Friday, June 6, 2008

Snickers Satisfies You. (No, Really, It Does. Just Eat a Lot of It.)

Our conversation this week about poverty has me thinking about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. If you haven't read it as an adult, go get it right now! In fact, treat yourself and buy the whole set of seven Chronicles of Narnia (author C.S. Lewis) -- you won't be disappointed.

The premise in Wardrobe, as you may remember, is that these four British kids venture into a wardrobe and find themselves somehow transported to a magical realm of talking animals and other beasties suffering an eternal winter at the hands of a White Witch and awaiting the coming of a great lion called Aslan.

But the kids don't all make it into the land together right away. First, the littlest girl, Lucy finds her way in and encounters a wonderfully friendly fawn who takes her home, feeds her and then sends her away at great risk to himself. When she goes home, however, no one believes her.

Later, her brother Edmund also makes it in. But Edmund doesn't meet the fawn Mr. Tumnus (which I think would be a great name for this cat):

Instead, Edmund encounters the witch. And she gives him Turkish Delight, a very sweet British candy which he just can't get enough. In fact, he gets so wrapped up in that candy that he's willing to do whatever the witch wants, including betraying his siblings, to get more of it.

Now from a modern perspective, we might look at Edmund's struggle as a sort of parable of addiction. But for Lewis it's about the more fundamental struggle human beings have with consumption. We're not easily satisfied. In fact, sometimes give yourself a little treat, like one little piece of chocolate, and you end up devouring, HAVING TO HAVE the whole bar, and then some. Even though -- isn't this true? -- that second helping never tastes as good.

Turkish Delight : that innate demand for MORE -- more food, more stuff, more whatever -- and the harm which that insistence, unchecked, can cause -- a great image for considering our own sins regarding simplicity life...

It reminds of this growing up story: One October when I went shopping for my dad's birthday, I came back with a Star Wars paperback novel.

Now, my dad had never expressed any interest in Star Wars novels. In fact, the only person really into Star Wars was...well, wouldn't you know, it was me!

So, I give him the gift, and he plays it cool -- "Oh, thanks Jim. Nice." But later my mom, who had seen me do this before (and then always so conveniently borrow the gift soon after), had it out with me. A birthday gift is meant to be something HE wants, not something you want, she told me. What's your dad gonna do with a Star Wars book?

And looking back, the funny thing was, I didn't even consciously know I was doing that, until she said it. All I knew was, I wanted more!

Final note: After the film version of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe came out last year, Turkish Delight sales actually went up. There, in a nutshell, our human condition.

Are you sure you wouldn't like just one piece?