Great chefs around the world labor diligently to create new tastes and flavors, or just to bring out the natural taste of foods with careful preparation. Food scientists work to extract the flavors of key ingredients and spices, so that we can enjoy them when the original sources aren’t available.
In a world of fast-food and hastily-consumed meals between meetings and activities, I sat down the other day with my wife at a Lebanese restaurant whose food was carefully prepared, seasoned, and served. The food was rich with flavor and was worth just pausing to savor. I had to ask the server how the chef was able to pack so much taste into the food.
However, on the other end of the spectrum are certain kid’s drinks, brightly-colored cereals, and cartoon-shaped snacks, whose attention to precision in taste is, well, somewhat lacking. Over time, natural flavors have been enhanced, tweaked, and warped so that these products taste more like a chemical equivalent of their respective color, rather than an actual fruit. The “good” news for kids is that most of these flavors are overwhelmed by sugar, so subtle differences between the green flavor and the blue flavor are secondary to the experience.
While surrounded by marketing, where entire disciplines are devoted to manipulating feelings and emotions (typically in order to elicit greater sales of a product or program), we can be left feeling overwhelmed by the artificial. The dopamine hits we get when our phones reward us with a beep or a buzz – whether a social event, an advertisement that makes us feel special for getting a particular discount, or just a casual game reminding us that we’ve received a bonus – sometimes stack up to where they just become no more than a series of saccharine “hits”.
As a gamer, I’ve been able to observe this same thing playing games. The good game designers and developers study human behavior, in order to provide all players with just enough motivation and reward over time to keep them playing.
On the other hand, the “real thing” still exists. It can be found far outside of the urban sprawl in untouched landscapes, or in the rain that falls on our faces and renews the ground. It can be found around tables where friends and family sit down to eat together, laughing, sharing, hugging, and even crying as one. It can be found in moments of stillness within the chaos, when the traffic noise all seems to stop at once for a few blessed seconds of quiet.
I don’t believe that our world was created so that we could replace real joy and satisfaction with manufactured alternatives. (On the contrary, I think that if we consider the works of our own hands to be the greatest thing in life, we probably get pulled into the world of the artificial, and limit ourselves to only fake imitations of the real thing.) While I am a big fan of the things that technology can accomplish, I can’t imagine the psalmist David twittering away his day watching sheep on his smartphone. (OK, I guess that I can imagine it, but it’s a goofy idea – of course he didn’t.)
O taste and see that the LORD is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
O fear the LORD, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no want.
Psalms 34:8-9 NASB
Like a lovingly-crafted meal, God offers us the real satisfaction of experiencing the joy for which we were created. He doesn’t want us to live a life full of placeholders and fillers, but rather for us to be rewarded with experiencing the real world.
The following verse is a good reminder that God isn’t set on keeping us away from blessings, but rather offers the exact opposite:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
John 10:10 NASB
However, as well-known as this verse might be, search for the word “abundant” in the Bible, and you should find (depending the exact word your translation uses for that term) that is is far more common throughout the Bible – not just limited to this one verse. Check out some of the results at this link:
Don’t get me wrong, I’m probably still going to drink Fanta Orange (and Grape) sometimes. But, I hope that you and I will look to the true Source that can make us truly complete, and for us to enjoy a full life on earth – more than any screen or artificial flavor can offer.