(Not suprising, I guess… Like all institutional say-so, it looks great on paper!)
But seriously, I do think it has some validity.
I was raised Catholic, if any of you care to know, so I knew about Lent growing up, even if my family did not actively participate in it. Most years, like most kids, I would amiably agree to give something up – chocolate or candy or, later on, the SIMS. Or cussing.
But then I hit high school.
And Lent kinda fell by the wayside.
Shocking, probably, I know.
But anyway this isn’t really about me.
What I want to say is this: Lent is the concept of “doing without” in order to better yourself (really, as a believer… but also, on some level, as a person.) It is a Christian thing. To describe it better: (and I am going to lean on Wiki because, after all this time, I would probably seriously botch a description), the traditional purpose of Lent is described as, “the preparation of the believer — through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial. During Lent, many of the faithful commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxuries as a form of penitence.”
That’s a pretty heavy purpose. (I mean, “the preparation of the believer?” Whoa.) That’s not surprising either, though, since the Christians – particularly the Catholics – are, overall, not necessarily the upbeat party animals of the religious realm. They are quite a somber bunch. (I can say this, I think, because I was one.)
Anyway, the point is that not everyone traditionally participates in the practice of giving something up for 40 days.
But maybe everyone should.
I think there is goodness to it. I think there is a lot to be said for giving something up; for doing without. And I think that, outside of the institutional meaning and guilt-inducing negative-Nancy doctrine, there is merit for most people; there is a positive angle here.
It has to do with minimalism; focusing on necessities over indulgences. It also has to do with appreciation. These are the upsides. Lent is a tremendous opportunity to slim down your life and your luxuries; gain an increased overall well-being; restore focus on what matters, and ultimately restore a deep appreciation for whatever it is that we are giving up – and our lives overall.
Lent is valid. The idea of Lent is a good one, whether you are Christian or Buddhist or agnostic, and that is what I am trying to say here. The concept of Lent is similar to the concept that many religions have of fasting or foregoing or doing without – of giving something up in order to harness your focus on your sense of balance and self. And I buy this.
It does not matter what you “call” yourself: if you want to better yourself, limit your vices.
If you want to sharpen your focus on what matters, strip away distractions.
And if you just want to build appreciation for something, do away with it.
The idea is that whatever you are giving is likely bad for you in the first place. (We do not necessary give up vacuuming or exercising for Lent, people.) The point is that you are becoming more tolerable to society. Or your sect. Whichev.
I do not practice Lent anymore.
But I do like to practice “doing away with” and “streamlining” on a regular basis.
I am no longer eating a ton of candy and chocolate. Mostly because I am no longer a child. But also because we ran out last weekend. I stopped playing the SIMS right about the time I first found myself holding hands with a boy.
Lent: I think it is good.
No matter what doctrine you believe – or whether you believe in one at all – we all fundamentally must follow the basics of the human spirit, which dictates that doing away with or giving up things benefits our sense of humility and balance and appreciation, all of which generate happiness in the long-term. Give something up; gain a lot more in return. Something, if nothing else, to keep us from all turning into the Augustus Gloops of society.
Because, if you will recall, nobody liked Augustus Gloop. Not even his own mom.
So that’s it: nobody likes a Gloop. And Lent – or most any practice like it – prevents you from being one.