ONCE UPON A TIME, way back yonder in days of yore—in fact, so far back that all adages were still new, so the term old adage was not yet redundant—I often found myself involved in conversations where I wanted to address our general ignorance and to let the other joe know that really meaningful appreciation of anything involved personal experience and comparison. There has to be some relativity, if you know what I mean. 1
Somewhere along the way I started quoting a phrase that I had heard somewhere from a village elder or a Wandering Jew or a one-eyed gypsy that I usually described to my unwary companion as an old European adage: “You can never truly appreciate a glass of wine until you drink a glass of vinegar.”
Brilliant, nyet? So true and so applicable to so many occasions.
Think of an inner city kid who has eaten Burger King hamburgers his entire life and thinking he knows beef.
Think of a woman who has slept with one man and thinks she now knows all about sex and men.
Think of someone who has tripped once and then listened to Sgt. Pepper for eight hours and thinks he knows psychedelic music.
As Confucius once said to a hoary old Norwegian aphorist, “Drink vinegar, appreciate wine.”
The possibilities of applying this maxim to the state of general ignorance that we live in and our relative lack of experience and therefore the limits to our ability to compare one thing with another . . . why, it’s boundless!
I always attributed this saying to some long-living culture by introducing it with “this is a hoary old Norwegian aphorism” or “as Confucius once said” or some such nonsense. I did this to give my advice a patina of age, and hoped that it would thereby reflect some of the accumulated wisdom of the ages.
This snippet of passed-on human knowledge became an integral part of living breathing Nealism (although Nealism on a general theory of relativity has been ignored by even the Zen Nealists), and I simply took for granted as I passed through the years that my memory had served me well.
I just used the phrase in a telephone conversation—yes, I still use that antique instead of texting—and the person at the other end inquired of its origin.
So I said, “Wait a minute. I’ll Google it right now.”
And I did. I typed in, “You can never truly appreciate a glass of wine until you drink a glass of vinegar.” More than a million results—including etiquette at Italian meals and weight loss—but nothing relevant on the first three pages.
So I simplified it a bit and typed in, “You cannot appreciate wine until you drink a vinegar.” This time there are over six million this time—including acid reflux, diverticulitis, and redneck wine making—but nothing relevant on the first three pages.
So I strip it to the bones and typed in, “appreciate wine drink vinegar.” And I get 42,000,000 results, including Jesus, the Bible, and Taiwan! But nothing relevant on the first three pages.
So I said to my phone mate, “There seems to be nothing readily available on the Internet.”
And he says, “I never heard it [email protected] Maybe you made it up . . .”
And maybe I did.
Maybe I coined a brilliant, aged proverb.
Possibly when I was, y’know, like, um . . . high. 2
And came down with it in me wee head thinking I had heard it somewhere loooooong ago.
And attributed it to anyone other than my stoned self.
How Nealistic . . .
1 I am of course using the word relative in its adjectival sense: “compared to someone or something else, or [compared] to each other; seeming to be something when compared with others.” (Merriam-Webster)
2 “You can never truly appreciate great shit, man, until you smoke, y’know, real shit.”