Fiona writes: I worship cake.
Many years ago, a friend said to me with genuine puzzlement, “What IS it with you and cake?”
Cake has taken on a mini-god-like status in my life. I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t smoke. I’ve never felt that buzz people say they get from exercise, or buying high heels, or polishing a vintage motor car.
There isn’t much left for me. But as human beings we all desperately grasp for something to make life a little less painful. An attempt at dealing with the things that we’d rather not deal with head-on, thank you very much.
After not being able to fit into a particular top, I’ve cut back on cake (and cheese and fudge and aubergine parmigiana) for a few weeks. It’s been very odd. I’ve craved cake, not because I’m hungry, but because I want some comfort.
Not succumbing to the cake cravings has shown me more clearly how ten minutes of happiness with a chocolate brownie doesn’t solve any of the underlying anstiness or irritation or sadness. This kind of seeking comfort is in the arena of ‘something is being avoided’. It’s in the arena of ‘indulgence’. Let me be clear – there is nothing intrinsically wrong with desiring and eating cake. In no way am I anti-cake. It’s all about the manner in which we desire. Most of us know when we’ve crossed over that line between ‘eating to live’ (and enjoying it very much) and ‘living to eat’.
So what do we do? David Foster Wallace spoke beautifully about worship. Over to him.
“You get to decide what to worship. Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship–be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles–is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.”
I think he’s right. I think it’s difficult to avoid it completely. And so I do attempt to also worship some more wholesome things. As a Buddhist, there are three of these – the Dharma (the truth that the Buddha (and many of his followers over the centuries) spoke, the Sangha (the community that try to practice these teachings), and the Buddha himself, who represents something that is entirely loving and entirely wise and entirely accepting. I put myself into relationship with these things daily. It helps.
I wonder what your equivalent to cake is? And your equivalent to the Buddha? It doesn’t have to be a religion or even anything spiritual. The forest or the sea might do it. A deep faith-despite-everything in humanity, or a reliance on nature as knowing what’s best.
The trick is keeping yourself connected to something bigger than the usual things we choose to worship (or those things our society has chosen for us). DFW again:
“If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.”
Keeping it up front. That’s the problem. Especially when lemon drizzle cake is calling to us with all its sweet, citrusy, seductive power.
Here’s the rest of this speech from David Foster Wallace. This man knew what he was talking about. And even then, it wasn’t quite enough to save him.
Keep it up front. Try your best. That is enough.
Homemade Cupcakes by Rachid Lamzah