You can lie or you can tell the truth. You can’t do both but you can do one or the other. There are people who pretend to do both. Their pretense is nothing more or less than a lie. At first, lying is easy and honesty seems like the impossible dream. Over time, lying gets complicated and telling the truth becomes easy. So, once you decide to tell the truth, time’s on your side. That’s the good news. The bad news is, there’s no middle ground. You have to decide. That’s not your fault, but it is your choice.
You can treat people like they matter, even when they don’t, or you can treat people like they don’t matter, even when they do. You can’t do both, because there’s this thing called your reputation. If you treat people like they don’t matter and then turn around and treat them like they do, they’ll think you’re lying. That will hurt them and your reputation. But there’s also this thing called your mind. One of the things about having a mind is that it gives you chances to make decisions. Chances, chances, a galaxy of chances. So, you and your mind have that choice, too.
You can summon the courage to concentrate or you can lose your nerve and tell yourself that concentration’s overrated. There are people who will agree with you. There are people who will tell you they’re too busy to concentrate, that concentration’s a trap, that focus is elitist and lack of focus is egalitarian. From the outside looking in, people who sit zazen appear to be able to concentrate on not concentrating. By focusing their attention on nothing, they see everything. In theory. Maybe even in practice. But that’s religion. Life is not a religion. The courage to concentrate requires something of you. It doesn’t just ask for your attention. It demands it. You have to be present to concentrate. Refusing to concentrate comes at a price, too. Again, it’s your decision. One of many, too many to count—decisions, decisions—even if you do know how to concentrate. Especially if you know. So, you and your attention have that choice, too.
You can bring beauty into people’s lives or you can bring hate. There are people who will tell you that beauty and hate are not mutually exclusive. Those people are demons. Following demons will lead you to a place known in polite company as hell on earth. Escape from hell on earth is possible but it’s like rehab. The only escape is to admit that you’re addicted to hate, that relapse is in your blood. You could do a Peter Pan anywhere, any time, regardless of whether you’re celebrating, conceiving a child, contemplating the void, or drowning in self-pity. Given that hell on earth really is hell on earth—ten times worse, in its own depraved way, than hell in hell—why not bring beauty into your life and leave that thing called hate for the bigots? Malthus thought hate was a form of population control. Pythagoras defined beauty as “That which was, is, and always will be.” The only thing beauty and hate have in common is that they both self-replicate. Beauty creates beauty. Hate creates hate. So, once again, you and your addiction—either to hate or to beauty, as the case may be—have that choice, too.
Which brings us to the 2009 Antinori Tignanello. In the glass, Antinori’s Tignanello rejects pretense. Its wall-to-wall crimson gives a whole new meaning to the term “in living color.” Its bouquet is a countdown to authenticity. On the palate, the wine forces you to choose between your thoughts and your feelings. Why choose to feel? Because there’s this thing called your heart. When a good wine passes through your heart, you keep it as an association, maybe even as a memory. When a great wine passes through your heart, you release it as an act of love. The finish is a kiss before dawn, while you’re still half asleep, the morning after.
You can make statements or you can tell stories. There are statements about stories, stories about statements, and then there are stories about stories. Old stories. New stories. True stories. Dirty stories. Stories that came with the territory. Stories that came from outer space. Stories that became histories. Dreams that died and were reincarnated as myths. Bells that rang in the temple, years ago, with the chants and the incense alive in the air, sharing the air with the bells. You were there. I was there. Maybe we knew it. Maybe we ignored it. Either way, we came to the doors of the temple, opened them, and walked into our lives. Did we decide to do that? Was it our choice? I hope and pray that it was.