I guess I should begin by saying that this is not a religious post, nor about theism or the lack thereof. It really isn't even about spirituality, though it could be if that's something you seek to cultivate. It I have my own relationship to those things, and I'm sure you do too.
Rather, this is a reflection on personhood, on being a good man.
Okay, with that said:
Every year, I "participate" in the season of Lent. For me, I guess that means celebrating it through intentional actions. My dad always did it, and it's something I've carried with me into adulthood. Quick 101: Lent is the six weeks or so between Ash Wednesday and Easter and Passover. It's the reason for Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday, and has historically been a time of preparation and intentionality in the Christian Church. For contemporary Christians, it still has a lot of other meanings and and this post respects them and doesn't intend to take away from Lent's celebration or substitute self improvement for religious commitments.
But, I think the early Church had it right: there's something that's good for us for treating a certain set of actions seasonally. In common culture, we do this all the time: New Year's Resolution, spring cleaning, summer breaks, vacation, personal retreats, specific holidays. Commonly, during Lent, it has become tradition to "give things up" - to fast or forgo luxuries...resulting in the reason for indulging on Mardi Gras - the day before it begins. (That's today. Please be safe, and do eat King Cake.)
And? It starts this week: Wednesday, March 5th specifically, and I invite everyone to join me and set some sort of personal goal for the next six weeks...between now and Easter It doesn't have to be "giving something up," though it could be. You could try to forgo a vice, or try a gluten-free or vegetarian diet once a week, or every day. You could fast for breakfast and lunch. You could stop eating desserts, or drinking soda, or going out to restaurants and commit to cooking at home.
Or, you could take something on rather than forgoing something. Something like a new exercise. A new home cleaning or organization ritual. You could spend money differently, or wake up a half hour earlier. You could meditate, or decide to participate in a new social group or organization. You could read a book a week, or commit to using that new foreign language app every day.
The point here is: there's a reason this tradition occurs when it does. Spring is a time of change, of new things. We get to shake off the snow and think about who we want to be. And the concept of Lent has a built-in groove. Anyone can set a goal for a mere six weeks.
So, I hope you'll try something new this Lenten season, for whatever motivation that makes sense to you. This year, I have four goals:
- My wife and I will be resurrecting our "no spending" month we tried last October and take an intentional break from consumerism. We won't be buying any goods, any stuff. You can read about the rules and our experience with previous experiments here and here.
- Personally, I've decided to not drink any alcohol. I don't worry I have a problem, but I'm very interested to see how it will affect my health, my sleep, my mood, weight, etc. Lent seems like a good time to learn more about those things, and to let that go. (My wife will be giving up swearing.)
- I have a few other health goals. I want to be able to do 100 pushups by Easter, and 35 pull-ups. I've set a few other specific cycling and fitness commitments.
- I'll be following through on my commitment to reducing my stuff. I started that process last week, and I'll be continuing to simplify my life and home through a few specific steps and goals that I won't bore you with here.
If you want to share what you'll be working on in the comments, I'd love to hear what you have in mind. Otherwise, I wish you good luck, and a happy spring.
[Mardi Gras photo from Vintage Holiday]