I was just about to eat my Nutella toast which I slathered completely with Nutella, because there’s nothing worse than a sandwich with a dry corner, or a piece of toast uncovered by chocolate, when a djinn flew in through the window and said, “Good Daniel, I have a proposition for you.”
What is it, I wondered and before I could voice my wonder he went on, “If you eat that entire Nutella toast without getting any on your fingers, I will grant you eternal life.”
Eternal life, I thought, instantly considering the negatives of watching my friends and family die around me as I aged into infinity. “But not an eternity of aging as your friends and family die around you,” the djinn smiled. “No. An eternity of eternal return, as your good friend Mr. Friedrich N. has established it– but, you will be able to fix your mistakes in future lives– and even better, you won’t remember living those lives, but you will simply have a gut instinct or me, to guide you when you are about to make a wrong decision. In short, if you eat that entire piece of Nutella toast without getting any on your fingers, you will keep living until you live the perfect life– full of experience, longing, achievement, desire and fulfillment, knowledge, happiness and perpetual bliss, over and over and over again.”
All for eating toast? I thought.
“All for eating toast,” the djinn confirmed. I looked at my Nutella slathered bread, sitting on the plate. It really is brimming with Nutella, I thought. How will I even begin to make sure that no Nutella gets on my fingers. “It’s going to be pain-staking,” the djinn affirmed, “but you have all day and the only condition is you can use just your hands.”
And so I set to work. I analyzed each corner and guessed how careful I had to be for each bite. For I started off from the least-slathered corner first, assuming that practice would ennoble my steady hand and give me greater confidence in chocolateless-fingered consumption.
The first three bites took a little over an hour and all was so far, so good. I was still hungry, this Nutella toast being my breakfast, and since I had all day to consume it, I wandered out into the kitchen for a snack and some water, the activity being high-focus and high-intensity, a plurality of future lives at stake, so I had begun to sweat profusely somewhere after the second bite as I prepared for a specifically Nutella-heavy central bite. My secret hitherto had been to use the least Nutellaed corner as a sort of handle, thereby taking care of the more heavily-Nutellaed corners. But the handle-corner was beginning to crumble and after having eaten the more heavily chocolate laden bites, the overflow was beginning to look more and more serious.
I returned to my room where I’d left my burden, which if I failed to apprehend would surely haunt me for decades, and I resumed the task at hand. With only my pinkie, I began to lift the bread for a new bite. I brought my face to the plate, which the djinn had not disqualified, and nibbled a large chunk toward the middle. This was a triumph in itself, for in the style of most sandwich makers, I had most heavily spread the hazlenut juice in that specific area. The next bite too was looking pretty good, all things considered, although I wound up using my hands and delicately, oh so delicately, replacing the toast back on the plate, my caution proceeding from the fact that if I flung it down stray Nutella might spray onto my fingers and prevent me from living a blissful eternity.
It was not until the sixth bite that things took a turn for the worse. Because the increasing heat of the room, possibly from the rising August sun or my increased sensitivity as I moved closer and closer to my goal, had led the Nutella to melt. And now it looked as drippy as ever. At this point, the replacing was almost as difficult as the picking up and so I began to resign myself to a life of mediocrity followed by a regret-filled death and whatever happens after death would be no different from the majority’s perceptions of nothing or spiritual salvation or whatever. I took heart that whatever I would do in this world would not be too high nor too low, and that it would prevent me from a king’s yearning, or a pauper’s degradation. I spurned the djinn as a cockatrice, a riddling sphinx, for the likes of those who would pretend to greater greatness than myself.
Incredibly, amazingly really, when you consider the viscosity of this warm Nutella ready to drip, I took a bite without getting any chocolate on my fingers. I even set it down clean-handed.
And so just a couple of bites remained. I began to think why hadn’t I tried to crumple the entire piece of toast into my mouth on the first bite, and realized that it would have left far too much to chance, and that in the crumpling, it would have been highly likely that I would have pressed too hard to get one of the corners in my mouth and it would have left my fingers with the tiniest droplet. No. I am one for perfection and exaction.
But lo! As I picked up the toast, I had not put my mind, body and soul into the prevention of Nutella from fingers and a tiny bit of Nutella dripped onto my thumb.
Instantly the djinn appeared and mocked me for never achieving eternal bliss in a succession of eternal return. I was embarrassed for a moment, and then grateful.
The djinn disappeared. I understood that all of this, this whole false dilemma, had been a cosmic test. Not for an eternity of bliss, but for an understanding of myself…