Posts Tagged ‘This Is Your Mind on Plants’

Coffee, the modern world and me

July 24, 2021

The following is from an article called “The plants that change our consciousness” by Sophia McBain in the New Statesman.

It is no coincidence that caffeine and the minute-hand on clocks arrived at around the same historical moment, the acclaimed food and nature writer Michael Pollan argues in his latest book, This is Your Mind on Plants

Both spread across Europe as laborers began leaving the fields, where work is organised around the sun, for the factories, where shift-workers could no longer adhere to their natural patterns of sleep and wakefulness.

Would capitalism even have been possible without caffeine?  The introduction of caffeine to Europe in the early 17th century coincided with the waning of the mystical medieval mindset and the rise of the cool-headed rationalism of the Enlightenment.

Before the arrival of tea and coffee, alcohol was the safest thing to drink – or at least, safer than most water – so perhaps it is little wonder that the permanently sozzled intellectuals of the Middle Ages were prone to magical thinking.  In contrast, caffeine can intensify “spotlight consciousness,” which illuminates a single point of attention, enhancing our reasoning skills.

Voltaire had such faith in coffee’s power to sharpen his mind that he is said to have drunk up to 72 cups a day.  Balzac sometimes dispensed with drinking coffee altogether and instead ate the grounds for a more powerful hit.

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