14 May 2020, The Tablet

Too much of a good thing

From the Vineyard

Too much of a good thing

Nothing and nobody has escaped the insecurity into which our lives have been catapulted by Covid-19. First came fear for our lives; now, many fear for their livelihoods. And all of us fear that life as we have known it has changed for ever. Jobs are in jeopardy, educational achievement is under threat; and, for many, mental health and domestic stability are endangered. Even for the financially secure, “quarantine fatigue” has produced heightened levels of anxiety associated with the sameness of each day, the frustrating difficulties of home schooling, the daytime proximity of spouses, and the contagious sense of unease. All are taking their toll.

Alcohol, from its first invention, has played its part, sometimes destructively, but more often constructively, in situations of stress, insecurity and suffering. The ubiquity of the vine in antiquity and, along with the olive grove, still in the Mediterranean world, bears reassuring testimony to the vital role wine (along with olive oil) has played in civilisation. Destroying a besieged city’s vines and groves was so demoralising to its beleaguered population that victory was almost inevitable. The first vegetation planted in the New World (by Franciscan friars) was the vine.

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