I’m a fan of a movie classic named Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Especially dear to me is the actor Gene Wilder and the many child actors in it. I’m too long removed from the original book to know how faithful the adapted screenplay is. But I can never forget the exaggerated personalities that were on full display.
The young Charlie Bucket and his wide eyed wonderment at everything and everyone he knew and saw. He was portrayed as an excitable but considerate young boy. Not yet jaded to the world and wary of others to a fault. But ready to accept people as they presented themselves to him. Come as you are. Pure of spirit and honest in all things. Honorific to his parents and never with a complaint simply because of his untenable position and lot in life.
Augustus Gloop. Rotund. Extreme consumerist. A maddening caricature of human excess. He was attracted to the finest of all things chocolate so long as they could fit in his mouth. And a few that couldn’t. Consistently self interested and never able to refuse an invitation to consume even beyond his real ability to absorb.
But my favorite anti-hero was Veronica “Veruca” Salt.
I’ve seen Veruca Salt every day in my life and not because I own their compact discs. >chuckles under breath< Veruca is the very essential cautionary tale of what happens when no thing is out of reach so long as you have someone with unlimited means as your hostage. I have visions of Wall Street executives who are held prisoner to their financiers and the politicians who are held hostage to theirs. They think they have control until they are contacted by the ones that have true control. Verucas father thought he had control of a vast nut empire. But he in fact was controlled by his daughter.
Willy Wonka. Ego maniac. Control freak. Jealous guardian of an empire built of chocolate and assorted goodies. An insatiable inventor of all things sweet. Eternally dissatisfied to eat on his past accomplishments. Somewhat disconnected from reality and from human contact. Such a juxtaposition. Intimate connection through the enjoyment of sweets but disconnected because of them. Afraid and also angry at the world for coveting his gifts so. But also very connected to himself and aware of his own mortality. Knowledgeable enough to know that he will not last forever and hoping that someone would be able to carry on the spirit of what he once was. Or is he only seeing what he once was? It's possible he was only protecting himself from exploitation and never lost connection with himself. Perhaps he was hyper aware of himself and in that vein wanted more than anything to be sure that whomever was to carry on the Wonka name would be a smaller and younger version of himself.
I think that Willy was more in touch with his own heart than anyone could imagine. Fiercely protective of his soul and chocolate covered dreams. I believe he was very clear that his products make a real difference in people's lives. That his dreams were in the hands and on the tongues of millions every day. His own personal paradise was there for the masses and he knew that if they wanted it, all they have to do is simply look around and view it. He was clear that unless he had someone of pure heart he could not be sure that his soul could continue.
Let's be real. No one really wants to die. Even suicide bombers die with the expectation that they will enter into eternal paradise for their devotions. The eternal is the hope and wish of all. Not to continue in perpetuity scrabbling for scraps and leavings of others. But to have life and life more abundantly. We all wish that cares in the world be but a distant memory and our futures so blessed and bright that we never want for anything ever again. Earned blessings are still blessings. Enter thou in, my good and faithful servant…
Willy wanted to choose and like Indiana Jones, choose wisely. But whom should he choose? He took a risk. Whispered a prayer. Hoped for the best. Cast a net. Prepared the test.
He sent out word that he will invite a select few into his home. Truly a luck of the draw. Earn your money. Buy my products. Find my ticket and you are in. These were times when those who were willing to sacrifice their hard earned had a chance to see the promised land. Or seen another way from Mr. Wonkas perspective, a grand opportunity for profit. Who today would not buy every Prince album on the shelf if there was a chance that one might contain a ticket to enter into Paisley Park? Not because they are Prince fans. But because the mystery of what his Purple Badness sees every day is far beyond our eyes.
Prince is our real life Willy Wonka.
But I digress.
Willy had a serious and unavoidable problem. He was going to die one day. He did not know the number of his days left to him. But he knew he needed a successor. The king needs an heir. And his successor was chosen in the most random manner possible. By sheer dumb luck. Luck upon a ticket and you are in. He knew that they would love to see the inside. That's the prize. But to offer the keys to the kingdom? That's the serendipitous gift no one could've imagined. Least of all Charlie.
So Willy eliminated the liars, the users, the abusers, the gluttons, the fools and charlatans along with their parents. But what if after it was all said and done, Charlie had said no? What if he said he was grateful for the tour and loved the factory, but didn't feel he had it in him to lead the rouge faced Oompa Loompa? To manage the daily affairs of the lofty office of Chocolate Mogul? It was an awful risk.
But honestly, we witness that same risk every day when we peruse the want ads. Check the job listing website. Visit the corporate openings link. They are all throwing wide the doors to a vast fortune hoping the best will come in. The test of Mike Teavee, Veruca Salt, Augustus Gloop, and all the rest is our test too. Have you shown compassion to all? Have you proven the ability to recognize the faults in others and still given them space for grace? Have you seen troubles and instead of running from them faced up to them without complaint? Have you seen other men's dreams and sought to exploit them or have you worked to make them a reality?
These are the kinds of tests Mr. Wonka put before his naughty little children. That is how he chose his manager. I wonder if I would've passed the test too?