We’re all hunters and gatherers. Amid the longstanding advances in agriculture, we’ve maintained the primitive habit of hunting and gathering. We’re all collectors of some sort, and we all have our trophy rooms. We adorn our walls with paintings and line our shelves with photographs. Every so often, we’ll shoot them a glance to make sure they’re still there. For some, it’s an art form. For others, it’s just the mosaic of life.
For my summer roommate, it was chocolate. What started as a single classic Hershey’s wrapper eventually grew into what she would call her “Great Wall of Chocolate.” Every few days, she would tape another wrapper to the wall, step back and feel a wee bit more whole than the day before. She wasn’t picky about what made it on her wall. Some were fun-sized and others more serious, and then there was the plastic bag that the fun-sized pieces came in. By the end of the summer, she had covered quite the span, from baking chips to exotic bars.
But as a collection grows, instead of becoming fuller, it seems to become less complete. More of one thing becomes a measure of how little you have of another. In due time, the act of collecting becomes a frenzied hunt for the bizarre and whimsical. It becomes more about fulfilling a quota and breaking a record. We stray farther and farther away from the mundane, because let’s face it — what fun is a brown M&M?
And that’s where the Golden Ticket comes in.
Charlie Bucket (to Grandpa Joe, after opening the Wonka bar they think has the last Golden Ticket in it): You know … I’ll bet those Golden Tickets make the chocolate taste terrible.
It’s true — it defeats the purpose of chocolate. It overwhelms and distracts, just as how too much frosting can ruin a cupcake. It’s like opening a specially marked box of cereal for the prize inside or upgrading to the latest iPhone for the free earphones that come with it. It’s exciting and it’s free. For some, it’s exciting because it’s free — but the object itself is secondary. The Golden Ticket is secondary.
Within the walls of memory, the choice is not necessarily a voluntary one. Granted, there are occasions — birthdays, anniversaries, milestone findings of the Golden Ticket — that are more likely to be marked and memorialized than the average second or hour. But in most cases, memory functions spontaneously. At the most, we begin each day with a gut feeling, not knowing if the day will hold a joyous occasion or a tragic one or if it’ll be just another day or our last.
We can only cast our nets with confidence that the grander moments will get caught in the lines, and, at the end of the day, we’ll haul in and sort through our catch, tossing matters insignificant back into the water and collecting what we deem worthwhile of a place in the trophy room of our memory. We’ll pick out the bigger moments, but, all the while in the back of our minds, we’ll hope that the smaller moments find their way into our collections, between the folds of the bigger ones, for us to remember later.
Because at the end of the day, when we lie alone with our chronic aches and fresh nicks, the Golden Ticket is no solace. Rather, it’s the semisweet, bittersweet, semibittersweet morsels that we’ll crave. Not all chocolate is created equal, but chocolate is chocolate. And sometimes, it’s all we need.
Image Source: Captain Miller via Creative Commons
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