The cookie machine
Or a kiss with a fist
At some point in life, you may find yourself wandering through a dark forest. Not necessarily for having strayed off the rightful path, but just because that’s how life is sometimes…
As you wander, you find an isolated monolith, right in the middle of a clearing. Upon closer inspection, you realize it’s made of smooth, mirror-polished metal. You circle around it and notice a big, round, red button protruding from one of its sides. How you missed it at a first glance escapes your understanding.
Helpless to your own nature, you press the button. The metallic giant stirs, whirrs, and emits a somehow anticlimactic “ding”. After a fraction of a second, a hatch opens next to the button, and a tray slides out. On the tray there is a beautiful, Dutch-looking porcelain plate, and on the plate there is a freshly-baked cookie, its enthralling smell wafting into your nostrils.
You take the cookie and take a shy, tentative bite; your world spins. Even though you did not know it, that’s the cookie you have been looking for your entire life. You think it’s perfect, not too sweet, slightly salty, and with every bite you discover new notes, hidden flavors and hues you never knew existed.
Eventually though, you eat the whole cookie. Devastating, yes, but such is the way of things. Perhaps it is that ephemeral quality what makes it so precious in your memory?
You look up and glance at the cookie machine, as you’ve dubbed it in your mind. You think it’s too soon for another cookie, the taste of the previous one still lingering. Yet eventually you choose to have a second. You press the red button, the machine stirs, you hear the “ding” and the hatch opens.
An accordion-like structure springs from the space within, a red-leathered glove like those classically worn by professional boxers attached to its end. You are suddenly, unexpectedly, violently punched in the face by the glove, knocked out of consciousness.
After a while you come to. You open your eyes and try to remember what happened. As you look up and see the machine, everything comes back to you. The memory of the delicious cookie, the high hopes you had for a second, and the harsh disappointment at being struck in the face instead. You decide no matter how hungry you get, you will never try to get another cookie. You don’t want it, you don’t need it. That’s it. You might even walk away from the machine, leaving it behind forever.
You glance at the machine. Good riddance, you say, as you start to walk away. And yet… That was an excellent cookie. Possibly the best gastronomic experience you’ve ever had. You hesitate, and suddenly, it dawns on you. What if of you press the button and quickly step a few paces back? Then, you could see whether pressing the button results in a cookie or a sucker punch aimed at your face.
You approach the machine and think back to the first time you pressed the button, with the sudden realization of the hatch closing after a few seconds of being opened. What if you step back, a cookie comes out, and then disappears before you can take it? The fear of being punched is almost too intense to bear, but do you fear it more than loosing your cookie? You step forward, place your hand on the button and close your eyes. No regrets.
And such is the way of human relationships. Opening oneself to others makes us terribly vulnerable to pain, to being punched in the face. But not doing so keeps us from the deep joy that comes from meeting a kindred spirit, from the exhilaration of loving someone, and from the tranquility of relying on someone else. As Brené Brown says on her beautiful talk, “The power of vulnerability”, making ourselves impervious to feeling for fear of getting hurt, also stops us from feeling all the good stuff that makes life worth living.
What will it be, then? Will you press the button?”