Bargell: Lent as a loving season
It’s the day after Fat Tuesday, and how are y’all doing? Today marks the beginning of the season of Lent, the 40 days (more or less) leading up to Easter. Not to be confused with the season Lint, which seems to be perpetual around my house – but I digress.
Although I have understood the literal meaning of Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, since my high school French days, it surprised me to learn the word “Carnival” does not just mean “party all night.” One Latin translation suggests it means instead a farewell to meat (Carne = meat; vale = good-bye). I suppose there are some folks around the county saying their farewells to certain things today, and I’m no exception. When I was younger I used to give up sweets – my own candyval, albeit far less exciting than carnival, and honestly more a byproduct of my personal overload on Valentine conversation heart candies – but again, I digress. My daughter this morning suggested I give up coffee for Lent. I told her I’d get back with her on that, in about 40 days.
Joking aside, the older I get, the more interested I have become in Lent. Not just because I need to cut back on conversation hearts, but more because it is a season the church has set aside to take time for reflection, and to encourage a look within. Similar to Advent, that time leading up to Christmas that often brings out the giving spirit in people, this time leading up to Easter frees us to take a look inside.
Of course, the Christian religion is somewhat of a newbie as far as reflection is concerned. Folks who practice Buddhism, and devotees to the Hindu religion, arguably recognized importance of reflection long before Jesus journeyed into the wilderness. With roots dating to the 6th century BC, Buddhist writers and commentators have identified self-reflection as the most basic common thread that runs through all of Buddhist practice. According to the world’s oldest religion, Hindu, the path to salvation includes devotion to the way of knowledge, including self-reflection. And, wasn’t it Socrates who chided that “an unexamined life is not worth living” around 400 BC? Seems like taking the time to ponder our lives is healthy, even though the process sometimes can be downright painful.
Naturally, if I already had figured out the meaning of life I likely would not still be going on about it weekly in this space. But as it stands I recognize there’s a long way to go, so I’ll welcome this season of reflection. Because even though all the things I “have” to do are constantly on my radar, rarely do I take time out to consider why I am doing all this stuff. Turns out, the “whys” generally are far more important than just getting the job done. Taking time to attend a kid’s activity, or tend to a friend or relative is just another thing on the list until we consider why we care. Knowing how much you love the person makes it so much easier to move forward. Driving the kids hither and yon is a drag until I reflect on the fact that my chauffeur services soon will be a thing of the past, and that being with them now is a high priority. A kind act is empty until I take the time to reflect on my belief that kindness is the key to connecting with those around us, and when I miss those opportunities I really am betraying myself.
Considering the motivations of our actions is eye-opening and not always pleasant. But, in my view, it’s a start and gives each of us a chance to root again in those things that are of consequence, and to freely let the rest go. So, for this Lenten season I’ve decided not to forgo candy or coffee or a glass of wine now and then, but instead each time I take a bite or a sip to accompany it with a reflection on how I can rid myself of the real toxins in my system of bitterness, jealously or hatred – and to travel the path where meaning outweighs action, and love outweighs, well, everything.
Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card-carrying PTSA member, real estate and natural resources lawyer and part-time gymnastics coach. She welcomes your comments at email@example.com.
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