Have you ever heard someone say In vino veritas on a night out? Maybe you’ve even said it yourself once or twice.
Because the idea that wine – and alcohol generally – are agents of truth-telling has deep roots in our culture.
We can’t help telling the truth in our cups?
In our books, on our stages, and on our screens, the character in his or her cups is represented as the figure who cannot help being authentic. The drink forces us to be honest, we cannot tell a lie.
Drink tricks us into believing the worse of ourselves
Drink, or so the story goes, makes us bear witness against ourselves. It forces us to reveal uncomfortable truths that we would prefer to keep hidden.
By claiming to dare to go where we are reluctant to go voluntarily, in other words, it tricks us into believing that what we suppress about ourselves – our darkest secrets – are who we really are.
Too much drink stops us living our best lives
But this account is both misleading and incomplete. It does not capture us in all our varieties and colors.
In claiming to have exposed us, it tries to stop us being more imaginative.
In claiming to know what sort of people we really are, it seeks to prevent us from exploring all the versions of ourselves that we might choose to become.
We have many parts
We all have a repertoire of things we think and feel, which we cannot quite bring ourselves to say.
These are a part of who we are. But they are only a part. And they are no more authentic than the part of ourselves that gives to charity and remembers to call our mother on the weekend because we love to hear the sound of her voice.
We are all the hidden, decaying portrait of Dorian Gray.
But we are also the Venus de Milo.
We are our child’s crayon drawing that we display, with pride, on the family refrigerator.
Does in vino veritas make us believe we are monsters?
‘In vino veritas’ would have us believe that, deep down, we are all monsters and villains, that what we really want is to get loose, to tear the world – and one another – apart.
But we are more than that, so much more.
We are more than our fears
We are, each of us, more than a single story. We are more than a catalogue of our fears.
However, if we cannot always stop ourselves thinking the worst about ourselves (and other people), we deserve, at the very least, to give ourselves the chance to see that we are all so much better than we sometimes allow ourselves to believe. As Lucy discovered when she stopped drinking, she was better than she thought.