I’m going to interrupt the historical narrative for a little bit to talk about Lent.
I sincerely believe that fitness and health are much more than just a number of a scale or what dress size you might wear (I’m a 6, by the way). It’s even bigger than whether or not you are struggling with disease. I take a much more holistic point of view that includes the mind and the spirit, soul or whatever you’d like to call it.
To put it simply, if your heart and soul are out of shape it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to be able to get your body to break from that pattern.
Now, I’m not a religious person. I’m practically a card-carrying agnostic (speaking of which, I need to see about getting my card renewed), but I do find value in contemplation and ritual. A good, solid, well-developed ritual can be a beautiful thing, and one of my favorites is Lent. The Lenten tradition holds that Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the dessert in contemplation prior to undertaking his ministry. The idea of duplicating that in a ritualistic manner is designed to bring the worshipper closer into harmony with Jesus, and into a greater understanding of sacrifice, penitence and contemplation – to spend 40 days and nights walking in the shoes of the savior/prophet.
I’ve always loved Lent and the wonderful narrative of the great person who separates himself from comfort, from home, from companionship in order to hone his mind and ready himself for a great undertaking that he knew was going to test him to his limits. Westerners, and particularly Americans, aren’t good with any amount of discomfort. Heck, I see people lose their proverbial shit on a daily basis because their smartphones are too slow to load a cat picture off the internet. Take the average American male and ask him to go without Sports Center for 40 days and nights and you’d see a major conniption fit.
But that response is all wrong-headed. Fasting, whether it’s from bread, or meat, or wine, or the internet is good for you. At the very least it will show you how much you take the life you live for granted. At best it may demonstrate to you that something you think you NEED in order to survive not only isn’t necessary, but is actually harming you or hindering you in some way towards realizing your goals.
So this year for Lent I’m giving up a couple relatively trivial things (alcohol & sweets) and something major (for me) – criticism. Somewhere, out in the vast interwebs one of my friends just choked on his croissant. See, criticism for me is easy. It’s my go-to response to anything. I can find flaws like nobody’s business, but that’s too easy and it’s too comfortable. It also tends to drive people away, which is the opposite of what I really want, which is why I’m putting an effort into shelving that behavior and actively staying away from it for Lent.