…For me, at least.
Today is Fat Tuesday. Not being culturally Catholic, I’ve never had a grasp on when Mardi Gras occurs, but I think it’s today – a huge blow out before Ash Wednesday tomorrow when Lent begins for Catholics and other Christians. Eastern Orthodoxy doesn’t have this tradition. The two weeks leading up to Lent (which begins next week for them) are Meat Fare (eat the meat) and Cheese Fare (eat all the dairy but no meat), where they wind down before their vegan Lenten fast.
I used to observe the Orthodox fast for Lent. I viewed it as a spring cleaning and a form of positive self- and spiritual discipline. It’s been a few years since I’ve observed it, since I’ve not had a spring free of pregnancy or breastfeeding for four years now. This year, I’m still nursing, but I am going to observe the fast – only in an entirely non-traditional way. Late last spring I read a bunch of material (among it Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes) that sold me on the primal/paleo style of eating. After eating that way more, but often less, for six months I felt great and had lost some of the baby weight I’d gained, but since arriving in the US we’ve reverted to a more standard American diet, and I’ve noticed some distinct results. I won’t go into detail, but I think I’ve got a gluten allergy. My form of Lent this year is to do a strict primal eating challenge. That takes me to end of this quarter; seeing as how I’m missing Easter, it all lines up nicely.
But let’s talk about Lent. I’ve talked before about fasting before (here and here). I think fasting is, over all, a beneficial practice, for our bodies and our spiritual practice, particularly for those of us, like myself, who are lucky enough to always have enough food to eat. Whether we go vegan, give up sugar, or fast from all food, the goal is to hone our senses, bodies, and focus – to gain strength from discipline, offer a sacrifice to the gods, and thus connect more deeply with the Divine. For some, fasting can bring about a trance-like or other euphoric experience.
But mostly? I hate the way Lent is discussed in the Western Christian tradition/s. In college, when I was most recently active in Protestant Christian life, people would talk about Lent and how they were giving up chocolate or something so banal and pointless as to actually make a mockery of the fast. I know, super judgmental, but there it is. That isn’t to say giving up chocolate couldn’t be a great start – after all, we need to set ourselves up for success, not failure and perhaps success with chocolate one year might lead to heftier goals the next. But generally, my experience was listening to people give up nothing costly and then forget about the practice in two weeks’ time.
On the flip side, the major theological idea underpinning Lent is suffering. The idea is that we fast so that we might share in the suffering of Christ. I have oodles of issues with this concept and I’m going to write about this…. later.
Here’s a breakdown of posts of I’m formulating and series I’m thinking of writing in the next five weeks:
I will finish my Testimony. I want to write about the Virgin Mary: a book review, discussion of some theology around her, and another music post for her. I have two additional books reviews I’m hoping to do: books by Rob Bell (and an interview/dialog with the person who recommended them to me) and one by Bertrand Russell. I also want to do a series on theological concepts in the Christian tradition: suffering, Incarnation, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. I may even attend a church service.
Are you observing Lent? If so, how? What does it mean to you? If you’re not Christian, is there some other way you ‘spring clean’?