Birthday cakes are hard work. First there’s the planning, the choosing of flavours and decorations to match the one being celebrated. Then the time comes and there’s the baking, decorating, lighting, singing, and finally eating. Hopefully someone remembered to snap a photo, because once the knife goes in, the culinary work of art is quickly dispersed to paper plates and plastic forks that were created to be used just once, before going to fill the rubbish bin.
Why do we do it? Why do we work so hard to create something that we know will disappear so soon? In a matter of minutes the work of hours is destroyed, and yet we smile the whole way through. We knew all along that the cake would not last. We never intended it to. It was created for one moment, that’s all. The work that went into it was meant to mark that this one moment was special, a celebration of life.
Year after year, we work hard to create moments that only live on in photographs and memories. Even the normal days between celebrations are filled with labour for things that will not last: Every meal is a fleeting creation, vanishing almost as soon as it appears. Every window box that is planted blooms for a season, then dies. Every shining paint job, stunning hairstyle, and cut lawn needs a sequel soon enough. Over and over again, we create and cultivate temporary beauty in a temporary world. Over and over again, we work hard for things that we know will not last. That’s ok. In fact, it’s a good thing, because in doing these temporary things well, we are—like a birthday cake—marking the moments as special, honouring the gift of life, and declaring to the world that this is a gift so valuable, so precious, it must be celebrated.