Biting The LifeSaver

Barely ten seconds pass after placing a Life Saver [1] in your mouth before the desire to bite it onsets. This is the central issue embedded in the process of eating any sort of hard of hard candy, but with Life Savers it seems almost unavoidable. Because of this, eating a Life Saver is oftentimes a struggle between your most basic desires to consume and to conserve. That is why Life Savers are important.

A typical tube of Life Savers comes with fourteen candies ranging in flavor from cherry and raspberry to Pep O Mint and Wint O Green. But the flavors here aren’t all that important. What’s key is that the structural integrity of a Life Saver is designed as such so that it is nearly impossible to let them dissolve in your mouth [2]. Once the package is opened, and the foil is torn off the first sweet circlet, all bets are off. The consumer becomes ravaged, placing one candy after another on her tongue and crushing them with little deliberation and much impatience. Before long, one Life Saver has become thirteen. And then — they are all gone.

To describe the process of eating a Life Saver, then, is to provide a case study on the nature of indulgence and self-denial. Sure, placing one in your mouth is pleasurable, but biting — biting is where the real enjoyment lies. What is clear is that the process of eating a Life Saver can, if left unchecked, become the candy equivalent to chain smoking. It becomes an addiction, albeit one whose duration lasts only as long as it takes to consume the entire package. After that, a strange sort of satisfaction often takes hold. We’ve done good work.

But consider how different the process would be of we did the complete opposite. Rather than gnash through an entire package of Life Savers, what if we slowed down the whole process of consumption? By resisting the urge to bite the Life Saver, we learn what it means to have exactly we want and take ten steps back from it.

Of course, there is a heart-breaking sort of irony involved in consuming quickly a candy whose name implies salvation. Life Savers are created in order to be destroyed. But it is in those moments when the amylase in your saliva is slowly dissolving the sugary rings into progressively thinner discs that we come to the truth: Life Savers can’t save themselves, but they can save you.

They do this by reminding you that one day you, too, will dissolve into nothingness. Time will be your enzyme, and it will break you down gradually and without spite. By the end you will be thin and brittle, drenched with the saliva of existence and begging to be swallowed into the void of the Beyond.

That sounds bad, but it actually isn’t. Because amidst the slow degradation of your body you’ll come to a few conclusions about how life tends to work. One: it is far better to be a dissolved Life Saver than a crunched one. This should be clear, judging simply by our seemingly innate human desire to want to live as long as possible.

But the second lesson embedded in the Life Saver is more important. In the trademarked and infinitely commercialized name “Life Savers” there exists a not-so-subtle homophone-based reminder of the best way to live: Life, Savored. [3] It’s not exactly an imperative – but it’s close. And it’s by understanding lesson two in tandem with lesson one that we draw near to what I’ll call Crane’s Rule For Living: Life is good when it’s long, but better when it’s savored.


[1] Life Savers were created in 1912 by Clarence Crane, an Ohio resident whose second greatest gift to mankind was his son, the poet Hart Crane. Thus while the younger Crane practiced his heart-wrenching craft on the page, the older Crane etched his legacy on the bittersweet history of confections.

[2] All of this was changed when Wrigley created Life Savers Gummies, the chewable abominations that forever sullied the ascetic process of consuming Life Savers. Where Life Savers are inflexible, brittle, and loathe to be bitten, Life Savers Gummies are almost the complete opposite, inviting wanton and tactless chewing.

[3] You might not expect a lesson in living to come from a candy whose center is actually a void. But perhaps it is in that center where the lesson actually lies. Assuming this, Life Savers become a small, sugar-based representation of what it feels like to walk around with a big gaping whole in your existence. I guess.

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