Parts and Wholes

It is remarkably hard for me to review beers. Actually, it is hard for me to review just about anything thoroughly. In most cases, I suspect this is because I am such a “big-picture” guy and reviews and critiques tend to focus on individual aspects.

I find this especially in the case of things that I like. I am sure that if I really put my mind to it, I could figure out and explain what I love about the movie Raising Arizona or why a delicious shandy is so good on a hot day. But I’d rather not. If something is really, really good, it is because every aspect of it is working perfectly in harmony. Harmony, by the way, is the perfect example of this. Any three musical notes are as good as any other, but when played as a chord, is it possible to say one note is more important? If some part stands there is a problem. To totally enjoy something is to not perceive each part in itself.

Thomas Carlyle wrote in Characteristics that this sort of obliviousness to the parts showed the greatest health of the whole. One may readily perceive that people don’t really notice their own bodies until there is something wrong. We are told that even the pleasant sensation in the muscles caused by exercise is actually the result of muscle tissue tearing. When bodies are functioning perfectly, their functioning is the easiest to overlook.

Carlyle even extends this idea to all of life. When our lives are at their best, we forget all the details and focus on the whole of living. It is only when life is out of order that we get bogged down in details.

Beer of the Week: Heineken – The most popular beer in the Netherlands, this pale lager has long been highly regarded abroad as well.  The initial aroma is crisp and hoppy, but it fades quickly. The flavor is somewhat watery and grainy and lacks a good hops kick. There are heaps of beers that are worse, but also plenty of beers that are better. As far as macro-brews go, it really is an alright beer, but it isn’t good enough that one could get lost in the flavor.

Reading of the week: Characteristics by Thomas Carlyle – “Boundless as is the domain of man, it is but a small fractional proportion of it that he rules with Consciousness and by Forethought,” Carlyle writes. What he means is that the rational mind is only really capable of singling out the smallest and most mechanical bits of life and nature. In general, we perceive the world as a whole. And the world is the more beautiful for it.

Question of the week: Are things more beautiful when they are mysterious or are they more beautiful when we can see and understand their intricacy? For example, I can look inside a watch and be impressed because it is beyond me how all of the little pieces work. How does an expert watchmaker see the inside of a watch?


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