What do you worship? (my answer is embarrassing)

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

Comments & replies

9 thoughts on “What do you worship? (my answer is embarrassing)

  1. Lady Em

    This is such an interesting post.
    I’m realising that I worship time & routine and this gives me such a strong sense of security.

    My days are incredibly structured & I get anxious when my timetable is knocked off course.

    I need to figure out a way of becoming more flexible and less attached to my sense of routine.

    If anybody can offer advice, I would be very grateful.

  2. Britta

    I love this post Fiona…you have thought about and brought across very well why you worship (cup)cake.

    I’m tossing up between yoga and time alone.. which one do I worship more?? I will be thinking about it.

  3. Paula Swenson

    The Sea, the forest and the mountains — those are the ‘something bigger’ I worship that puts all my ego problems in perspective . . . one a smaller comfort scale– dark chocolate, for sure, there are probably others, but that is clear 🙂
    thanks for posing the question. . .

  4. wrensong

    What an amazing question! I was just writing this morning about various kinds of spiritual practices noticing my favorite is napping. I hold the Nap in deep reverence. My day is not the same if I miss it. But the Nap is not what I worship. What I worship is Solitude. As an introvert time alone is holy and necessary and the place where I connect deeply with what matters most, where I rest and recharge and write, where I meet the poet-of-me and the Beloved Poet of All That Is.
    And then there’s Ice Cream…..

  5. R.S. Bohn

    I suppose I worship the past. Though that is becoming some little god now. What is taking its place is perhaps more frightening.

    The second DFW quote nearly brought me to tears. This entire post is well-written and thoughtful, and I appreciate it this morning.

  6. Leslie Waugh

    Cake is not embarrassing!!! But it’s very strong of you to dig around the issue and then to abstain. Besides red wine, I’ll cop to cocoa almond spread (a product of Trader Joe’s here in the U.S.) and Paul Newman’s light low-fat sesame ginger dressing. Gingerbread. Coffee Heath Bar crunch ice cream. Whipped cream. More seriously, but maybe not things I need to give up? … Art and beautiful things. Flowers. Words from people like David Foster Wallace and W.B. Yeats and Mary Oliver. And on and on. I can’t really say what my Buddha is, however. Yoga? Maybe.

  7. annell

    Not long ago I think I realized it is my work. Each day I go to the studio…and while I am at work, without my notice, I grow old. It seems as good a way as any I can think of. I have a great deal of time with myself. I pretty much have a schedule and I feel best when I follow it. There is a satisfaction of a “good days work.”

  8. Fiona Robyn

    Ice Cream mmmmm
    Interesting responses from everyone, thank you. I guess what we worship can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on our relationship with it… I’m also noticing how much energy there is around the ‘cake’ items, which is something to be harnessed, maybe…
    Love to you all.

  9. essay

    It is really very good to hear that you are addicted to the cakes to that much….and it is more awesome to hear this that you give the preference over health disastrous things like alcohols etc…

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