You’re going to think I’ve totally lost my mind on this one, but that’s OK. We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.
Why have I lost my mind, because in this article, I want to talk about why I think there is a tremendous amount that Veruca Salt can teach us about living happier more fulfilled lives?
In case you had a very sheltered childhood, Roald Dahl wrote a book called Charlie and the Chocolate factory, which has been made into a couple of movies, one good, and one strange. In the book, there is a very very spoiled little rich girl named Veruca Salt. She’s such a brat that she demands a golden ticket to visit the chocolate factory and her father devotes his entire company to opening candy bars to find one. There’s also the main protagonist named Charlie Bucket who is presented as the antithesis of Veruca and the other children. He and his family are very poor and he is shown to be extremely kind and giving.
Since I was a kind, I always believed that Veruca represented being selfish, self-centered, and all other kinds of bad things that we all want to avoid. Recently however, I’ve been reflecting on the idea that she actually has some qualities that can be quite helpful to us, all be it in much greater moderation.
Our society has spent a tremendous amount of time giving us two very conflicting messages, Charlie and Veruca. The first message is that we should be kind and generous, loving and compassionate. We are giving “good” archetypes and told that being a “good” person is something we should strive for. The second message is perpetuated by our consumerist culture. It says something more along the lines of get this, buy that, want, need, acquire and do it by any means necessary. In a way, this second message encourages us to be more like Veruca while the first points out why being Charlie is the right way to go. The idea that self-sacrifice rather than self-gratification is the ideal we should strive for.
Why am I saying that parts of Veruca are in fact good? The Buddha taught what has become known as the Middle Way. He tried both extremes, having lots and lots of stuff and also having absolutely nothing. And I mean he went all out. From being born into a royal family with everything he could possibly imagine, to being a wandering mendicant who ate only a single grain of rice a day. And you know what he found? Either extreme was just that, extreme. Neither a lot nor a little helped him with the problem of suffering. Instead, he found that being in the middle was part of the path to the cessation of suffering. When you find yourself trying to be too good or two self-less, you’re headed toward one of those extremes which can cause just as much discontent as if you were going too far in the other direction.
So the next time you’re feeling tired, burned out, over worked and underappreciated, take some time and let out your inner Veruca Salt and let her run around…just remember to put her back once she’s had a chance to stretch her legs.