On Embracing Life and Eating the Cake That You Have

Photo by Charles Deluvio.

I have NEVER understood the phrase, "you can't have your cake and eat it too," or it's alternate, "she just wants to have her cake and eat it too."


The saying seemed to find a presumptuousness in wanting to eat cake, which is just plain ridiculous. Who wouldn't want to eat cake? Cake is delicious and the whole point of it is to be eaten. Also, you need to have a cake in order to eat it! You can't eat a cake that has never been in your possession. So where's the big deal, here? Is the saying suggesting that we should all be on diets?

Fast forward through my entire life to this moment. I am currently reading Ursula K. Le Guin's No Time to Spare. It is a fantastic collection of her blog posts from the later years of her life. In one of them she addresses this saying, and her hunt to make it make sense.

She uncovered the key: the "have" could be replaced with the word "keep"!!!

You can't keep your cake and eat it too.

I repeat: you can't KEEP your cake and EAT IT TOO.

OH! Well, that makes sense!!!

That FINALLY makes sense!!!!!

And it's actually a very good saying! A subtle warning about the dangers of inaction and hoarding. Sure, you could keep your cake. You could protect it and hold onto it forever, but the whole point of a cake is to be eaten. You would be depriving that poor little cake of its purpose in life AND depriving yourself of cake, and for what??? To be able to tell people you own a cake? To hold onto some future possibility of cake? That's fine if you have a date in mind, but otherwise that cake is just going to rot and everyone will be sad.

So eat! Act! Do the thing! Share! Use it up! Whether it's a talent, idea, project, bottle of wine, beautiful notebook, fancy shoes, sports equipment, or actual cake: you can try to preserve its perfection, or you can give it life. CHOOSE LIFE!

(I realize that the saying could also be construed as a warning against using a thing up--if you eat your cake, you don't get to have it anymore, so be careful and hoard all the things--but I don't think that's what it's really all about. Either way, it's vague enough to be up for interpretation, and I choose the version that encourages action.)

After I read that essay in Le Guin's book, I VERY excitedly pointed it out to my boyfriend, and he was just like, "yeah, I know that's what it means." So, fine. This may not be blowing YOUR mind either because you already read the obvious meaning in the saying and didn't just obsess over why someone wouldn't want to eat cake. Good for you. Now I'm all caught up.

Should we celebrate with some cake?

Source: Giphy

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