The sweetness of life

Chaplain’s Cornerwhitman padre

Padre Andrew Whitman

So, I gave up sugary sweets for Lent (and PSP’s ‘Blast Off the Pounds’ program). It’s a bit challenging, since I like a good dessert, or to sneak a chocolate when no one else is in the kitchen. You might wonder why anyone would bother doing this nowadays. It’s a bit like torture, like medieval self-flagellation. Why deprive ourselves of something good???

I’m not going to delve into the spiritual or even health benefits, but I have noticed this: when you cut back on sugar, everything else tastes sweeter. Apples are suddenly a real treat. Raisins are better than gum drops. Even bitter things have more depth and contour, vegetables and salad have so much more nuance of flavour. I noticed the other day drinking my tea and thinking, “Hey, this is good!” It’s the same tea I drink every day and have for years.

Life is like that, you know? When we gratify every longing with cheap/quick pleasures, it saps the sweetness from the everyday joys of life. In our internet age, it is very easy and very common to fulfil our fantasies whenever we please. And what harm could it do? Well, it can drain our appetite for real relationships; steal our satisfaction from good, healthy, meat and potatoes (and veggies) intimacy – the kind with real nutrition we were designed for and our souls crave like our bodies crave healthy food.

Or, in this age of smart phones, it’s so easy to get hooked on sound bites and mindless addictive games that titillate our senses or stroke our egos. I saw a meme that said we have the whole world of information and communication in the palm of our hand, and we use it to play Candy Crush (or something to that effect). I’m guilty of this. It takes a lot of time and patient effort to feel you’ve accomplished something in real life, but I can feel good about myself right now if I can conquer this mindless puzzle. And I can get a chuckle now if I scroll through a page of ‘texting fails’, rather than have an intelligent conversation with friends.

As another example, we now have playlists in our pockets to satisfy every urge for music. Compare that to ‘Little House on the Prairie’, with Pa would break out the violin, or to a Newfoundland kitchen party. The quality of the music is not as good, but the joy from it is far superior. Coming home from our monthly chapel music jam, and it occurred to me that there are lots of folks with musical talent that have never learned because music is too easy to get. And we, the amateurs, are embarrassed to offer a hack away on our guitars when you can have ZZ Top in your living room at the press of a button. Yet there is something more fulfilling about making music, and enjoying it together with real people.
So, perhaps the solution is to come out to a Jam Night at the chapel with that old guitar… once we get through this time of isolation. Or to stop scrolling and book a Zoom meeting with your friends just to chat. The problem is, we could always do these things, but we don’t. In fact, part of the reason we go to the candy drawer of life is because we’re are potentially frustrated and disappointed with real people, real work or real relationships? We need to feel good somehow… My understanding from my tradition is that true satisfaction comes from the Giver rather than the gift. If we love the Giver and Creator of all things, then we can enjoy the gifts He gives, but be satisfied simply in the love and acceptance and security that comes from knowing Him. Then, instead of trying to suck the sweetness out of everything around us, we will be filled with sweetness to share.

andrew.whitman@forces.gc.ca