This Post was originally published on April 9th, 2014
Disclaimer: Heavy religious material beyond this point, it may piss you off but these are my beliefs and the story behind what I do. You may not agree with me, but please agree that we can have a conversation about our differences not a shouting match. I am not and would never try to force my beliefs on you, this is just a statement of my position and an explanation into my thought process.
Every year I have three spring rituals. First I freeze my balls off and wait diligently for it to warm up, secondly I send my mother tulips on her birthday, and lastly I give something up for Lent. Why Lent you ask? Maybe it is because from time to time I like the feeling that there is something bigger out there. This year I decided to give up caffeine for Lent, something that I really regret at this point.
I am not particularly religious, but I do feel like I am significantly more religious that I was back when I started taking Lent seriously a few years ago. For some reason about 7 or 8 years ago I decided to revamp my Lenten tradition that I used to take seriously as a kid, no meat on Friday and giving up something important. I though that it would at least give me a reason to try something different and at worst I would kick a bad habit along the way. That first year I gave up muffins, the delicious breakfast treat that I love so much. Miraculously I was able to make it through on will power alone, often wandering through the bakery aisle looking longingly at the delicious muffiney goodness presented before me. After Easter found that once I had lived a few weeks without any muffins in my life I really didn’t have many cravings. To this day I occasionally go for a muffin or two, but generally don’t find them very appealing, in fact I now mostly shy away from any breakfast baked good. This was a good lesson, and something that I saw reflected in the things that I gave up over subsequent years. I wound up giving this a try by giving up energy drinks, bacon, canned or bottled beer, meat, and a few other things that were obviously less memorable (since I cant remember them for the life of me). Meat was tough, but the others were actually easier than giving up muffins was that first year.
Every catholic I know approaches Lent differently. Many don’t observe it at all, something that I fully understand. Growing up catholic but losing touch with that faith is a trademark of my generation. We lived through the decline of catholic schools, the closure of churches due to not enough priests, and the molestation scandals. It is not surprising that people refer to themselves as lapsed or former Catholics, so I am impressed by the people who actually carry on the traditions that they grew up with. I have one friend who gives up ice cream every year. It is his tradition, but functionally what kind of ice cream cravings do you get during March in upstate New York? It feels funny to kind of judge this guy, who by the way goes to church almost every week? Especially since excluding a handful of weddings, funerals, baptisms or holiday masses I haven’t been to church in the past 10 years. Does my greater commitment 40 days a year make me a better catholic than his greater commitment on Sundays? Who knows.
My generation has a level of religious freedom that our forefathers could only dream of. We live in a time where you don’t have to cross the ocean and climb the Himalayas to find Buddhist or Indian philosophies, all you need to do is perform a Google search. We even have the freedom to have no religion at all. Probably half of the people I know would classify themselves as atheists or at least agnostics. While I understand the tendency to revolt against typical theistic though patterns I am kind of baffled because there is so much in this world that we cannot explain. Not to say that I am going to trust the biblical story word for word, in fact I really dont even think I believe in Jesus. There is so much out there is it truly impractical to believe in something that we cannot put our finger on? I have seen some strange things over the years, I feel like my life has been touched in some pretty strange ways that have helped point me in the right direction. I personally feel better by believing that this was part of some grand plan with a million moving parts rather than just the chance happening of luck. We are constantly striving to prove or disprove the existence of God but why are we wasting our time. Science can shine light on a lot of things, but who says that science and God are separate? Maybe they work together for our betterment, I am just glad that we have the self awareness and the higher thought processes in place that allow us to even have this question, a question that raises great conversation and debate. A goldfish doesn’t know that we exist in form, but to him we are a god who exists to provide him food and by not being able to think about self subsistence he is unable to evolve, maybe having dissenting voices provides a path to push us forward.
I understand not knowing what Lent is, or not being Catholic and not trying it, or being Catholic but not making it part of your tradition, but I cant deal with people who look down on those with faith. I know that we live in a world where the Westboro Baptist Church types or even normal everyday Christians are stuffing their view or religion down our throats, but whatever religious beliefs they have are their right to have. I have one Facebook friend who rips people daily for believing in God, that is his right under free speech, but it is basically the same as the Westboro guys preaching to others against their will. He has the right to believe or not believe whatever he will , and the right to say it, but starting my day off with hate was part of the reason that I blocked him from showing up in my news feed. People have a right to believe whatever they choose, simply because you dont feel the same way is not an indictment of their beliefs. Repeatedly telling them how wrong they are just draws a line in the sand and is never going to win them over.
Now back to the point that I stared off making. I gave up caffeine for Lent this year. I don’t often drink coffee, but when I do it is always a pleasure. With the schedule that I have been working lately I really could use some caffeine to keep me motivated, in fact I have decided that after Easter I am going to drink at least one cup of coffee (or a demitasse of espresso) each day. I do often eat chocolate, which was my main factor in giving up caffeine. From chocolate milk to every protein bar ever created, to those god damned Cadbury mini eggs, I basically ate chocolate each day. The cravings have not yet subsisted, but I think that maybe doing this will cause me to reduce my chocolate intake after this is done, but not chocolate milk, that shit is delicious.