Letter 11: “Consider the Title”


Dear Mr. Wallace,

It is probably because I grew up going to church and attended parochial schools from kindergarten through high school, but every time I see the title of this book, and the essay it is named after, it reminds me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6: “Consider the lilies.”  So reading your essay for the second time now, I am left wondering, did you mean for the title to be an allusion to the biblical text?  If so, what were you getting at?  Or am I just reading too much into it?

The passage from Matthew 6 reads:

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (New King James Version).

Jesus’ words speak of not worrying and knowing that our needs will be provided for.  The birds of the air and the lilies of the field don’t worry about where their next meal will come from.  They don’t worry their bodies or clothes or homes or even their futures.  They just live their lives as birds and lilies.

But “Consider the Lobster”?  Are you trying to say that they too, like the birds of the air and lilies of the fields haven’t a care in their undersea world?  Well, that is until they are scooped up by a fishing boat and thrown into a pot of boiling water, only to be dipped in butter and enjoyed by some tacky-shirt-wearing tourist.

Is the possible allusion a call back to the simpler things in life?  That life is more than Lobster Festivals and tourist destinations?  Perhaps if we focus on the truly important things of life, we might find more joy and contentment.  We might find more peace and tranquility, and not need the help of a professional therapist or a cocktail of prescription medications to do so.  There is peace to be found in this world, and I have a sneaky suspicion it’s not going to be found standing in line to be served a meal from the world’s largest lobster cooker.

Or is the title an admonition to, in the midst of gorging oneself in fun and frivolity of the Lobster Festival, stop and Consider the Lobster.  The animal at the center of this extravaganza is unwillingly sacrificing itself in the name of human gluttony.  This peaceful scavenger is plucked from the bottom of the ocean and then cooked in a plethora of ways to satisfy our delicate palates.  If one were to actually consider what is done to the sea insect and the reasons why it is done, one might think twice about standing in that line for fresh-cooked lobster.  Are you saying we need to consider the implications of our pursuit of leisure and entertainment?  Are you saying we need to find other, less destructive means of placating our need for peace?  Does standing in a long line under the hot sun to pay way too much for the flesh of freshly killed crustacean really bring tranquility?

Perhaps I’m on to something here.  Maybe we need to slow down and enjoy the simpler things in life.  Maybe we ought to consider the consequences of our pursuit of peace and happiness.  Maybe there are more important things than Lobster Festivals and Gourmet Magazines.

Is that what you were getting at?  Or am I reading way too much into it?

I wish you were here to answer questions like this.

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