The Measure of Dionysus
By: Oleg Cherne
Whatever we say about wine, it embodies the power of nature. It embodies divinity. It’s not just a drink–it’s a ritual and a culture. No matter how practical people are in their approach to wine, they still play their parts in the comedies and dramas that accompany us on our paths through life. And what we do with the wine is up to us. It depends on our understanding of wine and our ability to consume it.
The effect of wine is a genre centered around the passion of the cult of Dionysus. It isn’t about the quantity of wine consumed but about the quality of what’s consumed and the nature of what has been processed. Excessive consumption of wine, or any other food or drink, can be viewed as part of a disease. Excessive consumption of anything comes with physiological and mental disfunction, which is a medical matter, the conclusion to the introduction of a tragedy.
Wine consumption is always a dialog, a cantata that turns us into singers, members of a choir or an ensemble. It engages us in the greater and smaller values of the cult of Dionysus. It is a process that comes with a certain degree of excitement. A person approaching wine becomes a defendant, expressing events either on a verbal and conscious level or on a nonverbal and unconscious level.
The consumption of wine should not be a problem for society, but given that it’s a kind of grandstanding, we have what we have. The complex process of wine consumption has been reduced to peripeteia—that is, a quick transition from one state to another. This tends to focus solely on phallic poetry, the ancient measure of arousal, or the measure of the cult of Dionysus. This trochaic tripody, this size, is the most important measure that needs to be learned and adopted.
This unit of experience referred to by Aristotle in Poetics can be described in terms of pauses. A pause is the cornerstone of the concept of dimension. It involves preparing to taste the wine, the process of experiencing the flavor, and understanding the resulting change—both in the wine and in yourself. And the most important part is the absorption, which must not get lost among verbal accolades.
Wine consumption should not be reduced to the linear condition of a satyr in which arousal controls the mind. It can be good if it ends in a comedy, allowing you to make some hungover jokes in the morning, but what if the ending is tragic—like calling your wife by a different name? That would be the beginning of a drama. You can, of course, find a good excuse, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know your limits. And so we are left to choose between harmony and goatsong.