I recently watched the movie The DaVinci Code, which I confess to having seen more than once or twice since it first came out in theaters back in 2006. It still gets me every time: the mystery, the puzzles, the religious symbolism, and a particular question that Robert Langdon poses to Sophie Neveau when she learns in the final moments of the film that she is the Holy Grail itself. “A living descendent of Jesus Christ – would she destroy faith? Or would she renew it? What matters is what you believe.” Langdon’s question offers us the opportunity to consider what it really means to have faith. It is certainly true that there are those of us for whom spirituality is as necessary as breathing; we simply could not exist without it. We believe strongly in a higher power, whether it’s the formal deity associated with organized religion, or the omnipresent universe which stuns us at times with its ability to be equally omniscient. If we look up the word spirit in the dictionary, it is defined as “the vital principle in human beings, or the mediating factor between our bodies and our souls.” If we extend this idea further, we can allow spirituality to become the process by which this mediation takes place. We live an existence within our physical bodies, but we’re certainly not limited to that, no matter what the skeptics may say. Since mediation is a form of communication, is it possible to then view spirituality as the language that creates the dialogue between body and soul? I think it is.
For every one of us who believes so strongly that there is more to this world than what our physical senses can perceive, there is another who asks us for proof. What lies behind the furrowed brow of the skeptic? What is it exactly that they question so much? The skeptic attitude is firmly rooted in doubting everything until a mountain of evidence is presented to the contrary. Only objective facts are allowed; subjective interpretation of those facts is simply not worthy of consideration. Do I think it’s possible to rely too much on spirituality? Of course. As with anything else, extremes are always dangerous. Regardless of how much we believe in a realm beyond what our eyes can see, daily living has to occur within this zone of limitations. If we allow ourselves to become too immersed in our spiritual beliefs, to the point where they take over all our thoughts, we risk not being fully grounded in this life and can easily lose ourselves in the constant quest for what lies beyond our reach. The process of living fully actually requires a balance between both these worlds: the one in which we must meet our daily obligations and nurture our very human relationships, and the one that allows faith to be the vital force that enriches our responsibilities and connections in such a beautiful way. What happens when a veil of mystery is pushed aside, and our faith loses its footing, even if only for a moment? Do we allow ourselves to fall into that dark abyss of uncertainty, or do we hold on even more firmly despite the lack of evidence that it matters at all?
As The DaVinci Code comes to an end, it seems quite clear that Sophie Neveau will keep her secret intact. She knows that faith truly is rooted in what we choose to believe, despite the aforementioned mountain of evidence that might challenge those beliefs. There is no right or wrong; it’s more a matter of a difference in perspective. In either case, our lives are guided by some kind of force. For those of us who wish to question faith, our belief system is rooted in facts, and the ideas of objectivity and logic, the very tools that push back that veil of mystery. For those of us who are willing to embrace faith, we accept the presence and potential of things that are unseen and unproven, the same position that forms the cornerstone of so many theological and philosophical belief systems. But here’s the thing: when the truly difficult circumstances of life threaten to enclose us in their darkness, more often than not it’s our belief that there is more that lets the first bit of light back in. Dwelling on objectivity and incessantly searching for a logical answer will only push us further down and hold us there, a fact of which I am certain. There is a particular kind of connection experienced at the soul level that is vital to human existence. There are many times when our minds can’t form these bonds on their own, and our hearts won’t embrace them out of fear, but our souls will built the bridge of faith that is needed, just as long as we allow spirituality to give them a voice in which they can speak to us.
For today’s cocktail, I decided to begin with ingredients that had strong ties to the earth itself and our sense of place within it. I chose Talisker Storm Scotch whisky first, a spirit so shaped by the sea and salt air that surround the distillery that you actually taste the salinity along with the smoked peat. I added one of my favorite wines next, a Sangiovese from the region of Tuscany known as the Maremma, a rugged coastal area that rolls out to the Tyrrhenian sea. It also whispers of the ocean and of of wild-growing herbs like rosemary and lavender, all found beneath the bright cherry flavor of the Sangiovese grape. For sweetness, I decided to use a cherry mushroom syrup with a hint of black pepper to bring a deep earthiness to the drink. I balanced that with grapefruit and splash of lemon. Despite the fact that this cocktail has its feet solidly on the ground, planted in the facts of its composition, there is magic that happens in the shaker, and the blend of its ingredients might just offer a glimpse of a higher plane, but only if we allow ourselves to believe. Cheers everyone. Happy Friday! As always, thank you so much for reading.
Grounded in Flight
Long shake over ice.
Double strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with the tiniest bit of black pepper.