Sunday, February 3, 2008

Lent Me Your Ear

If Mormons can do zany things these days--like be a Democrat--then I am not ashamed to admit that this year I will be participating in Lent. I announced this to Chup the other night on our way to dinner. His response follows:

"I did Lent one year. I gave up pizza (BARF) and ice cream . . . or something like that."

(It must've been life-changing for Chup.)

I think my desire to try Lent (not short for Lentils--me no likey) comes from a serious contemplation of self-denial as of late. In the past I have wrongly identified self-denial as a form of self-punishment. Much more appetizing than flagellation, and easier on the skin to be sure. But certain attempts of this type of denial have led to many following binges.

For example, I eat too many Fritos one night. I feel sickly like I am the Anti-Moderation in All Things. I say to myself You are banned from Fritos forever. Two nights later I eat Fritos. In fact, I finish the whole crunchy, corny bag. This happens because my self-punishment has to eventually be nurtured by self-soothing. I can't punish myself into perdition. I've tried, and alas, it hath no fun.

Three years ago today I went on a fast. I gave up food for twenty-one days. A lot of people thought (still think) I was crazy, but I wanted to have that experience more than I wanted people to think I was sane. It was so worth it, I liked it even better than my whole mission.

From that experience, I learned to abstain only from what I don't want in the first place. This is self-compromise. By denying myself, I give myself what I really really really want. And most of the time it isn't about pizza or ice cream or Perez Hilton. The whole concept for me is less tangible; denying myself ignorance in order to gain intelligence.

This evening I've been thinking about Ash Wednesday--the first day of Lent--this week. What can I give up for forty days for the purpose of becoming a more enlightened person? Should I give up my apathy for yoga? Seven minutes of my morning for meditation? My afternoons to read Eat, Pray, Love?

But before all that stuff, a first time Lent-er asks: How do I celebrate Mardi Gras (in a Mormon-safe sort of way)?