When I was 13 years old, I celebrated my birthday with my family at Hard Rock Cafe. My father handed me a bottle of Rolling Rock and said, "You're going to be a Bar Mitzvah in a few weeks--that means you will be seen in the Jewish community as a man. I think you're old enough to try a beer." I tried it and washed it down with a full glass of water. It was disgusting to me. I didn't try another beer until my sophomore year of college.
In college, beer is plentiful, but it's also half water and a quarter foam. It was easy for me to decline a beer. But when I turned 21, I was able to take a wine appreciation course and, after 8 weeks, discovered that I didn't really appreciate wine, either.
But after I graduated college, I traveled through Europe, and ended up staying in a hostel in a chateau in the Beaujolais region of France. I tried the newest release of the nearest vineyard's wine, and I was hooked. I savored every gulp, and asked questions about the "legs" in a glass or red, or what those "hints" of cardamom and blackberry meant. I connected in my mind and in my senses the experience of drinking the wine with my environment. Drinking wine finally became the sacred experience for me that it was supposed to be every Sabbath.
That sacred experience did not stop there. I discovered that the same approach could be applied to beer, too. Suddenly, I wanted to try beer, but only the kind that would give me a complexity of experience. Hefeweizen from a boot in an upstate New York BrauHaus. Samuel Smith's Chocolate Stout at a blues club. Shocktop Ale after trudging through muck and leaping over fire in a mud obstacle course. Memories were sanctified by the sensory icing on the cake.
And then it happened. I was out with friends and someone handed me a Miller Lite. I don't know who, because I wasn't paying attention. These kinds of things always happen when you don't pay attention. I don't remember much about the environment, because it was nondescript. But I remember what happened when I drank Miller Lite for the first time. I literally spit it out. It was an insult to my body. And I swore that day that I would never drink Miller Lite again.
This rule has been applied over and over again in my life, most recently with coffee. Anyone who knows me knows I am crazy about Aeropress coffee. I have my ritual each day of hand grinding dark oily beans and savoring one cup each day. I will not drink Panera or Mr. Coffee coffee anymore. I derive few greater pleasures than challenging a close friend or family member to identify a better cup of coffee. Well, there is one greater pleasure: seeing the smile across their faces when they experience, for the first time, a cup of Aeropress coffee perfectly prepared.
Our time here on earth is short. Yes, we have obligations and painful detours that take us away from our ability to appreciate how precious each moment is. But, if I treat each hour in my calendar--each moment in my day--as holy space, worthy of 100% of my attention and experience--rather than trying to multi-task--I find that I get so much more accomplished, and I didn't waste that sacred opportunity on Miller Lite.