Coffee and Cravings

They say that a little bit of what you love is good for you, right?

Because I love coffee.

I have stopped drinking it for a long, long time now. In fact, I am afraid to go back to it because, for me, it is like cocaine.

I am not just talking about the buzz…of course there’s that…but about the flavor, the bitterness, the sweetness, the blackness, (not just the color but something ineffable, dark, unnameable) the ohhhhhh.

I don’t know what it is that I want so much.

It is almost transcendental.

I am sure that my husband will wake at three o’clock one morning, finding me in the next room holding a big, fat hypodermic needle–shooting up espresso.

Of course you say …have only a little bit…everything in moderation, you say….

The truth is, I am not sure that I am capable of having only a little bit. I am the one at the EVP coffee shop who orders a twenty-ounce soy latte, and they say, “ma’am,” (they call me ma’am)

“…do you really want all four shots?”

I say ‘yes’….and I wonder to myself if I have the courage to ask for a fifth one.

I can just see them ‘calling for backup.”

For me, the addiction, the craving is coffee. Yours might be alcohol or chocolate or internet

shoes or online poker …but each of us has some thing for which we reach, almost desperately. Something we cannot quite touch…no matter how hard–and how far–we reach.

That yearning–that hunger. Is it physical, material, spiritual?

This is a question, I believe, which has been asked by many. Many twelve-step and

rehab programs integrate spirituality into their framework. It seems that our need, our strong need for something—something we can touch, feel is strong…and oh so very human. The scriptures have a few stories that talk about our attachment to physical objects–our yearning, our need. For instance, at one point it is said that God asked the Israelites to build that iconic Ark of the Covenant: The Mishkan (—the one that Indiana Jones and the Nazis were so desperate to find in Raiders of the Lost Ark). God asks the people to give, from their hearts, gold and silver and beautiful purple and red cloths–fifteen precious items so that God could ‘tent’ among the people.

Interesting concept. “Tenting” – covering, floating, protecting, dwelling, enveloping. The Ark needed to be built in all its finery so G-d could envelope us. So God needs an expensive golden box–to be at once immanent–and transcendent. That interesting combination of the material and spiritual worlds–conjoined.

Conjoined. Like Yin and Yang, Light and Dark, Mutt and Jeff, Felix Unger and Oscar

Madison, Jacob and Esau, Angels and Demons and Life and Death. Although seeming to be opposites, the material and the spiritual are both the objects for which we yearn…and maybe occupy that selfsame place in our souls.

And so…it seems that God realized after the Golden Calf adventure–that people yearn at some level for the material–a concept that in scripture previously had been associated with “pagan” faiths–that sometimes people need a God that they can touch and feel. We have this need, this yearning, to reach up and touch, to open the sky with a small finger, to tear a rent in the fabric of the everyday so we can touch just a little bit of light. And that hidden light–that light for which our soul longs–is that to which we ascribe the name ‘God’.

And yes, the Mishkan, the beautiful golden and sparkling cabinet–is a material object, but it also holds the mysterious transcendental presence of God. It is the hardware and the software, the whole package. It is all that we hope for…the ideal. It is those Google Glasses that let you walk around looking like a weirdo with $1500 sunglasses – but inside them, you can feel as though you can touch the infinite—or the virtually infinite, at least.

If we need, if we crave, the presence of God…can a golden ark fill that space? If we are desperate for coffee will we settle for tea…and if we really want a donut can we be happy with an apple? Can one hunger satisfy another?

I have a friend whose 22-year old son died a few weeks back. She was, as you’d imagine, desolate.

The day before the funeral, her friends took her to Neiman Marcus to distract her with shoe shopping. That two two-hour outing was exactly the medicine she needed, it turns out–to help her through that time.

Satisfying (or dealing with) one hunger to abate another.

In traditional Judaism it is not recommended nor condoned to shop after the death of a loved one…in fact, we are not ‘supposed’ to wear anything new for quite a while. However, I wouldn’t judge her for the shoe shopping.

I would not judge her one bit.

She could not touch her son, so she wanted something she could touch–even if only temporarily.

I know another couple who lost one child at six weeks and another at nineteen.

As far as I’m concerned, if they get out of bed every morning they are my heroes.

We come back to our yearnings, our cravings.

And we are back to my coffee. Yes, it is true that they say that a little of what you love can

do you some good…but again, I ask…what is it then that you really love?

Do I really love the coffee, or do I love how it fills my senses: the sweet aroma, the strong bitter partnered with the lucidity it offers my overworked or otherwise challenged- brain? Are we in love with alcohol because what we really love is the ability to relax, to not feel, to forget and to be able to play?

Are we in love with online relationships of all kinds because what we really crave is closeness without real intimacy?

And above all….are we really–all of us–desperate to just feel that we are okay…and that everything will work out okay…whatever that means?

One thing that we can do, though, is to know that it is human to want. It is human to yearn, to feel. And if we close off a part of ourselves–inside ourselves–then we create a craving.

Closing off your need to play, every day, might create a need to gamble.

Shutting down your creative side might create a need to..whatever.

Try to discern, within yourself, which part you have been ‘shutting down’ – and try to see if that correlates to any of your cravings.

In my case, I am going to have to find out which doors to open inside myself to satisfy what I am really yearning for – so I won’t have to be nervous every time I get near to one of those places which can serve me twelve ounces of steamy hot creamy caffeine goodness.

It is possible that, for me, coffee also, gives me a window into the infinite.

Coffee offers me a piece of what it would feel like to not have to stop because I am tired….

Coffee gives me the false sensation that I will always be young, that I will always have energy…that I can create and create and create for six days and not need a seventh day to rest.

It is exotic. It is infinite. It is deep and mysterious and limitless.

In fact, if God had a morning beverage before Genesis, this would have been the one.

Now you can maybe understand why, when I drive past a Starbucks, I start to pray.

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