Letting Life Be Fleeting

Birthday Cake“How do you feel when those cakes you spend so many hours and days to make go out the door and somebody eats them?”

That was a question posed last night to Duff Goldman during his Detroit appearance. Knowing that so much hard work, attention to detail, talent and craft go into making his intricate, beautiful cakes, one might think such an artist would feel deflated, or worse, once such a creation leaves the shop.

His answer warmed my heart, and confirmed a perspective I’ve been working on for ages.

Like the monks who created incredible sand paintings over the course of months and then, once finished, sweep all the sand up and start again, Duff said he puts all his heart and soul into this project right now, in front of him, and then, when the weekend comes and the cake go to their desired purpose, he confronts the Monday following with renewed energy to start again.

This type of attitude, and routine, is humbling.

It makes you realize that every exquisite creation is something to give away and have people enjoy.

It reminds you that we hold onto nothing, that everything beautiful and awful in our lives is here but temporarily and then morphs into the something-next.

Rainbow cake for  with candlesWhat a lovely way to go about life.

I can imagine Duff in his shop with his talented team, their eyes trained on a multi-tier creation, the colors and decorations and minute detail all they can focus on for the time.

They whip the ingredients together in industrial-sized mixers and pour ready cake pans full. Once baked, I imagine the building phase lasts a while, one layer balanced on top of another, held together with PVC tubes or dowels or whatever creation Duff comes up with to make sure the finished cake is perfectly poised and ready for its audience.

And then, whether it’s a layer of fondant or piped swirls or whatever detail the cake demands, that’s what comes next, with all eyes and minds and hands on this task, and only this task.

Until finally, the week ends and the cakes sit poised on metal shelves, waiting for their owners to claim them.

And wherever they go, whatever purpose or celebration is their destination, they go there and people ooh and ahh and taste the first melty bite, eyes-closed, savoring the flavors and the colors and the message of this particular cake.

By then it’s out of the creators’ hands but that’s ok – this work – and really, all of our work – is to bring people happiness and meaning and celebration and commemoration.

White wedding cake decorated with sugar flowersThe purpose of what we do is fleeting and perhaps that’s the way it should be. We can’t take ourselves or our situations or our work too seriously.

For once we do that, we’ve stepped off the plane of reality and into the abyss of illusion.

I loved Duff’s answer. He built a life on his talents and interests and being who he is, no holds barred, no pretense, and what he does inspires and awes and entices people.

They move on and he moves on and life is good.

Like the monks so focused over months on their intricate swirls of sand, working toward a complete image that tells a story and impresses its viewers until – with the sweep of a broom – the sand disappears into one big mass of nothing and that’s ok because the work is the purpose.

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