“That’s the way the cookie crumbles”

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, August 31, 2017

As the old saying goes, ‘That’s the way the cookie crumbles.’ Photo by Warren Harbeck

"That's the way the cookie crumbles," I overheard someone say about another's misfortune as I sipped my coffee at a nearby table.

The way it was said reminded me of that great moment in Gone with the Wind, when Rhett Butler tells Scarlet O'Hara: "Frankly, my dear," – forgive my paraphrase – "that's the way the cookie crumbles!"

What powerful words, I thought. Here's a magical incantation that protects its speaker from the vulnerability of involvement, a miraculous basin in which to wash one's hands.

So I thought I'd try this abracadabra for myself.

I tried it on Shakespeare. I tried it on the daily news. I tried it on history. And now I'd like to try it on you.

Complete each of the following by filling in the blank with the words: "That's the way the cookie crumbles." Then sit back, and reflect!

1. Romeo, finding his heartthrob Juliet lying motionless and unresponsive, believes her to be dead. He shrugs his shoulders, says, "...," and strolls off to find another date.

2. A university student witnesses his best friend sexually assault then murder a seven-year-old girl. The witness slips away from the scene, doing nothing and saying nothing, seeming to excuse himself with the attitude: "...."

3. Some 30 years ago, Romanian Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, pulled the wool over the eyes of the too-easily impressed West by constructing large, showy government buildings while condemning average citizens to abysmally crowded apartments. They manipulated fawning foreign academics by flaunting research papers the credit for which Elena Ceausescu had stolen from betrayed Romanian scientists.

Universities in the United States were so flattered by the Ceausescus' attentions that they fell all over themselves extending honourary doctorates to Ms. Ceausescu, while turning deaf ears to the cries of Romania's forgotten orphans, soothing their consciences with the mantra, "...."

(No thanks to political, academic and church institutions in the West which should have insisted on moral and human rights accountability, the Ceausescu regime crumbled in 1989 in a popular revolt against its outrageous domestic practices.)

Fortunately, there are those among us for whom indifference and poverty of principle are not the way the cookie crumbles. But the concerns and actions of these noble souls can be emotionally and physically draining – even downright risky. Who really looks forward to loss of reputation, or relationships, or health, or pension, or home, or even life itself, for doing what is right?

So I said to myself, "Certainly, not all of us can be expected to bear the burden of others' pain! Perhaps some of us are called on only to sip coffee in pleasant cafes?"

My pondering was rudely interrupted by a frightening "vision" in which I was sipping coffee with St. Teresa of Calcutta (“Mother Teresa”).

I ask the highly regarded humanitarian expectantly: "What comfort can you suggest for old people, abused and wasting away in the gutters of the world? What hope can you offer suicidal young adults whose dreams for the future have been shattered by the self-interest of those who should know better? How do you wipe away the tears of innocent children robbed of a safe and quiet night's rest?"

Mother Teresa pauses reflectively, as though about to provide the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Then raising her cup and looking at me with her gentle eyes, she shrugs her shoulders and says: "...!"


© 2017 Warren Harbeck

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