This October (2012) marks the start of Barbra Streisand’s latest concert tour. While your reaction may be anything from excitement to indifference, I find it both amusing and philosophical.
Back in the summer of 2006, Barbra Streisand treated her adoring public to another Farewell Tour. Her previous Farewell Tour was in 2000, but I guess she changed her mind – which is perfectly fine, since many performers decide to come out of retirement. To Streisand fans, this announcement would normally be a joyous opportunity – a chance to see their celebrated performer in concert one more time – but not everyone was thrilled.
Shortly after the tour announcement, a group of fans threatened to sue Streisand, because she had promised a Farewell Tour in 2000. They paid top-dollar for those tickets, believing that they were attending her final live shows. Now that the 2006 Farewell Tour had been announced, they felt cheated because their favourite chanteuse didn’t keep her word and remain in retirement.
I don’t know how the lawsuit is progressing – frankly, I can’t be bothered following such things – but I don’t imagine that her fans will have much luck in the courtroom. The reason for my opinion is a phenomenon called “The Last Cookie Enjoyment”.
A few years ago, I was watching a stand-up comedian on television, and he was troubled. He told the audience that he was watching TV the other night, sitting on the couch, and eating cookies out of a bag. His idyllic existence came to a sudden end when he reached into the bag, felt around, but couldn’t feel a cookie. He stopped watching the screen, and then stared into the bag for a more complete visual inspection. Nothing. In desperation, he started pulling out the white corrugated paper separator, that divides the rows of cookies. The bag was empty. He felt cheated, because had consumed the entire bag without experiencing what he called “The Last Cookie Enjoyment”.
This is how he explained it “Cookies taste pretty much the same, until you get to the last cookie in the bag. When you reach for it, you know there are no more. As a result, you savour that cookie and make it last. You may even examine it first, and note its epicurean beauty – its weight and heft; the sight of the multitude of chocolate chips; the smell of the spices; the sound and feel of the crunch as you bite into it; the state change of the chocolate as it melts from the body heat of your mouth and tongue; if the cookies are freshly-baked, the heat will warm your insides, and finally, the taste of the cookie itself. All of your senses are completely engaged, while consuming that final cookie. You and the cookie become, quite literally, one.”
Through his own lack of attention, the comedian was denied the Last Cookie Enjoyment, and now there was diminishment in his life.
In my opinion, these Streisand fans should not file a lawsuit, because back in 2000, they each experienced the equivalent of the Last Cookie Enjoyment. They thought that Barbra Streisand was on her Farewell Tour, and as such, their collective experience was undoubtedly heightened. Whatever premium they paid for the tickets was certainly worth it. Now with the 2006 Farewell Tour, they will enjoy another concert and immerse themselves in the Last Cookie Enjoyment experience once again (at least until Streisand’s next tour is announced). They are getting more than their money’s worth, and one could argue that Streisand is actually doing her fans a favour by announcing more than one Farewell Concert Tour.
When you are eating your way through a bag of cookies, it’s easy to tell when you’ve reached the end, and when you will experience that Last Cookie Enjoyment. Unfortunately, life is not as predictable. That cookie you ate for lunch this afternoon could have been your last. Did you enjoy it? Did you really experience the cookie as intensely as you could have?
Warren Zevon, the musician who achieved fame in the 1980s with the song Werewolves Of London, died from terminal lung cancer in 2003. A few months earlier, when he knew his condition was terminal, Warren Zevon was a guest on Late Night With David Letterman. In fact, he was Letterman’s only guest for the entire hour. Letterman asked him if there was anything he understood now, facing his own mortality, that he didn’t before. Zevon replied (at 7:43) “You put more value on every minute… you’re reminded to enjoy every sandwich”.
So enjoy every sandwich, and enjoy every cookie – today. Embrace all of your life’s experiences – especially the ordinary ones – wholly and completely, because your final cookie will not be labelled. When you pull back that white corrugated paper, there may be another row of cookies underneath it, but there may not be…