My favorite soft drink is Cherry Coke.
Having lived overseas for some time, I can tell you that Cherry Coke is not very popular outside of the U.S. Neither are Dr Pepper, ginger ale, root beer, or Mountain Dew.
Really, anything besides Coca-Cola (okay, Pepsi too), Cola Light (a.k.a. Diet Coke), Sprite, and Fanta (in a variety of flavors) can be hard to find in other countries.
While I enjoy all of these (except Diet Coke), Cherry Coke always comes back as the frontrunner.
When I came back to the U.S. (the Land of Cherry Coke), I indulged myself and drank two cases of the stuff (over the course of many weeks). This preferred potation was finally readily available, and I enjoyed at least one can a day.
But after drinking twenty-four cans of it, it was no longer so exciting, no longer so enjoyable. Cherry Coke went from being special and savored, to common and almost (I say almost) distasteful.
It is interesting to me that we are often rather desperate to make things available to ourselves, only to become surprisingly unsatisfied once we finally obtain them.
I can recall numerous times when I have spent hours researching a product on the internet, reading reviews, trying to locate the best price, only to finally make a purchase and then lose the state of enrapture that had hounded me for so long. I once way overpaid for a particular laptop computer because I got caught up in the hunger for it. Truth be told, I have sometimes bought something just so that I would stop investing so much time in the hunt; I knew myself well enough to be certain that once I purchased it, it would slip off my radar and leave me at peace.
I do believe that we humans have an innate sense–even a need–for wonder. One source of this wonder is rarity; not that common things are inherently less amazing, but we are quick to overlook the majesty of the mundane. For us, the amount of appreciation for a thing is often tied to its availability.
A unique piece of art is highly esteemed–there is no other like it in the world. A movie which simply copies the plot of an earlier film rarely impresses us in the same way.
The international vacation industry thrives on the desire of people to go to places to see and experience what cannot be beheld anywhere else on earth. Tickets to a “one night only” performance sell out rapidly because there is no second chance.
Rarity often correlates to value for us.
Yet we pair this sense of valuation with a ravenous discontentment when we are unable to possess the object of our infatuation. I have seen someone willing to spend $11 on a bag of Reese’s Pieces (another favorite of mine)–simply because there was a desire and it was hard to come by in a particular country.
And after acquiring the candy, a single-night’s binge–and accompanying bellyache–was the bulk of the memory that was made (enjoyed?).
Our discontentment centers around our yearning for availability, choice, and possession…now! We want what we want, and we may value what we want–until we get it.
How many star-crossed lovers of life and literature have pursued their beloved through torment and trial…only to make a complete mess of the ensuing marriage?
Possession satisfies desire, but only in the most factual sense; in truth, possession tends to eliminate both desire and value…unless we are intentional about recalling the pursuit, the cost, the former feeling, the plight of those who do not have what we have.
Some people undergo a desperate life search for something: the fountain of youth, the secure job, the faith to fill the God-shaped hole (original citation). And when they find it, if they find it, do they relax in the epitome of satisfaction? Hardly. They mistreat or ignore the object of their pursuit, and quickly find something else to captivate their consciousness and surface another unsatiated longing.
I was eager to acquire Cherry Coke–and I got it. While my desire didn’t instantly fade after the first gulp, as soon as I realized that it was no longer a rare item, it lost its value, its attractiveness. And I lost my enjoyment in the consumption of it.
How do we keep ourselves eager for the good things, without becoming entangled in the mere pursuit, but rather continuing to live in a state of esteem, enjoyment, and wonder at the amazing things in life?
Do we have to forbid ourselves from sampling them, or can we discipline ourselves to both possess and to appreciate? Can we long for a Cherry Coke while holding one in our hand? Can we sip it, slurp it, and guzzle it down, and still consider it a delightful treat? Can we look into the eyes of a long-loved-one and still claim–with honesty–his or her preciousness? Can we experience the majestic everyday, and yet not take it for granted? Can we restrain ourselves from sullying the supreme through our loss of perspective?
Can I treasure a Cherry Coke even through the grocery store shelves are stocked with the stuff?
After all, the Cherry Coke doesn’t change just because it comes within easy reach.