Too Much Icing, Not Enough Cake
In my early life, the concept of too much icing was completely foreign. Surely the icing was the point of any dessert, with the cake being there only for support. But when I was about 10 years old, my cousin and I took a forbidden can of sweetened condensed milk from the cupboard and sneaked out behind the garage to devour our treat. Surprisingly, halfway through the can both of us had had enough. Neither of us imagined that we would reach the end of our ability to eat this ambrosia, but there it was. We threw the rest away.
Since the condensed milk incident, I have observed this phenomenon many times, in different forms, and realized that it is a good metaphor for our society. I notice it not only in my own life and the lives of my clients, but also see that it is pervasive in our culture. There is such a focus on entertainment and escape from daily life – it is evident in magazines, books, movies and TV, along with the increasing problem of the many forms of addiction.
We are clearly trying to get away from something, and/or we have become dependent on stimulation of one sort or another. As one spiritual teacher said, we are a society addicted to adrenaline. Why is this? My theory is that we are suffering from inadequate substance and meaning – the “meat” of life, so we try to find stimulation as a replacement for this meat and meaning. Unlike my cousin and I, often people don’t realize that the stimulation is not meeting their need, so rather than stopping the attempt to find satisfaction in “sweetness”, they escalate their attempts through trying more and different things: more violent movies, different drugs, more interesting sexual experiences, etc.
In my opinion, we are a society which is starving and continually feeding ourselves things which do not assuage our hunger. These attempts to find water in a dry well have become normal mode in our culture, and few see these attempts as signs of starvation.
However I do see it as signs of starvation, and I experience it up close in my clients who come to me, not because they think they are starving, but because none of their attempts to find satisfaction are working, and they have run out of options to try. They are thrilled beyond measure when they begin to discover that real food for the body, mind and spirit is actually available to them.
I believe it would be helpful for every person to look deeply at this issue and ask what would truly bring them satisfaction. Since many times the answer to that question isn’t known, embarking on a search for the answer is a worthy endeavor. Is your life a satisfying meal, or is there just a little too much icing on it?
“Well I rocked with the cradle and I rolled with the rage
I shook those walls and I rattled that cage
I took my trouble down a dead end trail
Reaching out a hand for a holier grail
Looking for water from a deeper well,
Looking for water from a deeper well.”
~Emmy Lou Harris