Monday, October 12, 2009

Sneak with a Thousand Faces

Posted By on Mon, Oct 12, 2009 at 6:00 PM

click to enlarge thesneaknew.JPG
I was raised a Christian sneak, which may have repercussions in my evangelical fervor for spreading the gospel of eating what you want, when you want. One thing that always disappointed me about the Bible as child, though, was that Moses and David and Jesus were hard to understand. I liked Jesus best because he told the best stories -- and, honestly, my parents should have known what I was to become when I was so very interested in turning water into wine or producing loaves and fishes from rarefied air.

I thought the biggest problem with the Bible was that it didn't address my actual concerns, chiefly: What does God eat? How come all the killing's at the front of the book? Seriously, pets go to Heaven, right? What causes seasons?

In the absence of clear answers from the Bible, I filled in myself with mythology. God probably eats ambrosia and all the killing's at the front because it took a long time for Hope to work its way out of Pandora's box. Pets definitely go to heaven, but it's like pet Valhalla where they can run around all day and never get tired before a giant feast. These things were as real to me, as valid, as cosmically understandable as anything in the Bible. I had an admirably ecumenical view of theology.

click to enlarge Original Sneak?
  • Original Sneak?
So it was with complete faith that I accepted the myth of Persephone, Demeter's favorite daughter, stolen through a great rip in the earth by Hades, the King of the Underworld. He takes her to be his queen, to rule over the dead but her mother begs for her return. They strike the kind of deal that only makes sense in myth: If she eats any food while in the Land of the Dead, she will never return to the surface world of perpetual summer created by her mother's glowing godly love. So what does she do?

She eats some pomegranate seeds.

They strike another deal: Because the seeds are so small, she will stay for only part of the year. For the rest of the year, she will live with her mother. When Persephone is in the Underworld with her husband, Demeter mourns and winter's chill sets in with a rustle of drying grass. When Persephone is abroad, every living thing flourishes.

Obviously, as a sneak, this myth has further resonance with me. Why would a woman choose to eat the pomegranate seeds, knowing the price? In some versions of the myth, she's tricked into doing it by Hades, who wants to keep her with him. But other versions simply state that she ate them. Did she not know what she was getting into? Did she want to stay? Was she unable to resist the lure of forbidden fruit, offered open-handed in the dark?

Forbidden fruit has been the downfall of many in the Bible and in the auxiliary myths of my childhood. For sneaking purposes this fall, it will be your salvation. I can't tell you how many times I've gone to the theater and observed the dubiously corn-syruped offerings with high-fructose disdain and thought: Not even if they were giving it away. One of the main reasons that I, an ethical sneak, am absolutely no competition to movie theater concessions is that I am not and probably never will be interested in what they're offering. The vague hint of transgression may be the seasoning salt but the food I choose to sneak in is the meal.

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