The whole problem with our culture can be summed up by the coffee we drink. The science, nay the art, of drinking black coffee revolves around enjoying that which is not enjoyable. The phrase “acquired taste” means just that – the acquisition of tastes we do not have: the taste for bitterness, the taste for harshness. Learning to love a dark cup of coffee means loving the unlovable, which is the definition of Christian charity. It does not mean ignoring the bitterness and choking the stuff down. That’s the mere toleration of the unlovable – which is the definition of cowardice, lameness and current American liberalism.
Our culture has worked to eradicate the cup of black coffee. Before there was a War on Christmas, before there was a War in Iraq, there was the far greater and far viler War on Joe. Lead by the hulking behemoth of diversity-in-coffee, Starbucks, the virtue of bitterness was all but spat upon. There is no end of foam, chocolate, corn syrup, chipped ice and vanilla cream you can drown a noble quarter cup of coffee in. There are, as we speak, growing mountains of plastic cups smeared with the remnants of whipped cream and flavor shots — stuff used to hide the bitterness of coffee.
In this sad state of affairs, people are less than likely to learn to love the unlovable.
Is this not a perfect parallel to our world’s view of suffering? Suffering is evil, it is confusing, we’ve no taste for it, so we do whatever we can to disguise it, to hide it. Oh, to be sure, there will be the broadcasting of well-dressed celebrities telling us to aid those suffering, but our slums will remain as far away from our suburban developments as we can get them. There will be laws passed to ensure that the homeless cannot beg where we don’t want them, or sleep where we can see them. When entire nations fall to the grip of AIDS epidemics, we haven’t the taste for walking among them, but we’ve enough moral fiber to send them billions of condoms with a “Hope for the Best!” card attached. We want the sweetness of sex without the reality of children. We want good health without having to diet and exercise.
Into all this cowardice the Catholic Church speaks a word so earth-shaking that it is a word often misunderstood: “Suffering is good.” This is not masochism, it is honesty. Suffering gives birth to charity and brings all men, rich or poor, to their knees. Suffering binds us together; offered up it gives spiritual strength. But more than all that: Suffering is the means by which the world is saved and reconciled to God. Without suffering there could be no sacrifice, and without sacrifice there could be no love.
Black coffee is good. It does not taste good, it is much too important for that. It is good. That’s why I compare it to human suffering. As Catholics we need to learn that sweetness is not the heart of life. Love is. And in Heaven, the line between love and suffering will be blurred and erased, for glorified, they amount to the same thing.
So what am I saying, ditch our frappuccinos? Ummmm, yes, sorry. Just walk into your coffee shop tomorrow morning and inform your barrista, “In the interest of defying the culture’s inability to embrace suffering as the means by which Man is restored form his fallen state, I’ll take it black.”
Some nsfw but relevant augmentation: