30 Ways To Eat Birthday Cake

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

The following scenes are from my 30th birthday:

  1. Every year comes the prediction that the world will end. This year the rumors intensified because of the pandemic. Repent, they say, for He is coming. However it is not so much His coming that gets them on their toes, but the vorfreude of having their prediction proven true. After all, who doesn’t want the smug satisfaction of being able to say, “I told you so.”
  2. My birthday falls on a Good Friday. All stores are closed and we are prohibited to eat meat. Such scarcity on a day that’s supposed to be filled with celebration reflects the barrenness of the life I’ve lived so far. At 30, much of my life is dedicated to silence, and to tears that oftentimes stain that silence.
  3. Today, along with my birthday cake I have silence with me. In hushed tones they talk about the poor’s hunger while the rich remark offhandedly, ‘let them have cake’.
  4. It is a universal fact that in the middle of a pandemic, armchair experts abound, yet their words, try as they might, cannot be turned into food for the hungry.
  5. Christ died for three days starting today. He multiplied it by ten years and gave me the gift of life for my 30th birthday. And my stubborn silence prevents me from expressing gratitude.
  6. Today I will shout all my wishes in the cavern of my soul. I will listen to it echo back and decide which of my desires sound the most foolish. These then will have to be destroyed immediately.
  7. All the selfish desires which youthful folly begat me seemed to me but mirages in the desert that is my soul. They are illusions distracting me from what I need most: water, to quench my thirst. In my younger years I desired pleasure of the material kind, but now I yearn for the eternal happiness that God’s Word shall bring.
  8. Despite this, I am still a sinner, a hypocrite, a vile, selfish, and useless losel. I do not say this to feel a self-satisfied disdain towards others who refuse to confess their flaws, rather, I say it to mithridatize myself from further temptations. For in knowing that I am a sinner in both flesh and spirit, would I still have the temerity to taint my being with more sins? Wouldn’t it be appropriate to refrain from replenishing the sinner’s cup knowing that it’s filled to the brim? If I do not think these thoughts then I am worse than vermin.
  9. On my 30th birthday I took a good look at my hands. These hands are used to receiving but rarely for giving. Smooth and soft, they are not used to toil. Which brings me back to the vast, empty spaces that permeate my life. These hands have not experienced a lot, blank spaces waiting to be filled, and is like a foolish soldier bereft of armor in the middle of a battlefield. Today my hands will clasp together in prayer, not just for myself but for the world. Hardly moil or drudgery, but it is the first step to filling the empty spaces in me. I want to have my hands filled with the kind of labor I could offer: the labor of prayer and the creation of art.
  10. I wonder how many people died on my birthday because of this on-going pandemic. Someday, I too will die on someone else’s birthday. It’s like endlessly passing on fire from one torch to another. Who knows when the world will really end, but I am sure that I will end and life will go on. Some philosophers say that we are inseparable from time, and that time ceases to exist when we are no longer; however I as a non-philosopher with an average mind find this to be solipsistic. It is characteristically un-Christian, in such a manner that in the long run it will encourage selfishness through the insemination of the idea in one’s head that life revolves around oneself only, thereby relegating the being of others as insignificant, if not, totally irrelevant to one’s existence. However, there are other philosophers who in spite of their theory of the inseparability between existence and time, do recognize the existence of other beings. This is why one even said that “hell is other people.”
  11. But is hell really “other people?” Let’s analyze why a certain philosopher said that: in layman’s terms, this philosopher valued individual freedom above all, and for him the presence of other people more often than not curtails this freedom because society is composed of individuals each of whom sustains his or her own will, therefore it is inevitable for each one of us to clash in the pursuit of our desires for the reason that the things or experiences we want are either scarce or limited. To a certain extent, yes, other people can be hell on earth personified in so far as competition for resources go, but we must pause and ponder if we really need the things we desire to have. Nature is magnanimous with her gifts and her resources are more than enough for the whole world; however, man failed to find satisfaction in her and each passing century saw his genius propping up material advancements, which indeed is beneficial and is key to scientific and economic progress, but at what cost?
  12. Materialism strips one of his or her humanity. In removing res cogitans from the equation and replacing it with res extensa, or in other words, by saying that our ideas and actions are not from the soul but rather a product of mere chemical combinations or reactions in the material brain is tantamount to saying that humans are not rational beings but only sentient ones who react in accordance to the whims of their basest appetites. Without the soul, or a concept of it, there can be no basis for human haecceity such as the ability to be inspired, to know right from wrong, to have a moral compass, to forgive, to reason, to come up with a solution to complicated problems, etc., because it is the soul, being the smithy of Our Creator, that is the foundation of our intellect, and not the materialistic view that it is a purely chemical reaction.
  13. There were several times in the past when I lost my humanity by giving in to my basest desires. I’m not talking about sex, or drugs and alcohol, or some such debauchery, but I am guilty of avarice. I’m guilty of coveting more things than I need, of biting more than I could chew, and of aiming for more than I am capable of. Today, on my 30th birthday there’s a pandemic which to prevent it, we are asked to stay at home. Goods have a purchase limit, and restaurants and bakeries are closed. I have no candles to blow on my birthday cake. It’s on a Good Friday, and as a practicing Christian, I’m not allowed to eat meat. Today for the first time, I experienced scarcity and lack. I experienced how things must be for my destitute brethren, the only difference is that I only get to experience it for a few weeks this quarantine, whereas they have to endure it all their lives.
  14. However, I’d like to remind myself that privilege isn’t boxed only in terms of material wealth. Privilege, the word itself conjures up images in our head of exclusivity, and elite memberships. But each of us in our way do belong to exclusive cliques. To name an example, not everyone is a graceful terpsichorean nor a compelling thespian, but those who are, belong to an exclusive group who possess the privilege of having those talents. As I’m writing this for my 30th birthday, I’m thankful to the Lord for providing me a circle to belong in — the circle of writers. I am among those who have a gift for the written word, but I cherish it with humility, never setting myself up on a pedestal for I know there will always be room for improvement.
  15. In these hard times, not being sick is itself a privilege. The only gift I ask for my birthday is that none of my family members contracts the disease. After this crisis (and I’m praying it ends soon), people will look back and realize how much they took everything for granted until the pandemic happened. Whether or not we emerge unscathed, the lesson to be learned is that there’s a reason why discipline is a virtue.
  16. I stopped having birthday parties by the time I was five years old. I didn’t like the atmosphere of parties: it was loud, crowded, and people faked their cheer. My empty life of solitude could not afford extravagant birthday celebrations and I am not ashamed of it. There’s something noble in the ability to spend time alone. It is for me the ultimate form of worship, me laying myself bare, and communicating to God directly by prayer. Remember also that the Scripture says: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5–6).
  17. Therefore I celebrate my birthday through prayer, and with a renewed happiness in my heart because of the hope God has placed in there. All the years leading up to my 30th birthday was spent in idle search for pleasure and in lack of discipline. I’m a believer that age tempers the passions of youth, but I say to myself: in youth my passions did not leave enough impact so as to decorate my life with either scars or medals. I reiterate that I have so far led an empty life, removed from my purpose. But let me ask myself: does the word ‘purpose’ connote something grand or out of the ordinary?
  18. Must one do extraordinary things in order to say to oneself that he or she has lived out her purpose? There are some who are of the opinion that they must first travel the world, be the CEO of their own company, or go on a Safari adventure so as to be able to say that they lived life with a purpose. To live life to the fullest, they say, one must go on epic adventures. Sadly, the only purpose I see in these cases is the purpose of bragging, and the only thing being lived to the fullest are their egos. This is what happens when the world adapts Materialism as its philosophy — people become convinced that the only ends worth achieving are tangible, such as plane tickets to one’s dream destination, or a wallet filled with a thick wad of cash, to name a few examples. Material things by themselves are adiaphorous, neither morally boon nor bale, even beneficial at times in moderation, but when abused, it becomes a destructive force that brings out the worst in mankind.
  19. So what is my purpose? The humble rubber slippers that my father uses, having a nondescript design, inexpensive, and made from cheap material, nonetheless serves its purpose, being used by my father to protect his feet while walking. Those rubber slippers may not be the most pleasing to the eye but they are more than enough for my father for it does its job well. Likewise, in seeking out my purpose I don’t need to aim to be someone of high standing in society, nor a person of power and wealth. I just need to be myself, regardless of how lowly and mundane that self might be.
  20. My life begins today as it did yesterday, and the day before that. Each new day, even if it’s not one’s birthday is a fresh start. Everyday is an opportunity for change. And I am no stranger to changes. Everyday I make it a point to learn something new, either from books, or from people older and wiser than me. I change everyday in that my mind’s vault of knowledge increases. So why do I say that my life is empty? It’s because I haven’t applied all these knowledge to greater use. I let it linger and hover inside my head like a pride of lions waiting to pounce on prey. However that prey doesn’t appear within the vicinity yet. I think there’s some truth in my made up adage that ‘knowledge not applied, is knowledge denied’; there’s no reason to keep storing knowledge in our minds if we cannot use it to help those in need. Knowledge for knowledge’s sake is another un-Christian vice. It is tempting to the egotistic, my biggest sin aside from avarice, and the reason why my life feels empty. Today I am once again given the chance to change this vice into virtue. Will I heed the call?
  21. Nobody is too old for a birthday cake. And in my case, nobody is too fat to be given a birthday cake for her birthday. The rainbow sprinkles on white icing give me so much joy just by looking at it, and I savor each bite notwithstanding the pangs of guilt bubbling at my core to remind me that I shouldn’t be eating this stuff because I am diabetic. I counter my conscience by saying that I take my meds and that should be enough. This year, I have a different cake for my birthday. It’s not as beautiful as some birthday cakes are, and I’m guessing may not even be as delicious, but it is a reminder that in trying times such as the one we are in now, one ought to live a frugal and simple life. To parade around one’s wealth during a crisis does nothing but show off one’s stupidity. The reason for this is practical; a person who brags about his wealth in the midst of scarcity is vulnerable to being attacked by thieves and burglars who may put his life at risk. Therefore, it is wise to have some self-restraint and live an ordinary life.
  22. This is the first Lenten season in my life wherein I didn’t get to hear the old ladies in our community singing the traditional Pasion. I wasn’t particularly fond of it, but it is quite interesting to hear how the singing tones of each set of Biblical passages differ per singer/reader. It is like an impromptu composition; albeit it is said that some of the singing tones used for the Passion have been passed down from older generations. In earlier times, not just in my country but all over the world, before the invention of writing, people have passed their ancient songs, poems, and tales via oral tradition. The Pasion, not an oral tradition per se, is partially so because of the manner wherein its traditional singing tones have been passed down. Within this silence that took the place of the Pasion, could be heard the unspoken prayers of a community praying for everything to go back to normal.
  23. In the Bible, Jesus Christ has spoken of “the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:4–8 and Matthew 13:5–8). He related it to the pains of a woman giving birth, and the birth He refers to in that particular passage is His Second Coming. Still, the deliberately blind and faithless deny that the things written in Scripture is now already taking place. I think about this as I took my first bite of my birthday cake.
  24. On the second bite, I was reminded of the things I have to be thankful for on my 30th birthday. Today I am privileged to be spending it with my family, and we are privileged not be afflicted with the on-going pandemic. I may not have done a lot in my life, but I thank God that I do not actively go out of my way to commit sin. I am far from being a saint, and I am probably a terrible person in some aspects, but at least I don’t pretend to be righteous unlike those people whose lips proclaim their love for God but whose actions speak otherwise.
  25. By the time I’m on the third bite, my fork heaping with cake, I paused to take a drink. The desert that is my soul is parched and empty. Looking back on my previous years, there’s nothing that happened in my life that would have been called a ‘success’ — instead I’ve failed, have been humiliated, and have been belittled for most of my life. I am so used to being underestimated that even the tiniest bit of compliment from other people garners suspicion from me: I always ask myself if they misspoke or if they meant that for someone else, sometimes even thinking if they are actually giving backhanded compliments. I don’t trust myself, but I trust God, and if He says that I am worth more than the sparrows in the air (Matthew 10:31), then I should be happy with myself.
  26. Come to think of it, what difference does it make if today is my birthday? Will the things I do today be substantially different from the rest of my days? My life consists of the basic necessities like eating and sleeping, coupled with my favorite hobbies such as reading and writing. Today will be no different. Rather, I need to ask myself, what are the good things I did today? What are the things I will do today that would make the Lord happy? There are a few: first of all, I obeyed the law by not gallivanting outside during the quarantine period. The rest are little things such as not being a headache to my parents and not spending my allowance on unnecessary purchases. I reiterate my belief that one need not be grandiose with their good deeds in order to be called a good person, although I am thankful that there are magnanimous people out there helping the poor in this crisis. The world also needs those people, if their heart be pure, in order to be an inspiration to others to help out in any way they can. Having written this down, I don’t condone false charity; we should beware of those who profess acts of kindness for the sole reason of bragging about it on social media. This is the reason why I stay off social media as much as possible; it is a cesspool of humbugs, haverels, and holier-than-thous. In fact my social media situation is as follows: I have deactivated Facebook for six months now and I intend to delete it soon, my twitter is inactive, and my instagram is being used only to follow Language learning accounts. I never post, and thus never add to the useless noise they generate on the web. I don’t feel superior because of this, what I do feel is relief because I am spared from the misery of having to deal with their trifles.
  27. As I finished off my slice of cake, I am overcome with another feeling of relief; in my own small way, I have done good things that make my life not-so-barren after all. However this doesn’t mean that I feel complacent with my life. Things may change and there will always be challenges to face. I have not yet reached the peak of my professional life, but if God wills it, this year, my 30th, will be the year where I begin the change I am counting on to improve my life. The Lord promised me in Jeremiah 29:11 that he plans to give me a hope and a future, and I am praying for that to come to pass.
  28. I was born for a reason. My purpose may be humble, but will a chair complain to its owner about being sat on? The same is true with my relationship with the Lord. What right have I to reproach him for not being created to have beauty, brains, riches, fame, and power? Is it not enough that I am here exactly where He wants me to be? I may not be singled out to have that ‘grand destiny’ that politicians and celebrities like to believe they have, but however lowly my purpose is, I am still a child of God.
  29. Life sucks most of the time, but why should one complain? Life on earth after all, was never the promised Paradise. I know quite a few people whom, if they didn’t exist would have made my life easier, but they do anyway, and I just have to live with that. I recently learned a word called ‘sonder’, which means “the profound feeling of realizing that everyone, including strangers passed in the street, has a life as complex as one’s own, which they are constantly living despite one’s personal lack of awareness of it.” (from: Wiktionary) It is a word I turn to whenever I feel overwhelmed by other people’s behavior. Perhaps something in their complex life is causing them pain or trouble, hence the reason why they act the way they do, or say the things they say. But however ‘complex’ their life is, it is an altogether different story if they start to become a source of great distress to others. No one is so totally ‘complex’ or ‘special’ as to have that excuse to be a great big asshole. And it must be remembered too, that those who do think themselves to be so, often end up either locked up behind bars or dead. I pray that God may give me the patience needed to bear with difficult people, just as much as he gives other people the patience to bear with me. Life here on earth is symbiotic, even if oftentimes one gets the short end of the stick. We just have to imbibe in ourselves the truth that life here on earth is not Paradise, for if it were, there is no point to Him dying on the Cross to save us and give us the promise of Eternal Life. Today as I enter my 30’s, I’m giving myself the gift of letting go of all the resentment and rancor I’ve kept hidden in my heart, for it is the heaviest load weighing me down and one could only take so much.
  30. Thirty years. Thirty pieces of the jigsaw so far, but the puzzle is not yet complete. Like a birthday cake, the parts which once made it whole will eventually be sliced off one by one, mirroring the years that pass by from my life. Nevertheless, catoptric images are the reverse of the actual image, therefore it is instead proper to say that as the birthday cake gets consumed slice by slice, my life slowly comes together part by part. I have no idea what shall emerge as the final picture, but knowing that each piece will fit in due course, as every piece does in the grand scheme of things, the only thing left for me to do is to make sure that I don’t lose any part of myself so that in the end I shall become as a complete picture — whole, holistic, and in harness with God — thus finally able to embellish the empty spaces of my life with the plethora of colors comprising my identity.

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Aiko Lactaotao

Aiko Lactaotao

33 Followers

Writer whose heart is in the avant-garde, in dire need of therapy for Logolepsy, while being a lifelong hesher living the br00tal lyfe in her parent’s basement.