In the NYT excerpt of Moss' new book, we learn that some do not "have the luxury to be moral". It's a difference of one degree centigrade. In an age when the finer things are commonly taught as not being worth money and as being irrelevant, little parts of the earth that we only discovered yesterday, like through Cousteau's exploration, are already being lost - being blasted from view (as described by this video, which I could not watch to the end).
The word I am dwelling on is fragile. In one degree, it is the difference between waking up already harried and waking up marvelling at the miracle of the new day (here's a video on the new sun and the Inuit). To feel awe at a new day informs one's actions and thoughts - but such subtlety often goes unmeasured.
And we are happy to measure the taste of wine: as I was, particularly as a child; I remember the cold caves and developing vocabulaire de l'oenologie. Those notes and textures were connected to geography, the terre, the personality of the vineyard: there was something sacral to that context, so the wine, to my mind, never became a product to be consumed, but something to be held with awe. Perhaps because of the stern eyes of the patrons as I swooshed before tasting.
I associate taste with the hard work of origins. It is an ethical category in my imagination. And as for degrees: food, if it is respected, will either bear the category of the right amount of heat, or the right amount of time - I have swopped the former for the latter, and make stews.
It was my father who took me to the vineyards, and my father who decided we would eat like the locals. My favourite meals are so far away from me now, for their ingredients: winter melon and barley soup, mango chicken... That food is a song, associated with the cooks and other memories, like the amah secretly bringing me spicy tamarind candies. The bitter sweet time.
And suddenly I find these sacred ties have been slashed. When I watch those videos (above), I remember my own experience with boat people, and I cannot watch without understanding their desperation. The word "education" which ostensibly offers new modes of survival, takes on a sinister hue. Already when I was a child, when we visited the hill tribes, they were beginning to leave for the cities: though those remaining had never seen fair hair before our visit. You might want to ask me why I care about the "marginal", which doesn't make the laws. But in my imagination, that is where the one degree of life is most visible. That one degree that determines so much.
Element. Though the flowers have bloomed, the branches turned to ice. Photograph courtesy of R.J.