When we first moved off campus, my college roommates and I didn’t mind eating KD, frequently. The convenience of the stuff eclipsed all other considerations—taste for instance. We did eventually tire of it, so we changed it up a little. We added a dollop of mustard or diced onions and, of course, hot dogs cut in little pink hockey pucks. These attempts did not really redeem the meal because the core element didn’t change; it was still Kraft Dinner.
Human beings can be manipulated to exchange very good things for inferior pleasures. Cost, convenience, nostalgia, sentimentality are just some of the forces that can be employed to get us to accept bad versions of good things.
As evidence, I give you
- Hostess Twinkies
- Nestles Chocolate
- Folger’s Coffee
- Kraft Dinner
There are 7 million Kraft Dinners sold per week. Canadians eat an average of 3.2 boxes each year. What can explain these disturbing numbers?
Minions of hell, of course.
C. S. Lewis gives us an imaginative explanation as he explores the demonic view of pleasure in The Screwtape Letters. An experienced tempter, Screwtape, offers advice to his nephew, a novice, on the uses of pleasure to ensnare a human soul. Screwtape laments that despite their best efforts, Hell has not been able to produce a single pleasure, but pleasure can still be useful if properly degraded. He tells his nephew,
You must always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure, to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable
for when dealing with any pleasure in its
healthy and normal and satisfying form we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground.
I wouldn’t call a can of Budweiser an abomination, but it certainly is incapable of delivering the pleasure that any selection for your local microbrewery would.
Still, the mass-produced lagers are the beer of choice for those who want to want to express their freedom through the “fun” afforded by alcohol. They don’t drink one or even two, but many. So they move through the stages from being animated to foolish to pathetic.
One of the best beers I ever had was in Rennes, France. The label said it was Picon Biere and it tasted like oranges. I was sitting outdoors in the warm sun at around 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I had nowhere to go and nothing to do. The street was cobbled. Across the street was a row of 16th-century buildings. It was one of those incredible moments of joy. I think this experience was close to what God had in mind when he invented hops and barley and yeast (and oranges).
It was the constraints of Christian morality that drove Aldous Huxley to atheism. He says this of his decision:
For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom; we objected to the political and economic system because it was unjust. The supporters of these systems claimed that in some way they embodied the meaning (a Christian meaning, they insisted) of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and at the same time justifying ourselves in our political and erotical revolt: we could deny that the world had any meaning whatsoever.
But how containing is Christian morality?
In his book, Orthodoxy, C. K. Chesterton is puzzled by “the common murmur . . . against monogamy.” Baffled he asks why people would gripe over the restriction of “keeping to one woman” and overlook the privilege of being able to love even one.
I’m not sure exactly where I heard this story. Perhaps it actually occurred in a colleague’s class. Anyway, there was an open an honest discussion of sexuality in one of his classes. One student wondered how long it took . . . how long it took to make love. The teacher wisely responded, “About 50 or 60 years.”
Is Biblical morality really opposed to pleasure?
Is one Picon Biere really inferior to a dozen Buds?
Is the long love to one marriage partner really inferior to many shorter term relationships?
The ingredients for Seafood Macaroni and Cheese are:
- olive oil
- large shrimp
- chopped onion
- chopped peeled carrots
- chopped celery
- garlic cloves, peeled, flattened
- Turkish bay leaf
- tomato paste
- Cognac or brandy
- whipping cream
- Fontina cheese
- gemelli pasta
- fresh crabmeat
- chopped fresh chives
These, properly blended and prepared, have echoes of heaven.