Temptation is the golden egg in the giant’s castle that we ought not touch. And yet, it’s so glittering and shiny. It’s the ring in the dragon’s hoard that makes you invisible. It’s the silk and the diamonds, and the ruby eyes in the statue after we’ve been told “touch nothing but the lamp”. It’s the tingling feeling that “oh, really, I shouldn’t.” But we want to. So very, very much.
It tastes like decadent chocolate and bitter guilt. And we love it. We love the way doing the wrong thing, surrendering to temptation, makes us feel so good.
Temptation is consistent, though. It always gets us into trouble.
I’m sitting here trying to think of a delicious, juicy story about how I gave into temptation and sorely regretted it, but I don’t live life that passionately. Oh, sure, I’ve broken down and had that pizza instead of a salad. I’ve ordered something I shouldn’t have when we were low on cash. None of these things have had Hollywood-style dramatic consequences. Maybe I’m lucky. Or maybe I’m boring.
There’s this short story I remember reading in high school: Button, Button by Richard Matheson. The story is about a woman who is offered a chance for $50,00, but to get it, she has to press a button and someone she does not know will die. When she gives into temptation and ultimately hits the button, her husband is hit by a train. The $50,000 is his life insurance settlement, and when asking why her husband was killed, the stranger inquires if she believes she really knew her husband.
The story is common enough – you may have seen the Twilight Zone episode based on it, or the 2009 psychological thrilled “The Box”. It’s something I have thought about from time to time – that sort of temptation. I’ve more or less decided that even if it was a true stranger, I wouldn’t do it, because I’d still have to live with murder. But the folks put in that “button” situation are often desperate, with injured or dying family members and difficulty paying the bills. Fear of starvation, or being put out into the streets. It’s easy enough to say you wouldn’t push the button… but how desperate is desperate enough?
It’s something to think about.