Cake or “death”?

“The cure for pain is in the pain.” ~ Rumi

In case the “Cake or death” thing doesn’t immediately ring a bell (Eddie Izzard‘s brilliant show Dressed to Kill), you must simply click on this link (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNjcuZ-LiSY) or better yet, this one (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMMHUzm22oE) and come back once you’re done watching. We’ll wait for you.

So…It’s pretty safe to say that in life, most of us would choose ‘cake’ every time. Because the other option (not literal death but extreme challenge, upheaval, and similar) is not exactly a desirable alternative. I’m not sure anyone prays for extreme difficulties and suffering as preferred vehicles for learning and healing. Or wakes up in the morning with a heart full of hope for a disaster of a day.

Yes, we understand challenges challenge, leading us to self-examination, creative learning and ‘healing at high-speed’. Still, we can’t help wanting to avoid extreme distress, so as to spare ourselves trauma and additional problems we might have to deal with on top of what’s already on our plate.

If we look past the unpleasantness though, it turns out many of the nastiest situations in life need to be as tough as are. No softer version would succeed in making us face whatever major fear or negative pattern we need to deal with. (sometimes it’s more than one, but let’s save time and bundle.)

It makes sense. We can’t know what we’re truly capable of if our tests in life are easy. And sometimes the ‘cake’ we choose serves as a band-aid, providing relief in the moment while leaving the darkness at our core untouched. Over time, we can easily get addicted to avoidance. And the untouched darkness festers.

Still, I used to have a hard time with the Rumi quote I used here. Basic experience taught me the cure for pain is in the Advil, not the pain. What else is there in pain but nasty pain? And there is his other quote about the wound being the place where the light enters us. Whatever happened to learning in comfortable stages and peacefully meditating under a majestic tree? What’s all this about wounds? It makes me think of blood, bandages, and Neosporin! Surely we can get rid of fear and negative patterns in a gentler, sweeter way!

Yes and no. I’m not saying we should pray for, or in any way get excited about extreme upheaval in our lives as a way to confront our most significant issue(s) and heal. Or that such a thing is in any way desirable or pleasant, or fair for that matter. What I’m suggesting is that if life doesn’t hand us ‘cake’ but the other thing (again, not literal death but extreme challenge), as nasty a disguise for a blessing such an opportunity might wear, it remains a great opportunity.

So, in order to cope with the absence of ‘cake’, we need to remember that great results require great sacrifice, effort and risk. If we truly want to solve a nagging and serious issue once and for all, we must deal with serious discomfort. Otherwise we’re simply treating symptoms.

In the end, it’s totally fine to choose cake. As long as we remain mindful of the hidden danger all that sweetness masks. And if we can’t choose ‘cake’ (or they run out), we need to focus on the gift the alternative offers, a gift that’s probably quite valuable and necessary.

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