Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Li Po and a few thoughts on wine


If heaven loved not the wine,
A Wine Star would not be in heaven;
If earth loved not the wine,
The Wine Spring would not be on the earth.
--Li Po

Wine reaches beyond the boundaries of one country or one region, and it is treasured wherever one goes. In this poem, Li Po expresses his love for wine. But more importantly, the wine is loved by heaven and earth – two words that came up in the third volume of Drops of God (a story focused on the search for the twelve apostles of wine in order to discover the drops of god). The key to the wine is the unification of three elements – heaven, earth, and man. This concept of heaven and earth is crucial to wine, to the very essence of the greatest of wines – as the twelve apostles and the drops of god are to be the paramount of wine – crosses all groups, all ages, and all beliefs. But it is in this idea of heaven, earth, and man that wine finds meaning.

The first step is to look at heaven. In Li Po’s poem, he argues that heaven must love wine, and this is clearly seen in the idea that there is a wine star. But what does that say about wine? Heaven is often related to yang – it is the breath of life. So in heaven, among the greatest essences of our souls, it is the spark of life. But it also, as yang suggests, is the breath of life itself. Connecting this to the idea expanded in Drops of God, heaven breathes life into the wine, is the spark that gives the wine life. Of course, in the manga, heaven is the rain and the sun, the life breathing elements of growing and life.

Next, there is the earth. The earth treasures wine by providing it a spring. The yin of the earth is the material nature of existence. Though commonly associated with death, yin is also a female characteristic, and as the woman nurtures, so does the earth. As the earth nurtures, wine is born. The terrior holds the wine and nourishes it through the soil. So the earth plays a fascinating role as well.

But this doesn’t take into account the star or the spring; interesting choices for the poem. I am, honestly, struggling with the star. Stars are important elements to any culture, as they are both light within a darkened sky – a sense of hope in the darkest hour – but they are also guides – the North Star falls into this category. So, with that idea, the wine star must be what we can grasp to for hope. Li Po and his comrades were quite obsessed with wine. They would have found it a treasure, and treasure in this world is hope of a greater existence beyond the material. I would suppose that the star, as hope, provides a joy beyond joys. I wonder, then, if he is thinking of intoxication. Mild intoxication from wine can come easy and is often punctuated by a lighter state. This is not pure drunkenness; this is a state of relaxation that may come with controlled indulgence. But this then leads to the guide. The wine guides us to the joy and hope. This may be Li Po’s star.

As for Li Po’s spring, that is interesting. The spring is often a force of yang, as the water flowing from the earth is more life giving than nurturing. Springs, without knowledge of their true origins, seem to spring from the earth and so give life. This goes against the yin image of earth. At the same time, without water there is no continued existence, referring back to the idea of nurturing. Even more so, many cultures, especially Eastern ones, would relate the spring water to that of cleanliness, especially that of purification. As we know, springs usually are the result of water exiting an aquifer, a naturally occurring formation that often cleans water. So, both scientifically and metaphorically, the spring purifies, so I wonder if wine does as well.

This can easily all be brought together. Wine, like our very souls, is complicated in that it is yin and yang. It is life giving, a guide to hope, but it also nurturing and purifying. Wine guides us through our material existence; it relieves us from the world and its troubles by washing them away in a pure stream. Once we are purified, we can find the joy beyond the material world; w find joy, the light in the darkness. Wine is a beautiful treasure. It is heaven and it is earth. But it is when it comes in contact with man, than it reaches its full potential and promise. As Drops of God proclaims, the greatest of wines are a culmination of heaven, earth, and man, so we are given leave to enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. I exclaim a completely unironic Keanu Reeves-style "Woah!"

    ReplyDelete