As many know, for Lent this year I decided to “add something” rather than give something up.
We’re going to get a little random here, because I still hold to the belief, previously stated both here and on various social media vehicles, that for all the myriad benefits of social media, one of its detractions is that it encourages us to sometimes forego updating our blogs — a more temporary place setting in space-time, and instead just pour out our thoughts and emotions on some social media platform instead — easy convenient and instant gratification yes, but a very temporary and unorganized place. Not the best place to lay down one’s deepest innermost feelings, best kept secrets or most interesting observations.
The key is to use discernment; if it’s a passing thought of little substance, one that can be communicated in 140 characters or less that will never compel a desire for retreival from anyone for anything, then social media it is. But for everything else, a blog is still the proper home to house such things; lest we forget that a blog is already a step down the data communication and archiving ladder when it comes to permanence and perhaps even sentiment and import, compared to say the book or letter format. The problem still being that uploading those aforementioned thoughts feelings and observations is much easier to do on social media than in a blog.
For whatever reason we humans now at this time carry a belief that anything goes on social media– proper grammar, punctuation, full sentences and well thought out ideas be damned. Hence our near immediate mutual love and almost unanimous embrace of it. Likewise there is still a belief one can feel rumbling in mass consciousness that ours blogs still maintain a sense of order and propriety and an adherence to protocol that is all but lost on social media. This is probably a healthy and helpful belief. It just takes longer to get one’s message across.
With that said I have found that the secret is to occasionally treat the blog post as one would a social media update; just let it all out with more focus on getting the points across and less focus on the rules of style propriety or protocol. Which is what we’ll be doing here today.
Without fail once winter begins to come to an end the western world is abuzz with discussions of what everyone has decided to give up or commit to for Lent. It’s similar to New Years resolutions in that regard, though I dare say I believe that a larger majority of people seem to be able to complete their Lenten missions compared to sticking to their New Years resolutions. It used to always be the same, no matter where you were in the world: most people speak of giving up sugar or alcohol or caffeine or soda. Those are the big ones the most popular.
Over the last few years though — and I admit that this might have more to do with the changing circles I hang out in than a general shift in mainstream society — Lenten disciplines have become much more evolved and thought out, more nuanced. Gone are the days of people simply announcing they’re going to give up sugar for 40 days and then making excuses for the few or many occasions they’re unable to keep the commitment. (The other day someone announced to a room of us that they were told that “you’re allowed to cheat on Fridays for Lent.” That was a new one to me. And totally misses the point of even bothering to do it in the first place if you ask me.) But that now seems more like the exception rather than the norm.
Say what one will about drone strikes and imperialism, campaign financing gone amuck, political corruption, increased violence selfishness and materialism in society and gratuitous sex gore and vulgarity in our arts and entertainment… All true unfortunately. But there is at the same time still a growing trend towards a deeper spirituality in the United States. A palpable longing for a more sincere authenticity. One that belies and seems ironically counterintuitive to the increased cynicism reflected in our entertainment. We’re in a strange place at the moment. Like Tweens. So ready to grow up, but still so caught up in the toils troubles toys and habits of our youth.
(I believe the core reason for this seeming dichotomy is fear. Fear of being vulnerable. We wear our cynicism on our sleeves as a badge of honor, as a warning to everyone around us that we haven’t fallen off the wagon or given up yet, for fear of being caught off guard by those who are less motivated by morals and values and instead purely motivated by greed and profit. Our cynical outerwear protects us from being taken advantage of. So we believe. It shows the world that we’re tough and just as hardened as the next tribe. Ready to fight or defend at any moments notice.
Yet in our underbelly lies a great spiritual longing for more honesty, more sincerity, more tolerance and compassion, more true authenticity and connection with one another. Which side will win out in the end? That’s the question… If we continue to draw war and conflict into our collective lives, as our (s)elected political leaders seem want to do at the moment, then we will surely bring about yet another war with our neighbors that will complete the hardening process for another generation or two at the least and say goodbye to all the progress we’ve made on our path towards enlightenment. War tends to do that to civilizations. If we can somehow manage to avoid this plight, then we may just evolve right out of this mundane and childish propensity to battle anyone who disagrees in the slightest with us or happens to possess something we don’t have but want.
But this evolution is going to take a continued commitment on our part to keep encouraging those around us to step up and honor that same feeling of desire for more maturity and enlightenment that we are sure now everyone can feel tugging at their heart strings.
This new trend toward a more detailed and thought out Lenten discipline cycle is a sign of this collective longing in mass consciousness. People who aren’t even necessarily practicing Christians are getting in on the act. And those who are are no longer satisfied with just “giving up sugar” for Lent. The new trend is to go much deeper; to “add something”. People are committing to “unplugging” (from all technology) every night in order to spend more time with family; or committing to more quiet devotional time; to daily forgiveness; or to mentoring on a weekly basis or a weekly practice of some form of service to others. Long gone are the days when Lent just meant “not drinking alcohol for a few weeks except on Friday nights.
Having already spent countless years giving things up for Lent, this year I decided to add something. But what? For me it was simple: stay a good Christian/Avatar Wizard. Remember who I am and how much time and energy I’ve spent honing these skills and qualities that make up a good Christian and Avatar Wizard. (The two are not connected in any way. Though to those of us who happen to be religious, whether Jewish or Buddhist or Muslim or christian, they fit together perfectly.) it isn’t about how much time or energy I’ve spent learning the knowledge and honing the skills nor even cultivating the characteristics of such a person as much as it is the desire to be such a person. That’s the real motivation.
One of the ways I would do that would be to commit to communicating or connecting with the Divine at least three separate times per day. Call it prayer. Or meditation. It doesn’t matter what we call it. It’s the turning everything else off to stop for a moment and connect with that higher force in the universe and then communicate with it. A lot of prayer for others. A lot of prayer for the connection itself. A lot of prayer for knowledge, the kind of knowledge one can only acquire through an intuitive connection with something much bigger than ourselves. Much grander and/or greater in size and scope.
While I must admit I have gotten a lot out of this practice so far, I haven’t been able to keep to it as much as I wanted to or expected to. Some days go by and I don’t even remember to do it until the very end of the day when I’m in bed and way past sleepy. This surprised me. I actually thought it would be easy. But it hasn’t been. It’s actually been quite difficult. I keep wondering if half the reason for giving something up is to act as a constant reminder OF THAT commitment and in return we would automatically connect and communicate with the Divine more often just to help us stay committed to NOT doing whatever it is we gave up. I know that’s pretty much the idea behind giving something up that we love — it forces us to relate more readily to Jesus of Nazareth and reminds us of all of his sacrifices. (I feel like for those who aren’t christian one could substitute Jesus with The Buddha or Ghandi or Lao Tzu or even Abraham… The point being that these exemplary humans serve to act as a catalyst to reach a greater connection to the inexplicable Divine force that flows through all things in the known and unknown universe…)
But that for next year. And honestly one is well aware that we don’t even need Lent or any other manmade holiday for such a practice. For what man of substance isn’t already practicing this on a daily basis every day of their lives anyway? In the meantime I awoke this morning with the realization that the one thing I did commit to this Lent was to mentor a young man –meeting with him for an hour at least once a week for six weeks — throughout Lent while he takes his Confirmation classes, to act as a friend and guide on his way becoming Confirmed in the church on Easter Sunday. This particular discipline I have been able to follow through with and keep to it. Sort of snuck up on me. Didn’t even see it as a Lenten practice until today, nearly five weeks in. In that there has been a necessity for prayer and connection with the Divine simply because I am acutely aware of the fact that I am nothing but a physical vehicle for the Divine to speak to and work with this boy. So I constantly pray for guidance to make sure that I am communicating everything to this young man that God wishes to get across to him. So I am in turn benefitting as much as the “Confirmand” is. A bonus to be sure.
But I must admit that next year I will seriously consider giving something up during Lent to see if it better serves to keep me more committed to communicating with the Divine more frequently than I have been able to this year. Not that I am complaining. I’m not. It’s been a wonderfully fulfilling Lent so far. And I am more convinced of a divine intelligence at work and play in the universe than I’ve ever been before.