nealism on a general theory of relativity

Es­ti­mated reading time is 3 min­utes.

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.”


Wine 200

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.”


Notify of
Rate this article:
Please rate this article with your comment.
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x