I spent time recently thinking about some things I wanted to change about my life. I even made one of those lists that Virgos are famous for making with bullet points written in different colored markers. I named it My Wish List, kept it in a notebook, and showed it to no one. Very close to the top were items related to working on deepening the human connections I already have and not being afraid to create some that would be new. In particular, I had the thought that I wanted to organize a book group and have wonderfully profound discussions with like-minded readers and thinkers. I floated the idea out to some of my significant people, who reached out to some of their significant people, and after a flurry of excited emailing, the book group I’d wished for materialized right before my eyes. This past Wednesday night was our first meeting, and I had very high hopes that it was going to be a great success. I’m so happy to report that the outcome far exceeded any and every expectation I could possibly have had. The discussion was intelligent and thoughtful. The company was supportive and caring. I felt as though we arrived at the meeting as fourteen separate individuals brought together by a mutual love of reading and a desire for connection, and we ended the night as a newly cohesive whole. I woke up the next morning feeling truly grateful.
The book that we discussed that night was Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. Without giving too much away, I will tell you that Klara is something called an AF, or an Artificial Friend, who is purchased for a young girl named Josie. Klara has one main objective that has been programmed into her operating system, and that is to keep Josie from ever feeling lonely. While this is a concept that resonates immediately, I think that prior to the pandemic, many of us entertained the notion of loneliness as an abstract idea or the weighty subject matter of great novels and poignant poetry. That’s not to say that we’d never felt lonely before, but more that we hadn’t considered the idea that loneliness could become a constant human condition for the vast majority of us, rather than just the unlucky few. Yet during Covid, we all experienced loneliness firsthand, or we worried deeply about someone we knew who was experiencing it. We tried valiantly to maintain our sense of connection through Zoom and FaceTime, and while they definitely worked to bond us in certain ways, they made us feel even emptier in many others. In that void, we developed a deep craving for human moments that were genuine and sincere, and we longed to relinquish those that felt diminished by the screens of our laptops and phones, no matter how much we tried to make them feel like more.
This idea that technology could ever provide comfort or empathy during moments of human loneliness is one of the fundamental themes of Klara and the Sun. Although the AFs in the book are far more advanced than any device currently available to us, it seems that a fair parallel could be drawn between them and our phones, especially, but certainly not exclusively, among younger people. There is never an instance when any of us have to feel alone. There is an entire world that lies just beyond a tap on our touch screens. Once we enter that world, it is possible to find glimmers of human connection, but we have to be careful not to remain for too long, or we will allow that sense of emptiness to return with greater presence, and we will find ourselves even more depleted than before. By choosing technology to provide our only companionship, we end up embracing the very loneliness we are attempting to avoid. To further complicate matters, the pandemic instilled a certain fear in us that life would never return to normal, and that our ability to connect on that deeply human level was forever compromised. Despite the fact that neither of these things are true, it now requires a leap of faith or a monumental effort to do some of the things that we once did so naturally. It’s understandable; we are, after all, more than a little bit traumatized. The important point to remember, however, is that the trauma didn’t come from gathering together, or celebrating, or holding one another too closely. It came from the isolation caused by being without one another and from the subsequent loss of so many of the things that make us uniquely human. There will never be an adequate substitute for real understanding and conversation, or for sincere comfort and compassion. Without them, we lose our humanity. Whatever leap of faith is required for us to create new bonds, or repair old ones, we can rest assured that we will land safely in a place that has been waiting for our return, and once there, we can celebrate the hard-earned realization that we are only human, no more than that, and even more importantly, never less.
For today’s cocktail, I wanted to create something that was futuristic looking and had an unexpected collection of very different ingredients. For me, purple drinks of any kind usually fit this bill. To get to this color, I brewed a strong cup of butterfly pea tea and created a syrup with it, but I kept the sweetness level down by adding one half part sugar rather than a full part. The symbolism worked here as well, since butterfly tea represents the serenity we find when we acknowledge the importance of love. I then added St. Germain Elderflower liqueur and Giffard Crème de Cacao. Because the drink’s secondary components were so different from one another, I knew that I had to use gin as my base spirit because it has that way of latching onto flavors and pulling them together into a unified whole. The end result was a cocktail that had warm flavors from the cacao and the butterfly tea, as well as higher floral notes from the gin and the St. Germain. It reminded me of the ways in which humans have the capacity to both ground and lift one another all at the same time. Cheers everyone. Happy Friday! What leap of faith have you been waiting to take?
2 oz Bombay Sapphire gin
1 oz Butterfly Pea Tea syrup
.75 St. Germain
.75 Giffard Crême de Cacao
Long stir with ice.
Single strain into a cocktails glass.
Garnish with cocktail dust.