by Jadell M. Forman
On Mondays at The Neighborhood Café, we’ve been looking at Jesus’ question, Can you drink the cup?, using the cup as a metaphor for life. Today, we look at what comes after holding and lifting the cup: Drinking.
This past January, upon opening our look at the cup of life, you read this short but profound quote by Henri Nouwen:
- At worst, drinking together is saying, “We trust each other enough that we don’t want to poison each other.” At best, it is saying, “I want to get close to you and celebrate life with you.” (Can You Drink the Cup? p 80)
Nouwen is talking about those times when we meet someone for a cup of coffee or tea, invite friends over for a glass of wine or a bottle of beer, or offer a guest or thirsty stranger a glass of water. Any degree of acceptance shows a measure of trust.
Friends trust each other. But enemies distrust each other, trying to measuring motives, uncover tactics, and employ counter strategies.
In the movie, The Princess Bride, two enemies meet. An impatient, pompous, pretentious villain who has captured the soon-to-be Princess Buttercup faces off with a masked pirate. Dread Pirate Roberts has tracked Vizzini, in order to take Buttercup. But the masked man finds himself, possibly, at “an impasse?”
Vizzini: I’m afraid so. I can’t compete with you physically, and you’re no match for my brains.
Dread Pirate Roberts: You’re that smart?
Vizzini: Let me put it this way: have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates?
Dread Pirate Roberts: Yes.
Dread Pirate Roberts: Really. [pause] In that case, I challenge you to a battle of wits.
Vizzini: For the princess? < Pirate nods > To the death? < Pirate nods > I accept.
Dread Pirate Roberts: Good. Then pour the wine. [Roberts pulls out a small vial, and uncorks it] Inhale this, but do not touch.
Vizzini: I smell nothing.
Dread Pirate Roberts: What you do not smell is called Iocane powder. It is odorless, tasteless, dissolves instantly in liquid, and is among the more deadly poisons known to man.
Dread Pirate Roberts: < turns away from Vizzini with the goblets, and pours the poison in. Goblets replaced on the table, one in front of each. >
All right. Where is the poison? The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both drink, and find out who is right…and who is dead.
Vizzini: But it’s so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy’s? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.
Dread Pirate Roberts: You’ve made your decision then?
Vizzini: Not remotely. Because iocane comes from Australia, as everyone knows, and Australia is entirely peopled with criminals, and criminals are used to having people not trust them, as you are not trusted by me, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you.
Dread Pirate Roberts: Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.
Vizzini: WAIT TILL I GET GOING! Where was I?
Dread Pirate Roberts: Australia.
Vizzini: Yes, Australia. And you must have suspected I would have known the powder’s origin, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.
Dread Pirate Roberts: You’re just stalling now.
Vizzini: You’d like to think that, wouldn’t you? You’ve beaten my giant, which means you’re exceptionally strong, so you could’ve put the poison in your own goblet, trusting on your strength to save you, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But, you’ve also bested my Spaniard, which means you must have studied, and in studying you must have learned that man is mortal, so you would have put the poison as far from yourself as possible, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.
Dread Pirate Roberts: You’re trying to trick me into giving away something. It won’t work.
Vizzini: IT HAS WORKED! YOU’VE GIVEN EVERYTHING AWAY! I KNOW WHERE THE POISON IS!
Dread Pirate Roberts: Then make your choice.
Vizzini: I will, and I choose– What in the world can that be? [Vizzini gestures up and away from the table. Roberts looks]
Dread Pirate Roberts: What? Where? I don’t see anything.
Vizzini: Well, I- I could have sworn I saw something. No matter.
Dread Pirate Roberts:
What’s so funny?
Vizzini: I’ll tell you in a minute. First, let’s drink. Me from my glass, and you from yours. < they drink >
Dread Pirate Roberts: You guessed wrong.
Vizzini: You only think I guessed wrong! That’s what’s so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned! Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!! Ha ha ha–[Vizzini stops suddenly, and falls dead to the right]
Buttercup: Who are you?
Dread Pirate Roberts: I’m no one to be trifled with. That is all you ever need know.
Buttercup: And to think, all that time it was your cup that was poisoned.
Dread Pirate Roberts: They were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.
Buttercup, free from the now-dead Vizzini, finds herself in the hands of Dread Pirate Roberts. Her current captor is her future deliverer and once true-love Wesley who had mysteriously disappeared some time ago. But she doesn’t know that yet. Clarity comes in time.
For years, I played the role of Vizzini in life, trying to figure out how to drink the cup without being poisoned. In my mind, the Dread Pirate Roberts role was intermittently played by God, Satan, a friend, a stranger, or myself, depending on my mood, perspective, and momentary digestive health.
These days, I’m more often the blindfolded Buttercup, in the dark and waiting around to see how things shake out. I’ve read enough of God’s story to be logically aware that things will shake out in my favor, but my emotions often betray me. And I see many of us who “know better,” often betrayed by our emotions of fear, anger, frustration, depression, shame. We get edgy when life doesn’t unfold the way we want or think it should. It’s at times like this that we think we’re losing the duel and drinking the poison.
Even so, this mysterious True-Love-Deliverer ultimately wins the battle, my heart, and my life, just as Wesley eventually rescues Buttercup and wins her heart, and everyone (except Vizzini) lives happily ever after.
God’s rescue and love for all who trust him will turn out according to the script he wrote long ago in a land far away. When the credits roll, and the blindfolds are removed, we’ll drink new wine with the True-Love-Deliverer at our soon-to-be wedding feast.
Jadell M. Forman writes for The Neighborhood Café on Mondays.