I'm drawn to the ascetic life in a weird way. I'm not about to actually become an ascetic, not in any future scenario I can dream up. I believe, in fact, that indulgences are healthy and probably necessary, at least for me. I plan to indulge today, just a little. Because Fat Tuesday. Because Lent. Lent lent lent.
Many people I know have gone or are heading out to see Hamilton. It's now here in Seattle (and also in Phoenix, where lots of friends and family live). My wife and a friend are going in a couple of weeks. I try to be gracious about this.
It just struck me to wonder if anyone has parodied the musical Rent at this time of year. Surely, but it's funny how I don't know that show at all. I'm pretty fond of musicals, and keep my eyes open, and then my wife is intimately connected with new music, particularly of the Broadway kind (she has young voice students; young as in teenagers and young adults, so they're aware of what's out there, and so is she).
I know Seasons of Love; not completely ignorant. But I don't know the title song, and so my parody remains unwritten, but c'mon. Just a little fun with the subject? No? Fine.
It's not abstention or deprival that interests me about Lent; I'd actually argue that the emphasis on that, the sacrificial aspect of the season, dilutes the purpose and goal. Not that I really understand that, either. But giving up ice cream for 40 days doesn't strike me as useful in a spiritual sense. Or any sense. It's ice cream.
And let me be clear: Even though I participate every year in this, belong to a Christian church and go all in when the season rolls around, I'm speaking of Lent as a discrete opportunity, removing it from its ancient connections to view it as, again, an opportunity. A chance to change, shake things up and see what happens. I'm all about the change.
In other words, I'm not interested in atonement issues, or even, really, theological ones. I know what this is supposed to be about. I engage with that, I practice things, I focus on stuff.
But I just get a little frisky when I think about Lent. It pushes my buttons, satisfies that part of my soul that needs a plan. I see myself approaching Lent as a wanderer with a backpack, entering a tunnel. I expect to look different when I emerge on the other side. I might lose the backpack, even.
I always mess it up. I've done any number of things, quite a few of them kind of dumb, for a period of time, just to do them. I've blogged every day for a year, more than once. I once ate an average of 1400 calories a day for 100 days, which is borderline eating for a guy who weighed 260 pounds (I weighed 186 at the end, though; 20 pounds lighter than that now).
Nine years ago, feeling some stress and some atrophy, I decided to start doing push-ups. It took me a month to be able to do 15-20 in a row easily, but by then I was doing hundreds of them daily, just whenever I felt like dropping and giving myself 20. I did this for a year, 300-400 push-ups a day, and the effects are still here. Seriously. There were effects, as you might imagine.
And don't get me started on the walking. I did a bunch of that.
But I flail when it comes to Lent. It's not that I'm opposed to giving up a bad habit; it's just that I've done that. The habits I'd like to change are more nebulous and hard to pin down. Do better. Eat better. Whatever.
I don't drink anymore. Or smoke. I don't eat junk food to speak of, almost never fast food. As far as food, in fact, I'd have to get granular and want to increase my protein or decrease my fat or adjust my calcium, and ugh. I'm alive and other people aren't, and I don't think my diet plays a part. Next.
Even the things I could arguably do better without feel useful, at least emotionally. I'm doing OK with all of this.
But the dark tunnel of the soul? Is there room for improvement? I say yes, and thus my annual Hamlet imitation. Ash Wednesday is coming tomorrow, and if I don't have an agenda then I've missed it for another year. I seem to survive this, but I hate to miss the opportunity.
In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think I've done a lot of divesting over the past decade or so. Lots of bad, unhealthy stuff went out the window over the years. I'm more interested in adding a few substantial aspects to my life. I just can't figure out the mechanism.
None of this is going to ruin Lent, or leave a hole I'm going to wish I'd filled. Again, I just hate to miss out on the chance.
Maybe I should write haiku every day. Or write anything, for the matter. I could write 3000 words a day on something, say, and at the end of Lent I'd have a manuscript. That could work, assuming I had a plan. I'm thinking one isn't going to present itself in the next 24 hours. I could be wrong.
Maybe I'll come up with something. It can't be trivial, even if it looks that way. There has to be something at the end. I have to watch the wanderer come out, know that he looks different or feels different and definitely is different. Can't do that by giving up coffee, even if I were to consider such a thing.
So I'm stuck, today. Which, I guess, is where I should be at the beginning of Lent. Lent could be about getting unstuck. We'll see. No haikus about push-ups, at any rate. I don't really see the point.