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Pieter Breughel the Younger (1564–1638), Battle of Carnival and Lent

"Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians replicate Jesus Christ's sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days. Lent is marked by fasting, both from food and festivities." - Wikipedia

"Does anyone ever give up procrastination for Lent?"

Not having been raised in one of the classical Christian churches, my birth family never celebrated Lent, though I gather from The Muse's recollections that Lent in her Catholic family tended to be a Freaky Friday kind of celebration, by which I mean pretty much the opposite of celebration. She remembers giving up candy for Lent, a childhood practice that she swears made Easter candy that much more enjoyable. My family had more of a barely scraping by attitude to life, and I guess we figured that every day was already more or less Lent for us. Skin and bones possess little to further sacrifice. I notice when Ash Wednesday arrives, though. I revere the tradition without actually participating in it, the same way I revere Mardi Gras, as somebody else's fracas. I usually consider giving up something for Lent, without actually carrying through. I'm plenty penitent, but never overtly.

This year, though, the Year Of Our Lord 2020, everyone gave up something for Lent, unless you happened to live in one of the nine or ten states that chose to continue regular programming through the blooming pandemic.
For a starter Lent, which I suspect this one was for most, it turned out to be decidedly non-denominational and less a matter of choosing what to do without than of coping with what one could not get. Many, I understand, gave up toilet paper for Lent this year. A trip to The Great American Supermarket this Lent tended to be an extended exercise in substitution or making do without. Empty milk case one visit, empty pasta shelves every visit. Mostly, we went without eating out, a rare event for us in every season, but a few weeks spent relying upon my own culinary cleverness leaves me pining after even a crappy donut and coffee.

We spent the first part of Lent touring The Great American Southwest, eating out for every meal, so I started my forty days in the desert surrounded by actually desert and re-experiencing The Vast American Food Desert that most of our country remains. The schtick of sit-down dining had long bored me: The embarrassing presence of service as if we couldn't set our own damned table; The menu choices which subtly nudge us into ordering The Usual regardless of the venue; The insanity that renders an eight dollar beer acceptable enough for me to order a second; The atmosphere which tends toward the deafening and sensory punishing. By the time we returned, I was ready to give up restaurant food for Lent, whole-heartedly voluntering.

I can understand why the Lenten tradition calls for personal selection of the sacrificed item, because being forced to suspend some accustomed pattern feels more sacrificial than actually sacrificing. When your well-ingrained habit gets nailed to a cross, it's a whole different routine. Little grudges can appear, small smear campaigns against the heartless gods who seemingly especially cursed you. Choosing your own sacrifice brings the DYI defenses into play. I might know that I performed poorly, but can at least take backhanded satisfaction in the fact that I did it (to) myself. Lent might be a masochist's dream come true.

Many people spent at least part of this Lent at home, a perfectly acceptable sacrifice when coupled with reasonable visitation outside when fetching absolute necessities, which in this state might include a fresh liter of Absolute® vodka and a skitch of weed. Necessary seems a fungible concept. Many gave up gainful employment for Lent. Some sacrificed their schooling. A few, their homes. Way too many, their lives. One man's necessity seems another's frivolity. Some stocked up on ammo for Lent this year, believing, I suspect, in the emergence of a full-blown Zombie apocalypse in lieu of the usual Easter. Few think to give up paranoia for Lent, or self-importance, though either choice might prove genuinely transformative. Even under this stay at home order, I've sacrificed little through this widely-mandated Lent. I've set aside some of my more popular distractions, immersing myself more deeply within long-procrastinated chores. I can report that I procrastinate more mindfully as a result, not that this outcome necessarily nudged me into getting those obligations done, but I do at least feel genuinely more penitent about these, my more prominent sins of omission. Does anyone ever give up procrastination for Lent?

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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