Being Full: It is Enough
My mother-in-law did not like her daughters (or anyone who happened to be at the table with them) saying they were full. “I’ve had sufficient” was the approved way to decline seconds. “Full,” to her, meant you were pregnant. I could see the embarrassment in that—indeed, decades later, I thought of it when I learned the Spanish embarazada is a false cognate for “embarrassed.”
It’s hard to know when one has had enough. In C. S. Lewis’s Perelandra, as intelligent life comes to be on the planet Venus, the earthling Ransom is enjoying the just-birthed paradise. He takes a fruit from a tree and finds it delicious and wonderful beyond anything he has ever eaten. Having finished it, he reaches forth his hand to pluck another. This is such a normal action, he hardly thinks of it at all. But here, for once, he is stopped by the realization that, well, he has had sufficient. Indeed more than sufficient: he is supremely satisfied and neither desires nor needs to have more.
Back on earth, to take another anything is just about instinctual. Ransom makes us suspect that that desire is a subtle consequence of the fall. Why else does one have a second drink, a second dessert, a second cup of coffee? Indeed, in our age, our serving sizes are already expanded to include extra. Once I was given a cup and saucer from the Harvard Club in New York City. I like this gift, but I must say it is a big cup. I was told that it was designed by Theodore Roosevelt “who wanted to have his second cup of coffee with his first.” This was decades before the Green Giant coffee company came along to train us to think of the smallest serving as a “tall” (whose 12 ounces is pretty near two cups).
When one realizes, with Ransom, that what one has already in hand is sufficient, a wonderful change occurs. Instead of thinking of the future (that next glass of wine, say), one appreciates the glass that is in hand. Creation is wonderful in every atom, “good to the last drop” one might say: a goodness that is right before us. I think that when Jesus fed the five thousand no one worried about the uneaten leftovers. What they had eaten was good, and they recognized that it was so.
On the Web. I published some ruminations on “The Burial of the Dead” in light of Christ’s Easter victory: https://covenant.livingchurch.org/2023/04/25/thinking-about-death-in-easter/. Among other things, I say that tears and alleluia go together, and I touch on why there can be no icon of the resurrection, adding some practical thoughts about cremation.
Out & About. Sunday, May 14, I am to teach and preach at St. Augustine’s Oak Cliff in Dallas. The class, at 9 a.m., is on the parish as a school of friendship. The Eucharist follows at 10 a.m.
The next Good Books & Good Talk seminar will be at Incarnation in Dallas on Sunday, May 21, on War in Heaven by Charles Williams. Williams was an Inkling—part of that group that included C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. His novels are literally out of this world. The seminar runs from 5 to 6:30pm. Everyone is welcome to attend; if you’ve read the book, you’re also welcome to talk.