Wednesday, January 11, 2012


In Rome, it’s very hot in the summer, and if they let you out to play, one of the best places to play hide-and-seek is in a church. My friends and I did that all the time. I was a very good hider. It would take forever to find me. And so I would watch. I would watch all the saints on the walls, in the frescoes: they tended to look like people who were in the market on Fridays. I’d watch people come in, very devoutly, all in black, and sit in a very uncomfortable position for a very long time—not moving, praying, and weeping. I’d watch priests hurry by in their white cassocks with a kind of businesslike air. I’d see angry transactions between priests. I’d see people come in and confess and leave again, strangely eager. I’d watch tourists come in and look: I’d watch them see or not see—a very interesting thing to become attuned to in others—in the gaze, the tone, the manner of speech. I’d watch lovers. There are an awful lot of different lives that a constantly used church contains. Not even funerals or weddings took place without some other stream of simultaneously contradictory emotion—art-historical, or touristic, curiosity—flowing amidst or alongside. That was formative—the secular and the sacred intersecting in one spatial zone.

- Jorie Graham, as quoted by Thomas Gardner in The Paris Review, from 2003

We each approach a wine looking for something different, and I guess it is helpful to remember that inside a restaurant, the beverage is just that for many people. Just as a wine can be made without feeling or desire for the sublime, so it can be consumed in a similar manner. Probably, it isn't worth getting supercilious about, no matter what a particular wine might mean to yourself or myself personally. We each arrive to a restaurant hungry, but for what might be different, and parallel attitudes may never intersect although they find each other nearby.

There might not really be one fundamental reason to like or dislike a wine, as we often suppose there is. Great, Balanced, Natural, Concentrated, Useful, High Alcohol, Low Alcohol, White, Red: perhaps none of these should be privileged more than the moment or company we find ourselves in. Single word answers aren't full answers. What I have liked in the past is not what I like today, and what was once popular is no longer well regarded. Usually, overarching concepts fail to satisfy all comers, nor recognize what is unique to the situation and time of each. Finding transcendence may not be a group activity, and I suspect we each go in our own manner, and one by one from amongst a crowd.

Paolo Veronese originally planned this 1573 painting as a depiction of The Last Supper, but after objections from the Inquistion as to the amount of secular characters in the scene, Veronese changed the title of the canvas to Christ in the House of Levi. Click on the painting to see an enlarged view.

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