The Candy Man

Posted on February 25, 2012

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I want it all, and I want it now, sang the unique and wonderful Freddie Mercury on the song of the same name by his band Queen. Today, that desire to want it all, but to also have that want met instantly, has never been so prevalent, or easy to sate. Without ever leaving home it is possible to choose any number of wants, seek them out online, order them, and have them delivered to you without ever leaving the comfort of your own four walls.

Financing your dreams need not be a problem either. Without moving from your chair you can apply for, and be given credit to pay for your dreams, again instantly. Say, for example, I wanted to buy a Speedboat. Google has just found me one in 0.32 seconds. It is rather a sporty looking Stingray 250cs. The picture accompanying the advert showing a man driving the speedboat in the sunshine across clear blue waters, accompanied by a trio of bikini clad women. This boat, or want, or dream, can be mine, ordered right now on line, for forty-seven thousand and eight hundred pounds

I need to first find the money to pay for it of course, and so I search again. In 0.34 seconds I am presented with over 3 million possible answers to my need. I can borrow the fifty-thousand pounds it costs to buy the boat, and have it transported to my yard, from at least twenty different companies. Naturally, I would then have to find the money to keep up my repayments, but the point is that whilst you are reading this, I could have bought a near fifty-thousand pound Speedboat.

Such is life in our century for those who want. Of course, most of my desires are more smaller, mainstream. I read of a book that catches my interest, and so I go online, buy it, and depending on the day, it can be in my hands the next morning. The same goes for food, fuel, clothing, transport, on and on, depending on your personal whim. Legal or illegal, simple or exotic, it can all be yours, right now. All of which may be one small explanation for why the world economy is the way it is right now.

This want brings me to Lent, a time in the Christian calendar of prayer, penance, sacrifice and good works as part of the preparation for the celebration of Easter. The word lent derives from the Anglo-Saxon word lenctentid, meaning ‘springtide’ and has its roots in the word Lengthen, as in the way the days keep hold of the sun for a little longer this time of year.

I find the ideal of lent, and all the religious and secular commitments to abstinence and fasting, an interesting one; the more so in this world of instant gratification. It is good to embrace the ethos of lent and make a small sacrifice for this period, not only as a personal challenge, but also as a small act of defiance against this pop-up world we live in. Lent provides to me both the time and space to reflect on where the everyday things around me come from, and the price that having them brings.

This years sacrifice is Sugar. It is an easy choice. I love chocolate, so the sacrifice is a real one, and reducing my refined sugar intake to zero for forty days ( Lent is of course longer than forty days, running this year from 22 February to 5 April, but Sundays I learn do not count) will undoubtedly have a personal health benefit.

Not only that, but chocolate aside, sugar is everywhere, as I am rapidly discovering only a few days into my personal penitence. In my cupboard I have found it lurking in bread, tinned soup, prawn crackers, Weetabix, plain flour, orange juice, mayonnaise and canned sweetcorn. And that is before taking into account the refined sugar I usually add to my tea of coffee. This omnipresent nature of sugar makes it an even better, and bigger, challenge to overcome.

Wider than my own world, refined sugar, it would appear is a good thing to have a whole lot less of all round. According to the World Wildlife fund (WWF), roughly one hundred and forty five million tons of sugars are produced each year, and their research shows that this sugar production is having a toll on surrounding soil, water and air, especially in threatened tropical ecosystems near the equator.

A report by WWF, entitled “Sugar and the Environment,” showed that sugar may be responsible for more biodiversity loss than any other crop, due to its destruction of habitat to make way for plantations, its intensive use of water for irrigation, its heavy use of agricultural chemicals, and the polluted wastewater that is routinely discharged in the sugar production process. So, on an ethical and environmental basis, sugar is ripe for the chop.

Of course forty days is not such a long time to go without something as mundane as sugar. Around our world people are making far greater sacrifices everyday, to put food on the table for their children, and to bring us the truth from far flung places of conflict. However, Lent can be about something more than just what you give up, just as any true act of sacrifice, penitence, call it what you will, is about making an ongoing change in the ways we live our lives.

For me, the true message is not only the sacrifice, but also the slowing down. It is about turning off the shuffle on the MP3 player; leaving your phone at home; enjoying the walk, as opposed to photographing every step along its way. So, this Lent I hope to learn a little more than whether I can live without sugar. Despite the abstinence I am greedy.  I want to learn about waiting for things too, as opposed to demanding them now, this minute.Then, hopefully, I will also learn to not want them at all.

In essence, it is about letting the days go by, safe in the knowledge that once they have passed, come the fifth day of April, the beloved swifts will have returned to the sky above my head, the days shall have lengthened, and sugar will be one more thing that I used to want, but no longer need. Now that is the real thing.

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