is quite economical. For $5 or $10 you can get a bag of good tobacco that can last for several weeks. You can pack your pipe loosely or densely, depending upon how long you wish to experience it, and if it goes out, as it often does when you are in intense conversation, as you'll often be while smoking your pipe, you can always relight without sacrificing flavor. There have been many famous pipe smokers, from Einstein to Doyle and many other writers besides. And remember our Native Americans with their peace pipe. An Indian proverb goes: "A pipe is to the troubled soul what caresses of a mother are for her suffering child." Which is why I sometimes find solace after my mother's death in the pipe she once bought me.

If you eat meat, and I currently do not, at least don't eat mammals. They are too human for my taste. And hair and hooves are not exactly my idea of appetite stimulants. Stick to fish, and the eggs of mammals. And eat these infrequently and in moderation. The world's oldest lady, who is 117, attributes her longevity to eating 2 raw eggs every day. Be like her but in the interest of taste and salmonella avoidance, just be sure to boil your baby chickens first.

Gambling is never a good idea, as the odds are always with the house. If you do take a risk, play the game of life and always bet on yourself. Sex with strangers is always a gamble. You never know what you are going to get. True love, fatal attraction, a night to remember, or a pesky rash? It seems that with sex, as with a lady's nether anatomy, the elusive sweet spot varies with each individual. Which is fitting, since the conception of morality does too. Lest we forget what the hell we're talking about. I adopt the advice of anti-aging expert Norman Shealy, MD, and suggest you do too. The good doctor suggests that we make an effort to orgasm twice or thrice weekly, which is really no effort at all, it feels so damn good. And if you're currently unaffiliated, be like me and engage in self-love frequently. To those in search of visual stimuli, this pretty package is gender friendly. Because who doesn't appreciate a firm behind? And it comes pre-wrapped. I always love when Christmas comes early.


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