Lent isn’t a part of my faith tradition. But, if you want to get technical, neither is Groundhog Day, and I celebrate that like mad every single year.
For the uninitiated (like, honestly, me), Lent is a forty-day fast leading up to Easter. It comes out of the forty-day fast of Christ in the wilderness (Matthew 4:2). You may never have heard of Lent – a lot of people haven’t, or only heard of it in passing – but I bet you’ve heard of Mardi Gras (also known as Fat Tuesday, which is what mardi gras means in French), which is what happens the day before Lent begins. Basically, you eat, drink, and be merry the day before you die.
Lent also doesn’t include Sundays (depending on which liturgical rite you follow), which is a thing I did not know until Tuesday, so it actually lasts about 46 calendar days. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which was yesterday. Thinking about it a little, I thought that while the 40-day fast of Christ has always seemed to me to be metaphorical rather than actual (40 is a mystical number, and means a lot of different things in Hebraic tradition), if you exclude one day in seven, I bet it’s possible to fast for 40 days and 40 nights.
No, I’m not going to. Nor do I recommend it, although I bet you the experience would be enlightening, unless you use the Mormon definition of fasting, in which case it would be lethal (Mormon fasts, occurring once a month on the first Sunday, include all food and drink, even water) (Ramadan, since we’re talking about fasting, is also all food and drink, from dawn to sunset, but lasts 29 days, a full lunar cycle from crescent to crescent – starts on June 17 this year, if you’re interested).
ANYWAY (you see, here, a perfect example of what happens in almost all of the classes I teach, which is why my students adore me and I always feel like I don’t get a tenth of the class material covered in 90 minutes) I have always thought that a partial lenten observance would be a good thing for me. I have so much to learn and so many things that giving up would make my life better. You know, things like speeding or negativity, or criticizing myself. That kind of makes Lent like a New Year’s resolution, a little like our family tradition of birthday gifts to Jesus, on Christmas Eve, where we make a gift to Him of something to improve ourselves.
This week, though, I read a very good article about giving up something for Lent, and it talked about the wisdom of giving up something good for Lent, something we like, or that we do a lot that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. From the post:
I like the idea of mindful deprivation of a thing you enjoy (or at the very least, just plain do a lot), with an eye toward reflecting on that thing and its place in your life.
Read the whole (very short) thing, then go buy John Scalzi’s books, because he is great. The article made me think about what I ought to give up this year. I’m going with sugar.
I am not anti-sugar. I like sugar very much, and I don’t believe it’s worse for you than crack, or that it’s a corporate plot to enslave the world. I do think I would be better off eating less of it, but I don’t now eat ridiculous amounts. I just want to see what it means to me, and a good way to find that out is to stop eating it altogether.
Except on Sunday, of course.
The rules are this, so I am accountable: “sugar”, for purposes of this experiment, means the thing itself – brown, white, whatever, including molasses – and any vehicle designed primarily for the purpose of transporting sugar into me: doughnuts, ice cream, cookies, cake, cupcakes, etc. Banana bread is okay, being primarily a bread (kind of), and muffins are okay if I make them myself (which I do). I shall report.
What would you give up?