See, it’s all Gwyneth Paltrow’s fault. Have you read about the Goop festival? If you haven’t, it’s a bunch of astonishingly rich and even more astonishingly bored women doing things with egg-shaped jade that would make your blood run cold. These things shouldn’t happen to a stone.
The, erm, procedures, are partly for supposed health reasons (Say “Cleanse”, and they all get dribblingly excited), but mostly to connect with the universe, and do ley lines instead of cocaine. Read about it, and you’ll never want to hear about anything New Age again. Read enough about it, and you’ll start wishing for the good old days when men wore jackboots, and departed spirits were something to be spoken to only until the next bottle was opened.
So no, I’m really hesitant to talk about spirituality. Being a science nut, I can completely believe there’s stuff we don’t yet understand—right now, we believe in atoms and God particles, who knows what we’ll believe in tomorrow? Crystals? Auras? Connecting with something? Bring it on. But talking about it? At length? Erhmmm. Talk to me about how you and I are one, and my only interest will be in whether, in that case, I can take lots of money out of our bank account. Talk to me about how the universe is listening, and I’ll say, “So is Google. Be careful.” The only thing that makes me talk religion is the toilet roll running out, and then I really talk to God.
Possibly the only thing that genuinely makes me feel connected is good food. I have wept and felt gratitude towards chefs and their ingredients, prayed for another plateful, meditated for considerable lengths of time while trying to choose between duck in orange-cranberry sauce and a fantastic pan-grilled red snapper (with tons of garlic). I’ve looked to the skies and searched for answers: “Why do I have only one stomach, lord?” I ask frequently. I feel genuine oneness with the universe when a salted-truffle ice cream coats my tongue, or when a full-to-bursting peach tastes exactly the way I imagined it would after inhaling that perfect, sweet-sour smell. Food can make me dreamy, make me cackle and rub my hands in anticipation like a silent-movie villain, and ground me in the moment in a way that would have any mindfulness coach bow and call me Master.
Put that food outdoors, and it is better still. Sitting under pepper trees while eating a peppery curry, watching slivers of sunlight light up a blinding white plate and sparkling silverware, that’s pretty much perfect. The thousand shades of green, from the acid-green of palm fronds to the darker, shinier one of mango leaves, to the soft, perfect green of the little flower buds that the wind has brought to share your table. Kicking off your shoes and watching a glass of rosé glow like it’s been lit up from the inside. Tuning in and out of a lazy conversation so you can listen to birds, and tilt your head back so the sun warms your eyelids. The sounds and smells from the kitchen, the focus of your world. The anticipation as you hear a bustle from the kitchen, and the sudden, razor-sharp focus as the food is brought out, your mind so concentrated you know every tendril of steam above the pots. Knowing your enemies at the table—the ones who take just too large a helping—and subtly positioning yourself to strike before they do, smiling all the time in a way calculated to show how long your canines are. The first mouthful. Trying combinations, closing your eyes and just letting your taste buds do the driving. Trying to figure out which pairing is a delightful surprise, trying to figure out that one elusive ingredient (and the relief, to a mind like mine at least, when I get it and can finally think about something, anything else). Knowing you’ve eaten too much by far (again), but well, there’s that dessert menu, and your willpower is only as strong as butter. Looking at faces, and knowing, just knowing you can identify potential serial killers by the way they aren’t interested in the perfect, Cointreau-laced chocolate mousse that has arrived. And finally, settling down for a little doze, an appetiser, if you will, for the championship-level nap you will take once you’re home.
Talk about being connected to the universe. Talk about being there, being in a higher state of mind. That’s the nice thing about spirituality: you can find it anywhere. I might not have a saffron robe (or at least not one that gets aired outside very private situations), but this makes me happy. And that counts, I think.