We operate in a world governed by inherited ideas and rituals. For example Lewis and Clark left the Mississippi Valley to explore the Oregon Territory to the beaches at the mouth of the Columbia River. They followed the sun. On their successful return, they followed the reverse course.
It was a triumph over space, and the account of this fine trek defined what was soon called manifest destiny.
Seven plus decades later, rather than just look skyward, the destiny conquered time. It was not a whim. It was not a lobby on behalf of farmers. It was the work of the railroads.
The American mainland as all things else are divided by zones measured off the earth like slices of salami cut laterally. That is because a train leaving at noon from New York headed to Saint Louis is far enough away to record a different noon a bit later.
As rail traffic by its range dominated the life of the nation, it soon enough occurred to most that schedules could not work for arrivals or departures or concurrent trains hurtling the heartland at once following the sun and reversing that path all at once.
That would look ugly.
So the carriers prevailed on all to standardize time on the basis of four zones. We live by that without knowing where it came to govern our coming and going 24/7.
We can follow the sun if we wish, but our mobile devices and desktop computers will provide the real deal, the standard time set across the land, down to the second.
The nature of life changed and fewer trains would likely collide. It is our inheritance; it is universal; and it is learned without demur. It is inherited practice made a value. Even CNN and Fox don’t argue on this one. We are by habit doing other things in this historically conditioned way.
For anyone who recalls the book, Red Wine With Fish by Joshua Wesson, its title supposes the counter-intuitive approach to wine and food combinations. Likewise, too many wines are often served or stored wretchedly. Whites are frigid and reds are as tepid as dishwater. Rosés are served all over the Fahrenheit scale. The autonomic responses are Pavlovian.
Also, wine glasses are assumed to magically improve their contents because they’re customized, as it were, to suit the kind of wine served. This really reflects conditioning based on inherited notions.
The martini glass is intended to mirror the perky attitude of a woman’s breasts long before childbearing turns them into Jacobean withered dugs. H. L. Mencken called this cocktail the only American invention as perfect as a sonnet.
The martini glass is loaded with subconscious lures. It is standard equipment in all of the Dick Powell and Myrna Loy Thin Man movies. It is often installed as blue neon in windows otherwise mysteriously dark to the outer world. It suggests. It is a custom and also Circe. This witch transformed Odysseus’ crew into pigs, which does happen to men in bars from time to time.
The inheritance of value as perception as influence also informs our wine serving.
The whole ritual of sommeliers at table side presenting and strutting before Mr. and Ms. Moneybags intends to further enforce a right way over a wrong way to serve a wine. Not many people encounter wine in the context of formality.
These behaviors at one level seem right, and at another, very pretentious. But physics and chemistry affecting the wine as poured allows the efficacious mingling of molecules released into the air from the wine.
Interestingly enough, wine glasses in tailored shape represent a recent market innovation, even perhaps, a little accidental. The story concerns Riedel, the Austrian glass producer, that substituted a new shape when the old stock went missing. The novelty soon enough struck all parties in the room as kind of neat, presumably because the delivery means differed a little bit, and in turn other rationales soon made good reason for the change.
And this did not even happen like time zones implemented on 16 November 1883 but 90 years later, in our own time and not surprisingly, as American wine gained worldwide respect. Canard or otherwise. We seek stems that suggest their contents.
We need not have a fancy stem to drink wine. I just drank through four wines from Caucasian Georgia in etched ersatz jelly jars. The food pairings were spot on, and no one looked for better-designed Martha Stewart stems.
Formality is an echo of form, a Platonic ideal, transmitted usually by observation and practice, without our knowing the wherefores. We just do it. Mother is always right. Like the station master with his Waltham pocket watch.
When a practice becomes second nature, it also risks becoming a fatwa or diktat.
Acceptance becomes a dogma.
The parable, should you need more data, indicates that somewhere in the back when life was far less hectic, a measure or a practice was refined.
No one spent years doing studies. The practices simply seemed improvements and the word spread about. Oak chips in your box wine?
Well. What about the box or the pop can?
As Satchel Paige would say, “don’t look back, ’cause something may be gaining on you.”
This story will continue, as what you think makes you oh so hip is hardly novel. So you follow wine scores with the ferocity of the rankings of your basketball teams?
Are you one of those children following the Piper?
Boo-hoo on you…