Monday, December 31, 2012

"The Cake is a Lie"

            In action movies you sometimes hear the crooked police chief say something like “everyone has his price” to justify their coming in on the side of the corrupt Senator Mendoza (“MENDOZAAAAAAAAA!”).  Of course, the hero typically proves him wrong by shooting him…er, and occasionally by refusing to take a bribe when the time comes.
            There’s actually a profound truth in that familiar scenario; namely, that the real test of one’s character comes when they are faced with their ‘price.’ Will your ideals still hold when the money is on the table? If not, then did you ever really believe in them in the first place, or were they just moral preening; things you told yourself that you believed so that you could feel like you weren’t ‘like other men’?
             And this doesn’t just apply to money either; what if someone offers you sex? Power? Social change? Even life itself? Any of those could be your ‘price’ as well.
            Now, most of us will never meet Senator Mendoza, who will offer to make our dreams come true in exchange for looking the other way. We have the much harder job of facing this same question every single moment of every single day. The question of “what can I buy your soul with? Money? Pleasure? Fame?” This is the question that we face when we have to decide whether we will sleep in or go to church, or whether we will spread lies about someone at work to get ahead, or whether we’ll give in to the temptation to log on to that porn site.
            So, how can we resist when our own personal Mendoza comes and offers us our own personal price to look the other way?
            Remember this piece of wisdom from one of the best, most unique games out there:
            “The Cake is a Lie.”
            In Portal, protagonist Chell is put through a series of tests using a handheld portal device, with the promise that cake will be provided when she’s done. But in one of the test chambers she discovers a message left by a former test subject: “The cake is a lie.” Indeed, after completing all the tests, Chell doesn’t receive any cake, but is instead shipped into an incinerator (she escapes, but the allegory remains). 

Go left, Chell!

            You see, these things that we want so badly, that we think will make us happy, they’re lies. They can’t satisfy us. If we choose pleasure, we’ll eventually get board. Money? We’ll lose it, or waste it, or it’ll sit in a bank until we die. Fame? We’ll be forgotten, or become a hollow shell of a man elected on nothing but a false fa├žade, bereft of anything resembling virtue or leadership or…sorry, what were we talking about? Oh, yeah. The point is that the Devil doesn’t want us to be happy; he holds out the ‘cake’ just to tempt us into the incinerator room.
            I think it’s a healthy spiritual exercise to picture that someone is offering you the thing that you want most in the world in exchange for your soul. How can you stand to resist? Well, think; imagine you have the ‘cake:’ what happens then? Imagine yourself finishing the cake, finding yourself still hungry. Imagine getting all that money and what you would spend it on, and how long the novelty would last.  Imagine giving in to the call to pleasure and finding yourself afterwards, with the sensation quickly fading and the shame starting to begin.
            I remember first really understanding the banality of greed when I watched the re-make of The Italian Job, seeing the thieves discussing what they would spend the money on, like huge speakers. Really? You’d sell your soul to hear your ‘music’ a little better? Then, after one of them takes it all for himself, he buys…a big house and an entertainment center so he can watch football. I mean, come on; you could get that at a bar for goodness sakes.
            Always remember, you’ll never taste that cake, and even if you do, it won’t last. Soon the cake will be eaten, and you will be left alone, hungry, and bored, with no more soul to sell. 
            “What profits a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? Or what shall he give in return for his soul?”
Remember: The cake is a lie; only God satisfies.

Vive Christus Rex! 

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