Lent: the musical

Mormonism has a really interesting ritual - every month, usually on the first sunday of that month, they encourage all able-bodied member to engage in a fast - no food or water for 24 hours. This is to be accompanied by much prayer and then taking the money you would have normally spent on the food during that time and donating it back to the church, which was then distributed among the needier members of the congregation.
I remember as a kid I hated fast sundays.

I've been thinking back on those lately, about how a bit of asceticism can be good for the soul, cleansing for both mind and body. I'm not talking about the self-flagellation or anything, I'm talking more about being conscious of what a person truly needs to be alive. And how, by removing yourself for a time from those things that we often take for granted, you come closer to a sense of your connection and dependence on the universe to sustain you.

It's kind of like how nice air feels after you try holding your breath for a minute. (I always do that subconsciously when watching movies where the characters are underwater - - - they always manage to hold their breath FAR LONGER than I can. I would totally drown if I were in those movies.)

So, I just noticed that it's Lent right now. I'm not Catholic or anything, but the practice does intrigue me. I guess the basic gist of it is that you give up something non-essential but emotionally dear to you, and, as best as I can tell, something that's probably kind of sinful.
Now, the premise seems valid and sound. Give up something that's probably bad for you, and dedicate that as an offering to God.

The part that amuses me about this, though, is Mardi Gras - fat Tuesday. Everyone spends that whole time, kind of emotionally and physically stocking up on that thing they plan on giving up. "I'm giving up chocolate for lent, so I'm gonna stuff myself on it now til I'm sick and won't WANT it for a month!"

This has evolved (de-evolved?) into a huge party where people just indulge - nay, overindulge in whatever they can get their hands on. I had some friends who were missionaries in Rio de Janiero, and told me that they were expressly ordered to stay in their apartments during the entirety of Carnival. They told me afterwards that they saw pretty much all ten commandments broken right on the street in front of their apartment. Repeatedly.

It seems a bit extreme, doesn't it? Does it really work like that? Overindulging in order to abstain?

What would I give up for Lent, were I so inclined? I suppose I could give up coffee or beer - things I don't really do a lot of anyway. Well, okay, no, coffee I have once per day.
I gave up fast food more than 2 years ago. I've only had any at all, maybe 3 times since then, and I gotta be honest, it made me sick. I gave up soft drinks - namely, mountain dew - about 3 months ago, with only one or two since then. Can I really call it "giving it up" if I have any more ever? Well, considering how much of it I used to drink, I'm pretty confident that I can say that. I could say I was giving up smoking or drugs, but I don't do either one now, so that's kind of a cop out.

Could I give up video games? Sex? Chocolate? Television? Foul language? Sarcasm?
I don't know, really. Is the purpose of Lent to give up something you like but that isn't really hurting you (like pasta, or something), or is it that you give up a vice that keeps you in a life of wickedness? Because the latter does make sense, obviously, but the former seems a bit excessive.

I suppose this is why such abstinence is accompanied with prayer and spiritual-mindedness. Because without that, it's just pretty much a diet.

In meditation, one of the first things you learn - even before telling you how to breathe - is how to distance yourself from all distractions. Sound, light, anything which could break your concentration.

Now on the one hand, that certainly fits in with the sense of a fast - - - but it's also very hard to concentrate when you can't stop thinking about how hungry you are, or how much you miss a good beer.

At the same time, I've found that there's something to be found in the struggle to overcome your own habits which pushes you to a reserve of strength you can't really find any other way. You see what you're capable of, and you also drive your mind past that sense of distraction which can keep greater clarity at bay.

Just past the noise, the pointless clutter, the obstacles to our own evolution, we can find a peace and illumination we only suspected might exist.

What is it worth to find that? What price would you be willing to pay to comprehend your life in a greater definition?

And maybe that's really what it's supposed to be about.


climbing up the down hill

So I picked up a copy of an old George Michael album, just cos I got a jones for hearing some of that 80's stuff, and listened to it on the drive in to work this morning.

It instantly got filed into the same folder I recently put Thundercats into - the "how did I not realize how craptastic this was?" folder.

What has happened to my sense of taste, of substance? Has it improved to the degree where I'm no longer fooled by the things that used to get past me? Was that stuff EVER good? Or am I now too jaded by the tools of sound design to put up with the nonsense that used to pass for quality?
I remember growing up with a mom and dad who LOVED the music of their time - the "Mr Bojangles" and songs by Neil Diamond, etc. My first favorite song was "Play that Funky Music White Boy" by Wild Cherry, which, I insist, has stood the test of time in its limited genre. And I've expanded to music that predated my birth into the Beatles, the Stones, classic blues, "classical" music, big band era, etc. But the stuff I really cut my teeth on - the music of the 80's....

Is it my imagination, or is much of it just crap now, in retrospect? There was a comic in pvponline - (see www.pvponline.com - it's a pretty good webcomic) wherein one of the characters huddled under his blanket of shame for several days upon breaking down his core identity to the question of whether or not Star Wars was really all that good.

I'm kind of facing the same sort of identity crisis, I think. At what point do we just laugh off the pettiness of youth and realize that what we used to think was so eternally cool is now "old and dated" and, for the most part, crap?

Dont' get me wrong, here: I don't miss my youth, I'm very happy with my age, and I'm not struggling to recapture "the good old days". Not even close. I guess I'm just wondering at what point a person just resigns themself that the "good old days" really weren't, and becomes okay with that?

There's a lot of things I used to believe that I don't now, as I've (by my own definition, here) grown up. But does the fact that they no longer resonate with me mean they are by definition flawed beliefs? Or are they more like eyewear prescriptions, where they function only so long as your eyes need them?

I used to have this GREAT pair of shoes. I mean, they were truly cool shoes. Not the most comfortable, but really great. I'm not a shoe freak or anything, I'm just saying, these were my favorite shoes.

But a few of the jobs I've had since I last actively wore the shoes kind of made me put them back in the closet, then we moved a couple times, and then a few months ago, we went through and sorted stuff we wanted to keep and stuff we needed to toss.

The shoes .... *sigh*... I tried them on, but they just weren't me anymore. So they got tossed. And I didn't feel bad about it, really. I just knew they weren't for me, and hadn't been for a long time.

So that takes me back to music. 80's music. You know, I admit, a lot of it was crap. It was fun crap, but it was crap. But a lot of it doesn't even give me that warm nostalgic sense of "this is who I was" or anything. I find I'm becoming much more interested in the music I hear now.
Maybe a sense of being "over the hill" is that you no longer see so well behind you - maybe you only focus on what's ahead?

And if so, does that mean I'm over the hill? Ugh. Kind of a hike, really.

(originally posted www.reverb1.com in fall of 2005)

damn the forest kings and their magical ways!

So let me paint the picture for you:

I get up at 5 (or thereabouts, depending on how well the snooze button works), while it's still dark. I'm usually out the door by 5:30, while it's still dark. From about one month ago until some point in February, it's going to be like that, every year. (in fact, it starts getting dark while I'm on my way home nine hours later. Wacky stuff, that.) I swing by my roadside java shack to pick up my mocha, but even with that limited human contact, the entire drive in to work consists of a fairly surreal span of time; mostly just singing along to whatever CD (homespun or otherwise) that tickles my fancy. If I'm feeling particularly saucy, I'm belting it out along with the stereo.

In the darkness swirls a random bit of fog, lights from the other cars, and several miles of shadow. All in all, it's not that much different from the conherence of sleep I'm enjoying an hour earlier.

So as I arrive at work this morning, I stop the car stone cold in the center of the road. Two deer step from the bushes into my headlights and look up at me.

"Oh. The morning shift is here already?" they seem to consider. "Damn that daylight savings time, if only we could read human, we could keep track of that."

I raise my recycled coffee cup to them and they dart off, and I feel compelled to follow. So I slowly drive the length of the substantial parking lot, momentarily wondering if they'll soon leap back into their mystical portal which will magically whisk them away from the land of men back into the wilderness. Do they commute, I wonder? Various Gary Larsen-inspired images ricochet off my brainpan at that thought.

Alas, they circle the blacktop, find a break in the hedge, and vanish. Right before my eyes. Damn the craftiness of those Forest King sorcerers! They've hidden the portal in plain sight!

Sadly, my VW Beetle is too broad for the portal, and I'm forced to find a parking space.

Thankfully, at 6 o clock in the morning, it's not hard. But with my coffee cup in one hand and my security badge in the other, I take one longing glance back at the break in the hedge and scan the door.
It beeps. I sigh. I enter.

(originally posted on www.reverb1.com in November 2005)


Coming here from Livejournal and Reverb1. Just settling down into a coherent rhythm of observations, seems like a nice spit of land.

prologue: http://anachronologist.livejournal.com/ and http://www.reverb1.com/anachronologist . . .

I can't say to expect too much, I can't say to expect too little. I'm just looking to drop down a few words here and there and enjoy it.

Read if you will, forget me if you won't. But I'll be here, to be sure.