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By MARILYN MEBERG
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 Marilyn Meberg
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE ITCH FOR SOME THING MORE
EVE, OF GENESIS FAME, WAS (OBVIOUSLY) THE FIRST WOMAN IN recorded history who did not want to be who she was or where she was. She didn't know who or where she would prefer to be, but she knew she wanted more of whatever it was she didn't have.
Her craving for more was elusive and ill defined. She had not experienced more but craved it anyway, and that craving drove her to give up what she had in order to get what she didn't even know. The price of Eve's craving for more had catastrophic cosmic consequences; her eviction from perfection left an imprint on all creation. That imprint produced a certain homelessness of the soul that drove Eve, her husband Adam—and all of us who followed—on a quest to return to that place where we hope to find perfection, wholeness, and fulfillment.
Perhaps I need to clarify what I mean by the word imprint. An imprint can be compared to a tattoo. Each leaves an impression, one on the flesh, the other on the soul. We all carry the imprint of Eden on our souls. How do we know that? We know it because we all crave wholeness and perfection. It is a universal drive. We humans had perfection once; we want it back. We think we might find it if we could just have more.
This yearning for more leads us to think that wholeness can be found in romantic love, accomplishments, possessions, happiness, fame ... the list goes on. And so does the craving for more.
The craving shows itself in many ways, ways we may not even recognize as craving. For some it may be reduced to a vague restlessness for which we have no explanation. We may experience it as simply an itch in the soul that we try to accommodate from time to time with a new car, a new house, a new city, new friends, a new lover, a new profession; again, the list goes on. It might be as simple as finding the perfect pizza, one with crust that's not too thick and not too thin.
This book is about recognizing and giving a name to the itch, the quest, the craving for a "more" experience, an experience I think of as finally finding home. When we're able to name what drives us, we can study and understand its potential for fulfillment. We can also come to understand its limitations to meet our "more" expectations. My goal in writing this book is to help you learn to live in the balance of a life that does not always meet your expectations—and a life that may sometimes exceed your expectations.
To begin this book's look at our meandering search for home with its promise of more, I share a lighthearted dinner experience I enjoyed recently with my good friend Luci Swindoll.
The food was good, but the guy playing his guitar and singing what was supposed to be background music was fairly close to terrible. When the musician took a break, he leaned his guitar by the stool and walked away. No one noticed; no one had been listening.
I said to Luci, "I'll pay for your dinner if you'll go over to the guy's stool, pick up his guitar, and sing a number.
She looked at me for only a second. "Dinner?" she asked.
"Dinner," I said.
With the deal made, Luci walked over to the guitar, strummed a few chords, and then began singing "Summertime." The room went totally quiet. The other diners stopped talking, put down their forks, and listened with rapt attention. When Luci finished singing they clapped, cheered, and yelled, "More!"
She couldn't do more; the bet was for one song. (I love it that Luci will do anything for a free meal.)
Why did the people stop talking and eating and start listening? It was not only because Luci has a gorgeous contralto voice. I also think the people were unaware that they needed more quality in the background music. But when they heard it, they thought, That's it! We needed that!
Possibly they had been unaware they wanted more of something; or possibly they felt a sense that something was missing but were unsure what that something was—until they experienced it. Consciously or subconsciously they were looking for a more experience. When it happened, they didn't want it to end. Predictably, the diners yelled "More!" when Luci finished singing.
Craving a Supersize More Experience
The desire for a more experience stems from dissatisfaction; we want more of something or other to satisfy the internal itch in the soul that craves something yet to be defined. We all have the itch; we all cast about for ways to satisfy it.
For many of us, the itch for more expresses itself far more dramatically than wanting satisfying background music at dinner. We may crave adrenaline-rush experiences, such as skydiving, bungee jumping, or zip-lining. Or we may crave a more supersize adrenaline experience, something guaranteed to accelerate our heart rate or even threaten our ability to survive.
At this point, I want to confess my own craving for a supersize more. As of this writing, I'm seventy-two years old, and I am itching to go zip-lining. I read somewhere that it is currently the fastest-growing outdoor activity for people of all ages craving a more experience.
Let me tell you about this fantastic out-of-the-box-for-even-the-elderly adventure. It involves climbing onto a platform, stepping into a harness, and getting hooked to a cable up to three hundred feet off the ground. Once secured, you go zipping along from one treetop platform to the next at up to sixty-five or seventy miles per hour.
Don't ask me why, but zipping through and over the treetops is enormously appealing to me. In fact, right now I am investigating a particular tour claiming to have the world's longest continuous zip line, spanning five and a half miles, including a 600-foot-long "sky bridge" suspended 170 feet above a gorge. How about that for ensuring my heart health by accelerating my pulse rate?
As long as I'm confessing, there's another supersize more experience I love: Brahma bull riding. In this case, you'll be happy to know, I don't crave actually riding the bull myself. I'm happy to be the observer. This craving started when I was six years old and my father took me to my first rodeo in Portland, Oregon. I loved it all, but when the Brahma bulls came into the ring, I stopped breathing. I was mesmerized as a beast weighing more than a thousand pounds leaped, twirled, gyrated, and wildly kicked his back legs into the air in a furious effort to be rid of the tenacious cowboy on his back.
When the cowboy was hurled into the dust, the bull charged the seemingly helpless cowboy with the intent of goring him to death with his horns. But then, as my heart pounded, I saw the rodeo clowns leap into action, hurrying into the bull's line of vision and distracting him from his death-to-the-cowboy intention. The cowboy scrambled away, climbed the arena railing to safety, and it was then I resumed breathing.
The thrill I felt at the age of six, sitting beside my father in the rodeo stands, is still with me. I frequently watch bull riding on TV, but it is far more satisfying to actually be there in person, feeling the crowd's excitement, smelling the rodeo smells, tensing with wide-eyed anticipation as the bull and cowboy go hurtling around the ring.
Understanding the Itch for More
Practically speaking, we know we cannot lead our lives on the adrenaline of supersize more experiences. There's work to be done, children to raise, bills to pay, pipes to fix, teeth to straighten, gardens to weed; the list is endless. If the truth were known, short of the supersize more we occasionally experience, most of us live much like the people in the restaurant, vaguely aware of wanting more of something but not sure what that something is. Sometimes we may happen upon it, but in a short time the gratification is gone and the itch returns.
What is the origin of this craving, this itch in the soul, this relentless questing for more? While living what appears to be a good life, what makes our crabby inner voice sometimes whisper, What is wrong with you? Can't you ever be satisfied?
Perhaps we also scold ourselves, thinking, What is wrong with me? Why do I always want more? Will I ever be satisfied? I should feel grateful. Maybe I'm spoiled and self-centered and not even worthy of what I have! Once that crabby inner voice has a head of steam going, that interior dialogue can continue until we do something toward shushing it—maybe going out and buying something.
In the following chapters we will talk about these mysterious cravings for more: how they express themselves and how we may better understand them. We'll begin with an examination of the craving for romantic love. Few human experiences knock us off balance more than love. It's a craving that elicits more poetry, music, and drama than any other subject on the planet.
Chapter TwoCRAVING MORE ROMANCE
MY MOM NOTICED MY "HAPPY LITTLE FACE" AS SOON AS I SKIPPED in the door. "Was school especially good today, Marilyn?" she asked as I settled in for my favorite afternoon snack.
I knew why I had a happy little face, but I wanted to keep my delicious feeling all to myself, at least until Mom tucked me into bed that night. Then I might tell her my fabulous news: Bobby Turner had told me after kickball that he loved me.
I was ecstatic. I had been eyeballing him ever since he transferred from Camus Elementary to my classroom at Amboy Elementary. He was a little short for a nine-year-old, but he had a certain swagger that made him seem tall. He also had deep brown eyes that melted me. I had prayed all my short life for brown eyes, and here they were, in the cutest boy I'd ever seen. Maybe that was how God was answering my prayer: brown eyes by proxy.
As the days rolled by, Bobby was a steady and loyal keeper of my heart. He always picked me first when we chose sides for kickball, and he complimented me when I scored a run. Each day we walked home from school together and shared half of either his Almond Joy or my Hershey's bar. The seriousness of our relationship was never in doubt.
But then, several months later, I began to find Bobby's swagger annoying. I also decided he truly was too short, with or without his swagger. The fact that I was at least six inches taller than he became an issue.
To my great relief, I didn't have to talk to him about my gradual change of heart. Somehow we started leaving school at different times, and a week later I was sharing my Hershey bar with Jerry Baxter. It was not long before I saw Bobby swaggering home with Norma Delworth.
It didn't cross my mind at the age of nine to ponder why Bobby became increasingly unattractive to me. Neither did I wonder about my relief when Jerry Baxter moved away. Whatever "it" was that caused my feelings to change, both boys no longer had it. At that point in my life, I didn't have the insight to know I was simply experiencing the desire for something more, something else that was surely "out there." I started believing I'd find it later, when I got out of the fourth grade.
The Futile, Furtive Search for Love
The sixteenth-century French writer La Rochefoucauld wrote, "True love is like seeing ghosts: we all talk about it, but few of us have ever seen one." As an optimistic fourth-grader, there is no way I would have believed that crabby assessment of "true love." In fact most of us would think La Rochefoucauld was simply a lonely old Frenchman who had stopped searching too soon and lapsed into a depression.
A case in point is Emma Bovary, the heroine created by another classic French writer, Gustave Flaubert, in his novel Madame Bovary. (It sounds as if I'm picking on the French; I'm not. I love croissants.) Emma had high hopes for romance in a perfect and passionate marriage. She describes her idea of how love should be with these words:
Love must come suddenly, with great outbursts and lightnings—a hurricane of the skies which falls upon life, revolutionizes it, roots up the will like a leaf, and sweeps the whole heart into the abyss.
With those expectations, Emma marries Charles Bovary, a devoted but clumsy and inarticulate country doctor. After a few years of what she perceives as a passionless relationship, she revolts against the boredom and monotony of her life to pursue her romantic dreams.
Until Flaubert's book was written in 1857, the reading public basically agreed with Emma's definition of love as well as her search for it. Those nineteenth-century readers were incensed then when, in Flaubert's novel, Emma never finds romantic love. Instead her sordid and secret affairs are discovered and made public. With her reputation ruined and her scandalous life too hard to bear, Madame Bovary swallows poison and dies.
The reading public was furious, believing Flaubert had let them down. They were used to having their own unmet needs mollified by reading about fictional characters who were rewarded with passion and romance. Why would Flaubert have Emma die under such tragic circumstances when all she wanted was what everyone craves?
Incidentally, after the publication of Madame Bovary, other authors began to write novels about life as it is rather than how we wish it were: a perfect existence where romantic cravings are met and cravings for more disappear. Flaubert introduced what became known as literary realism. Poignantly, when Flaubert was interviewed about his tragic heroine, he said, "Emma Bovary is me." His own heart cry was heard in Emma's furtive search for romantic love.
Stage One: High on Romantic Love Drugs
Maybe it would be good to ask whether romantic love is doomed ultimately to disappoint us, fail us, hurt us. Do we inevitably get bored and find someone else to share our candy bar with? Is true love really just a ghost rarely seen?
My answer to those questions is no, romantic love is not doomed to disappoint us, fail us, hurt us, or even bore us. I believe most of us have known a few love ghosts who have not only materialized, they've hung around for the long haul, and we're glad about that. But I do think our eager hearts need to be reminded of some down-to-earth facts concerning love-ghost encounters.
There are two major developmental stages in romantic love. The first stage, the attraction stage, is what knocks us down and drags us around. It's as though we are on a drug high. During the attraction stage the brain releases dopamine and norepinephrine. Those two neurotransmitters produce a rosy outlook on life that also produces an increased pulse rate and increased energy. In addition to those drug rushes, the brain increases its production of endorphins and enkephalins. Those are natural narcotics that make the ghost-spotter grin stupidly and sing in public. And then there's serotonin, yet another serenity-producing neurotransmitter released during the head-over-heels stage. So we can honestly say romantic love is initially a drug-induced state of being.
Scientists don't know why the brain releases all those powerful chemicals, and neither do they know why those chemicals diminish with time. It is a biologically documented fact, however, that romantic love pushes all our interior drug buttons.
With that understanding of the chemistry of love, Emma Bovary's definition of love does not seem so extreme. When she expected "great outbursts and lightnings" and "a hurricane of the skies, which ... roots up the will like a leaf, and sweeps the whole heart into the abyss," she was describing her love-drug highs. And when that stage of romantic love diminished, no longer producing the high she craved, she assumed she had missed real romance. Therefore the search began again.
Though Emma Bovary is a fictional character, many of us have also fallen victim to her lack of understanding about romantic love. Perhaps we have not known that the first stage of love is a drug high followed by a return to chemical balance. If we assume love is gone when the drug high is gone, we may be missing a good relationship that could develop without the aid of "brain drugs."
Though the brain is at times a dispenser of drugs, it can also become our best friend as it guides us along reasonable ways of being. It can help us understand why we make one choice as opposed to another and why that choice may or may not be wise for us.
Excerpted from Constantly Craving by MARILYN MEBERG Copyright © 2012 by Marilyn Meberg. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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