In the works
Carnage: A Benjamin Thomas Novel
Here's another piece I published back in 2012.
Were I to write something like this now, it'd probably be about Whiskey.
The Universe in a Wine Glass
Wine and the Search for Creativity
Come thou monarch of the vine,
Plumpy Bacchus with pink eyne!
In thy fats our cares be drowned,
With thy grapes our hairs be crowned,
Cup us till the world go round,
Cup us till the world go round!
Wine has been a source delight for humankind since the most ancient of days. The muse that flows out of wine containers into the glass has been rousing humanity’s creative prowess for the last 3500 years. Fritz Allhoff notes in his book, Wine & Philosophy, that “by 2500 BCE, wine was being cultivated on Crete” (Allhoff 1). Of all the alcoholic drinks, none has stirred the imagination like wine. Wine has infused men and women with the desire to write songs and poetry and literature that have been the cornerstones of cultures. Thucydides, a 5th century Greek historian said, “The peoples of the Mediterranean started to emerge from barbarianism when they learnt to cultivate the olive and the vine” (Allhoff 46). In order for wine to be capable of elevating the human soul and stimulating the creative mind, magic must take place during the wine-making process.
The process of making wine is much like aftereffects of the big bang, wherein everything was in a state of chaos, and then through time, the divine and intricate process of creation brought together those seemingly random elements and particles to form all of the planets, suns, moons, stars, and solar systems that speed across the universe. In much the same way, humans use the fruit of the vine that nature has provided to produce something divine. The harvesting, the crushing, the fermentation, the filtering, and the aging are all part of the process that creates the texture, colour, and aroma of wine. It is bottled only to be uncorked, poured, admired, and tasted for its qualities as it swishes inside that long stemmed glass, standing proudly on a finely decorated table. That is why Dr. Richard Feynman, the great physicist, said in his lectures, Six Easy Pieces, “If we look at a glass of wine close enough, we see the entire universe” (Feynman 66). As humans have cultivated the vine, wine has harvested humanity’s creativity. When we look into that glass, we can see ourselves playing a part in the creation. Flowing inside that glass of crushed grapes are poems and songs and stories and sacred traditions, yet to be discovered.
The ancients looked at wine and saw the divine, and their creativity flourished. The Homeric Hymns tells a tale of Dionysus, the mythological Greek god of wine, who covered a pirate ship with vines and grapes, and then turned the pirates into dolphins, after having been abducted and held for ransom (Cashford, 102-104). Then there is Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, with tales of his own, sung by Enobarbus in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, noted above. (Shakespeare 98).
Christians can look at a glass of wine and witness the first miracle performed by Jesus of Nazareth, when he turned water into wine, in order to save the wedding celebration from turning sour. Jesus often used references to vineyards and wine in his parables. It seems that He too felt inspired by the fruit of the vine, or at least knew His followers would be inspired by wine. He told his closest followers that he was “the true vine” (John 15:1). The most important and sacred tradition in Christianity is associated with wine. The Eucharist, when Christian believers commune together by sharing bread and a cup of wine that has become the body and blood of Christ. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Word, who spoke and created the earth and moon and stars and all that lies within the universe. When Christians sip from the cup of wine they are drinking more than just the wine. They are partaking in the passion of their Lord, which allows them to share in God’s Kingdom and his created universe. It is because of this belief that countless works of art have been dedicated to Jesus and His kingdom.
Hymn to Dionysus Wedding of Cana: Jesus turning water into wine
The creativity inspired by wine is not limited to the divine. Throughout the centuries, mere mortals have often been captivated by the aroma, texture, and colour of wine. The quintessential Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci, possibly the most creative man in history said, “The discovery of a good wine is increasingly better for mankind than the discovery of a new star” (The Wine Taster.com). Leonardo da Vinci used his creative talent to paint the famous Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, which were among many other inventions and sketches that seemed to be beyond his own time. It may be a stretch to say that da Vinci’s sole inspiration came from a cup of wine, but since he talked so highly of the drink, it is not a stretch to say that he saw the magical elements in wine, which played a part in his creative prowess. Perhaps, the inspiration for Mona Lisa’s slight smile came from a cup of wine. The winemakers at Vignamaggio Wine Estate might agree, since their vineyard is the same one where Mona Lisa lived 500 years ago (Vignamaggio.it).
Vincent van Gogh was another great artist who was inspired by wine. His picture, The Drinkers, wherein four people stand around a table, gulping wine from cups is a perfect symbol of camaraderie and equality, as all who drink from it, at least for the moment, are brothers. Even though the tortured painter rarely experienced this type of happiness, he could at least look at a glass of wine and imagine that it did exist. Vincent van Gogh’s name and art is now used for wine labels, showing that his love of wine and art live beyond his own lifetime.
Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa Vincent van Gogh’s The Drinkers
In A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway, wrote, “I would buy a liter of wine and a piece of bread and some sausage and sit in the sun and read one of the books I had bought and watch the fishing” (Hemingway 44). Fishing was a favorite past time of Hemingway, and he wrote about the tranquil effects of fishing in many of his novels and short stories. Fishing was a chance for his characters to take a break from their uncertain and often desperate lives. It was his rests on the banks of the Seine with a liter of wine where Hemingway first found the tranquility in the sport of fishing. Though he never limited his drinking to wine alone, it was wine that he called, “…one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing,” (Goodreads.com). Hemingway saw certain perfection in wine, something that he never claimed for anything else. Many readers find perfection in his prose. Wine, it seems, has played its part in that.
Hemmingway with a bottle of wine Hemingway with a big fish
William Shakespeare has many quotes on wine, which show that the fruit of the vine was never far from his mind. “A good wine is a good familiar creature, if it be well used,” said the deceptive Iago from the play, Othello (Shakespeare 87). When his characters spoke of it, they often hinted to its dual nature of joyful revelry and the sour aftereffects. The Bard saw the duality of wine and used it quite often as a plot device to change the course some of his plays – his plays, which of course eventually changed the course of western literature.
Creativity is humanity’s most elusive and powerful quality. It is not tangible, yet it is the tool that has taken us from the caves into palaces. In a glass of wine, an artist can visualize what that palace looks like. When an artist looks at a glass of wine, he sees his universe and all that is possible within it. The ancient Greeks and Romans saw divinity. Christians, likewise, see themselves united to their God and His universe. Leonardo da Vinci saw a smile that has intrigued the world for that last 500 years. Vincent van Gogh saw happiness, while it led Ernest Hemingway to tranquility and William Shakespeare to write about revelry and turmoil. Throughout history, wine has been inspiring the creativity of humankind. A glass of wine has the power to elevate the imagination of humanity. All that need be done is to look inside the glass and see the universe, and if a bad bottle is opened and we plummet, take heart and open the next bottle because what is waiting inside can lift us to greater heights.
The Universe in a glass of wine
Allhoff, Fritz. Wine & Philosophy: A Symposium on Thinking and Drinking. Oxford. Blackwell Publishing. 2008. Print.
Feynman, Richard. Six Easy Pieces. California. Perseus Publishing. 1995. Print.
Goodreads.com. Popular Quotes. 2012. Goodreads.Inc.
Hemingway, Ernest. A Moveable Feast. New York. Scribner. 1992. Print.
Manick, Steven. The Wine Taster.com. Favorite Wine Quotes. 2007.
Shakespeare, William. Antony and Cleopatra. New York. Signet Publishing. 1964. Print.
Shakespeare, William. Othello: The Moor of Venice. New York. Signet Publishing. 1986. Print.
The Holy Bible: Gospel of John. King James Version Grand Rapids Michigan. Zondervan, 1994. Print.
The Homeric Hymns. Trans. Cashford, Jules. London England. Penguin Publishing. 2003. Print.
Images taken from Google Images.
Then again, I don't think whiskey would have worked as well.
Whatever your drink is, make sure to toast loved ones and with loved ones.