More than making conversation

Thursday, March 30, 2006

March 30, 2006

Dear Patty,

Twenty-five years after "My Dinner with Andre" immortalized a conversation between two friends, the act of two people talking face to face for more than a few seconds is fading away into the haze of cell phone calls and e-mails that clog our minds.

Andre has dropped out for five years to explore inner universes. He has been to Scotland's Findhorn, a community where it's claimed nature spirits called devas help to grow the 40-pound cabbages. He discusses the Hasidic belief that spirits awaiting release by our prayers reside in everything. He has spent time with a Buddhist monk adept at standing on his own fingertips. He has danced under a full moon in a Polish forest. At one point he describes his nervous breakdown.

Andre's friend, Wally, is more concerned with paying his bills than with phenomenal experiences. He raises up to defend ordinary existence. His friend's stories and the visual images they evoke seem to fascinate and dumbfound him at the same time.

All of us have stories we think define us. These are stories about epiphanies at daybreak and desolation at midnight and vice versa, about all the ways of winning and losing, about rebirths and dead ends, about ecstasy and feeling nothing at all. Some stories we tell to everyone, some we tell only certain people, all in hopes of being understood. Or rather accepted.

Galway Kinnell said the dream of every poem is to be a myth. Isn't that's everyone's dream?

People in movies seldom bother with anything approaching real conversation anymore. A few lines. The scene changes. A few karate chops. New scene. A blouse falls to the floor. The camera lingers longer than usual. Boom. We're flying over the Himalayas.

The exceptions can make you believe in movies again.

Here are middle-aged wine-lovers Miles and Maya in "Sideways" after she asks Miles on their first date why he loves Pinot Noir so much.

Miles: "It's a hard grape to grow. As you know. It's thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It's not a survivor like Cabernet that can grow anywhere and thrive even when neglected. Pinot needs constant care and attention and in fact can only grow in specific little tucked-away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing growers can do it really, can tap into Pinot's most fragile, delicate qualities. Only when someone has taken the time to truly understand its potential can Pinot be coaxed into its fullest expression. And when that happens, its flavors are the most haunting and brilliant and subtle and thrilling and ancient on the planet."

That's his story, now become myth.

Miles asks Maya why she loves wine. Because its always evolving, she says, "how every time I open a bottle it's going to taste different than if I had opened it on any other day. Because a bottle of wine is actually alive -- it's constantly evolving and gaining complexity. That is, until it peaks ... and begins its steady, inevitable decline." Miles takes a few seconds to drink that in.

Every myth begins as a conversation.

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is managing editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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