I love cookies. I love eating them and I love making them. But, a few days ago, I found myself needing to buy some cookies. An old favorite came to mind—Milano, made by Pepperidge Farm. I had no idea that I would face so many choices of Milanos on the Milano shelf, but I finally settled on Milano Dark Chocolate.
When I got my little bag of cookies home, I put them on the counter in the kitchen. And that’s when I noticed what was on the back of the Milano package: “Can a cookie be good for the soul? We think so.”
Really? Is that what we’ve come to?
As organized religion recedes and/or is shoved to the sideline (at least where I live), it is fascinating to watch what is filling the void. We are spiritual beings, after all, and there is something in our souls that does need to be fed and nurtured, something in us beyond our intellectual and emotional selves that calls out for attention. I have a lot of friends who have either recently or long ago turned away from organized religion (just too full of crazy, unbelievable stories, or too full of hypocrites) and have, instead, turned to yoga, or other forms of exercise, or just taking solitary walks in the woods, or journaling. None of them, at least so far, has admitted that they’ve turned to cookies to nurture their soul.
It’s not that these endeavors are not good for one’s soul, and perhaps cookies too have certain benefits for one’s inner sense of well-being (so long as, I suppose, one does not overindulge). But, modern pursuits of the exercise of one’s soul seem rather flimsy to me. Sure, they can be done, more or less, on one’s own schedule, and they don’t involve dealing with a lot of difficult people with ideas of their own and who don’t practice what they, or their religion, preach.
Like lots of self-help programs, there are limits to what one can do oneself for one’s soul. There’s a reason why most successful addiction programs involve groups, gatherings of people. When people gather in groups weird and complicated and even unpleasant things can happen, but there’s also something strangely constructive about being around other people, especially people whom you might never meet otherwise, except in a place like a church. When people gather in an intentional way in a place or circumstance where they are encouraged to look after their own selves as well as the people around them, good things happen to everyone’s soul.
I enjoy cookies, perhaps sometimes a little too much, but they really don’t do anything for my soul. I like to exercise and take walks and, on occasion, I even find a moment to write a little in my journal. But, I can’t say that any of those things really feed my soul, certainly not in a deep way. It seems to me that to feed one’s soul, one needs to connect to another soul and to a group of souls, in a way where everyone recognizes their imperfections, yet everyone is striving to do better, to be a more giving and complete soul. This is difficult, perhaps impossible, to do on one’s own. A mirror is not an especially life-giving instrument.
I’ll keep eating cookies, although I may not buy more Pepperidge Farm Milanos when I’m stuck needing to buy cookies. I’ll remember that cookies do nothing more than feed my need for a sweet treat. I’ll keep the care of my soul to my faith, where it’s in much better hands, and in much better, though imperfect, company.