The World According to Starburst

Philosophers have pondered the mysteries of humanity for millennia. Any conundrum you can imagine has been covered in countless ways, many of them contradictory.

One of the most popular is the link between pleasure and pain, happiness and suffering.

The Mars Corporation has weighed in on this timeless topic, and they show the need for suffering to enhance pleasure through their Starburst offering.

Let’s explore their ideas.

To start, there are basic facts about Starburst that must be agreed upon:

  1. Pink is the best Starburst flavor (like with all sugar candies in the US, colors are the only true flavor)
  2. Yellow is the worst Starburst flavor


I see you, agitators in the back, clamoring that, actually, if you appreciate the nuance of the palette then yellow is actually the best. Stop it. You’re just being contrary for the sake of being contrary, and you have no supporters here. Peddle your lies somewhere else.

Even the parent company acknowledges this, having released an all-pink package, treating only that flavor in that fashion.


They even acknowledge that “pink” is the flavor. Sure, strawberry is mentioned, but in much smaller print. These are flavored pink.

This package was a big deal, because Starburst usually come in mixed flavors: pink, red, orange, and yellow. There are other varieties of Starburst, like sour or tropical, but we’re going to work with the only true Starburst, the original. I’m sure the others follow the same principles we’ll be discussing.

They are also popular, especially this time of year, in their fun-pack size. These Halloween staples come in packs of two, and the wrapper is opaque, so you don’t know what flavors are in each. They are, by all accounts, random.


Here’s an example. Yellow and pink, representing the duality of man.

Any combination of the four flavors is possible, including doubling up on any of them.

It’s possible to hit the jackpot…


Or you could roll snake eyes and get double yellow.

Your fate is completely up in the air. Depending on your beliefs, it could be a referendum on your soul: double pinks and you’re doing great; double yellows and you’re a bad person. A red and an orange and you’re in some sort of purgatory. Starburst is Karma via candy.

Even if you go with the larger packages and get a wider assortment of the flavors, you’re not guaranteed to get your favorite (which, again, is pink). And even if you do, there are going to be the others, dragging you down with their inferior taste.

You may have asked yourself why Mars does this, why they don’t sell them in a way that maximizes the flavor you want. Why don’t they let you buy the ones you want, and only the ones you want?

Because Starburst knows you better than you know yourself.


“Pain and pleasure, like light and darkness, succeed each other.” ~ Laurence Sterne

In order to more fully enjoy the best parts of life, you must endure the worst. For the pink to mean anything, you must suffer the yellow.


“We cannot be more sensitive to pleasure without being more sensitive to pain.” ~ Alan Watts

The reds and oranges exist to keep us from getting too high or too low. They keep us balanced.

It can be disappointing. Maybe you’ve had a long day, you’ve worked hard, you’ve used your willpower to eat healthy for your meals, and you just want a treat. You grab a Starburst pack, and find no pinks. It’s easy to despair.


“I began to understand that suffering and disappointments and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us.” ~ Hermann Hesse

It’s easy to feel it’s not fair. Starburst wants you to learn though: fair’s got nothing to do with life.


“If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death, human life cannot be complete.” ~ Viktor E. Frankl

Now let us come back to the all-pink packages. You might have been rolling your eyes through this treatise on suffering, with that image right up there seeming to dispel the very lesson Starburst has been trying to teach us.


“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” ~ Helen Keller

I say to you no. That is part of it.

They knew that mindless indulgence would not provide the lasting joy that people expected. That it would, on its own, bring only its own kind of suffering.


“In diving to the bottom of pleasure we bring up more gravel than pearls.” ~ Honore de Balzac

You can see this because it was a limited-time run. Offering the consumer exactly what they (think they) want you would imagine is the best way to accrue profit, the goal of any business. But Starburst knows better.


“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

We need the disappointment, the despair, the suffering. Otherwise, what is the point of the happiness? Getting whatever you want on demand cheapens the thing you think you want. What is joy without sorrow? What is love without heartbreak? What is pink Starburst without yellow Starburst?


“It is always by way of pain one arrives at pleasure.” ~ Marquis de Sade

You may cry out against this possible nanny state activity, with Starburst giving us what they think we need rather than what we want. You may say your decisions are best left to you, and you should have the right to choose for yourself what life you want to lead.


“We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.” ~ Winston Churchill

I respond that we are all children in the dark. Let Starburst light the way.


“Don’t look forward to the day you stop suffering, because when it comes you’ll know you’re dead.” ~ Tennessee Williams


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