When I was a kid, I learned the Ice Cream song. You might know it. At the time and through the decades that followed, I never gave a lot of thought to what it meant. As things typically happen in my brain, the song came to mind the other day as I sat doodling while waiting for something wholly unexciting to happen.
Originally published in 1927 by Howard Johnson, Billy Moll, and Robert A. King, “Ice Cream” oddly enough went on to become a jazz standard over the following decade. In the next eight decades that followed, it was nowhere to be seen in the music charts, but it still lives on.
Almost a century later, the “Ice Cream” song still lingers. The lyrics seem pretty straightforward: “I scream. You scream. We all scream for ice cream. Rah! Rah! Rah! Tuesdays, Mondays, we all scream for sundaes. If you’ve got chocolate, we’ll take vanoola. Rah! Rah! Rah!” As an innocent child, I heard a song about the amazingness of ice cream and was reminded that I wanted some. As a closer to middle aged man who long ago lost his innocence, I of course hear something else.
Looking deeper into the lyrics and taking into account the year of emergence, the lyrics still make sense. It’s just a different sense. The United States was mired in the Great Depression. For adults of the time, life was generally anything but enjoyable. Something most of us see as simple, ice cream, must have been a delicacy. Think of it in this depression era context. A refrigerator with a freezer was a luxury. Having money to even buy a single ice cream, much less a dozen to store for later, was a luxury. For many, just surviving was a luxury. As such, I see it through a lens of people who just needed a tiny piece of normalcy to keep them going.
Jumping forward to the present, I see the song in a completely different light. Screaming for ice cream for enjoyment on a hot summer day isn’t the simple idea of a 1980’s kid. As in the 1920’s, ice cream in the 2020’s is still a metaphor. Even more…prepare for the intended pun…it’s a chilling metaphor for the way society’s “wants” have evolved.
Don’t worry. I am not peddling some half cocked ice cream conspiracy. Ice cream is NOT a tool of the Left to appease the wanters, and the Right is not using it to subjugate wanters. What I’m saying is that as a society we don’t simply want things anymore. We WANT MORE things. It’s no longer just about ice cream. It’s about bigger homes, better vacations, newer cars, the newest electronic devices, social media attention on the latest platform, etc., etc., etc. Too many people are unsatisfied with having enough to live. They have more, yet still crave more.
If it sounds like a dependency, it’s because it is. Society’s “more” may not be a drug to be ingested or a bet to be placed, but it’s a vice nonetheless. And if you go the Stoic route, the vice it represents only leads us farther from the contentment found through a virtuous life. To make things worse, people don’t just say they want more. Like in the ice cream song, many people feel they have to scream in order for their desires to be heard. Whether it’s in person or on social media, too much time is spent with people trying to talk over each other. We want a new phone. We want cheaper gasoline. We want an entire other country. Yet, the more we get, the less content we feel.
The obvious result of so much screaming is that it leaves little time to listen. This means there’s no real communication, which in turn means people feel more isolated. Ultimately, a few screamers makes many others feel like they have to scream, too. Increasingly often, especially in the United States, the screaming turns from spoken voice to voice through a firearm. This is a subject for another day. For today, the idea is simply that more listening and less screaming leads to both inner and societal peace. Today it would be good if you, the reader, take some time to reflect on the idea explained herein. Maybe you find it valuable enough to share with others and do just that. Perhaps a few of them do the same. In the end, the worst that can happen is a few less people will be screaming, and in that case, we all win.