Wednesday, February 21, 2007

40-Day Buzz Kill

Today begins the season of Lent, and by all logic…I shouldn’t care in the slightest. I am not Catholic. Heck, I’m not even Christian. And yet, I shall not be having caffeine for the next forty days. In addition to going without some of my favorite beverages, I will also have to endure the endless eye-rolling of my lovely wife who finds my adherence to a belief structure that I don’t believe in to be more than a bit bizarre. And I can’t argue with her, really. Maybe it is bizarre. But, I will do it this year as I have for the last 10 years and as I most likely will do again next year.

Why do I do play along with this odd little game of ritualistic abstinence? Well, I guess it appeals to my ascetic nature. Spirituality through denial makes sense to me somehow. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to start denying myself all pleasures, convinced of the wickedness of all worldly gratification. I am very much a man of the flesh. I like my creature comforts and enjoy my own rather tame vices. However, I find it healthy to keep my cravings in check. I’m a firm believer that the mind should have control over the desires of the flesh, and it seems like good practice to occasionally test that theory. So, from one point of view, I’m just using Lent as an excuse to remind myself that my mild vices should always remain pleasant but relinquishable joys. Consider it the annual test of the emergency broadcast system.

However, I also find it refreshing to focus on spirituality during these 40 days. You see, I don’t belong to any organized religion. And although I occasionally get on a kick and start reading books on Buddhist teachings, I really don’t spend as much time thinking about matters of the spirit as I’d like. I move through my days with a comfortable routine and rarely look inward toward the divine. So, for the next forty days, every time I reach for soda and remind myself that I’m not drinking caffeine right now…I will, for a small instant, stop and contemplate the greater mysteries of existence. I will remind myself to be mindful of every moment of this life I’m living. And I will, for a few days, live a little closer to the mentality I’d like to have all year.

Why these forty days and not some other forty days? Why forty days at all since the symbolism means nothing to me? Well, that’s simple. I know myself well enough to understand that if I didn’t rely on the well publicized season of Lent to remind me to focus on my own spirituality…I would forget. I suppose it’s like Christmas in this respect. As non-Christians, I suppose Moonshot and I could celebrate a season of peace, love, and gift-giving any time we want. However, we choose to join in the festivities of the holidays.

So, this year, like last, I will join the Catholics in their mildly masochistic ritual of self-denial. And tough my wife will roll her eyes at my adherence to ascetic traditions, I’m actually looking forward to it.

Cheesy Ad Placement

I just got Cheeseburger’s book. Hurray!

As many of you know, our blog pal Cheeseburger Brown just put out a collection of short stories. He’s a terribly gifted story-teller and a purdy nice guy too. He posts story chapters every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday over at his website and is apparently going to start giving us papery versions every so often. So, Norah and I just wanted to take a few moments to support him.
Norah and Moksha Love Cheeseburger Brown!!


Simon said...

**The annual test of the Emergency Broadcast System. Had this been an actual emergency you would have been transported to an unknown desert locale and made to converse with serpents.**

I finished the last sip from my first cup of morning coffee as I started reading this post. (Quick, somebody call Alanis Morisette and tell her THAT's ironic!)

One thing I've come to admire about you, Moksha, is just that ability to reign in the acquiescence to cravings or various other pleasures of the flesh. I don't assume that you are completely successful at it, but your healthy mental attitude towards control over self is commendable. "Beyond a healthy discipline, be gentle with yourself."

Neither am I a practising Christian (nor a professional one!), and I haven't investigated the tenets of other faiths as you seem to have dabbled lightly in Buddhism. To take hold, however briefly, of a tradition not your own for the express purpose of some degree of self-improvement is (again ironically) probably more beneficial to you than to those who regularly observe the same by rote. ("What? Lent already? All right! Brussel sprouts are off the menu til April!")

What I also admire is the ability we obviously share: that of inducing spousal eye-rolling at the drop of a hat.

Envious about the book. Lulu emailed earlier this week to let me know mine had been shipped. And I used my work address, so it may be here this morning. I hope.

Mark said...

I just finished a cup of decaf.

As somebody who once quit caffeine cold turkey (it creeps back in when I need to stay awake on trips), I commend your commitment.

I wouldn't have known it was lent had you not mentioned it. I guess that speaks to the overwhelmingly Protestant populations surrounding my upbringing and subsequent places of residence.

It sounds like MG, Simon, and I are on similar pages when it comes to religion. I haven't dabbled in other religions, though, because I figure either there is something after this life, or there isn't. Nobody who wrote a book in this world probably has it exactly right, so who's to say who's right or wrong? If you want to be spiritual, then pick one (preferably a peaceful, loving one) and go with it.

JET said...

Good luck with the no caffine. Diet Rite is a good soda, "Pure Zero." Just a helpful hint.
Ah the play on words, Cheesy Ad for Cheesburger Brown. So clever Moskha, so damn clever.
And for what it's worth, I am sticking to my same Lent traditions for the past 25 years, I give up nothing and mock the Catholic relgion.

Mouse said...

Ahem, ahem, ahem. I feel the need to set you gentlemen straight on this particular point...Lent isn't just for Catholics. Many Protestant denominations observe Lent (and the ritual of self-denial) as well. In fact, it was just yesterday that I completely failed to attend Ash Wednesday services at my suburban Presbyterian church.
Moksha, when I started reading this post I was all set to ask if you are familiar with FreddyJ's theory of why many of the Lenten sacrifices people make don't really count for anything. (In short, the theory is that if your sacrifice doesn't do some good for others (like Jesus' sacrifice did good for others), you haven't really understood the true spirit of Lent. So, someone who just gives up soda for Lent doesn't count. Someone who gives up soda for Lent and donates the money they would have spent on to charity does count, though.) But clearly you have something more mindful in view than just "No caffiene for 40 days." So I won't give you the spiel. :)
Here's something I always worry about when publicly identifying myself as a Christian - I try hard to be a kind and gentle Christian who endeavors to imitate the example of love and peace set by Jesus. I don't go around telling people they're going to hell, or making judgements about the state of their soul. (Or at least I try really hard not to.) I get quite concerned that non-Christians might assume that we're all the hellfire-and-brimstone type because of the (admittedly bad) examples of Christianity in the media (Dobson and his ilk).

JET said...

Ah, the religion debate has started, this should get interesting.
I think Moska giving up caffine benifits other people. Anytime anyone gives up something for 40 days, it creates a positive self worth for them; they accomplished something, which in turn puts them in a better mood, and if Moksha is in a better mood, Moonshot benifits from that and she is in a better mood when she talks to Mouse, which puts a smile on her face and when Freddy spills the milk, instead of being mad, Mouse then remembers that Moonshot was in such a good mood and Mouse hugs Freddy and tells him she loves him.. All because Moksha gave up caffine.
You keep on keeping on Moksha!

Anonymous said...

Ooh! This is fun!

To Mouse: Amen sista! Except the part about Dobson... I actually like him because he's not afraid to speak truth. FreddyJ's theory intrigues me and makes me think. It sounds like a good excuse as to why I didn't give anything up for Lent.

I keep thinking if I make more comments, maybe I too will get an alias on moksha's website. Although now that I've identified myself a few times with my real name... that makes it a little more difficult. I've never had a nickname like Mouse has... that is until I went to college and received a nickname that made me sound like a slut even though it had nothing to do with my sexual promiscuity (or the severe lack thereof).

Sorry to digress... Kudos to Moksha for giving something up :)


Moksha Gren said...

Si - "This concludes our test of the Emergency Broadcast System, we now return you to your regualry scheduled hedonism"

When I am finally whisked away to the desert for that serpentine assured I'll be prepared. I'll be all like, "I gave up soda and coffee for a few weeks every year." And the snake will be like, "Your suffering has been great. You are truly God's chosen one."

Nice job on the Erhmann. I envy your ability to pull the right quote for almost every occasion. I know no quotes outside of Star Wars. So, whatever small wit you may detect from me is organicly grown.

Mark - I'd agree that the Truth is unknowable and thus unwritable. However, I'm curious about your reason for avoiding the whole spirit quest thing. Why must spiritualist be about the afterlife? I would contend that a good spiritual framework should be more about living a good life than preparing for an afterlife. I, like you, have no idea what awaits after death. However, I figure that if I live mindfully and empathetically, then the rest should take care of itself. If there is no afterlife, I will not feel cheated in the least. "Ah, damn...I was kind and supportive all those years for nothing!"

Jet - Thanks for the suggestion, but in the Moksha Gren Guide to Denial, simply substatuting a decaf version of a drink would be cheating. I'm looking to force a behavioral change in order to trigger conscious thought toward the spiritual. If my entire Lent challange consited of stocking up on a different brand of soda and buying some decaf coffee, it would defeat the purpose. Like some guys at the gym lifting way too much weight with horrible form. He gets bragging rights, sure...but he's not getting into shape.

Mouse - "Lent: It's not just for Catholics anymore!" I acknowledge that more than just Catholics observe the custom Lenten sacrifice. However, I think it is generally viewed as a Catholic tradition since most Protestants don't. We certainly didn't when I was growing up.

I like FreddyJ's view of Lent. And it would certainly be an improvement over the mindless denial that I've seen so often. And maybe I'll try to encorporate that into my future Lents. However, like you said...I'm veiwing it a bit differently and fell I'm getting something out of it even if others aren't directly. Because really, like Jet brings up...everyone who knows me is really benefiting from this. Can't you just feel the inner peace flowing across the Internet. It's my little gift to you all ;)

Anonymous - First of all...not sure who you are. You've posted before, so I'm currently guessing...Alvis? Anyway...thanks for commenting, whoever you are.

Not a big fan of Dodson. Too much anger, blame, and divine retrobution for my taste. I take my spiritual guides from the more soft spoken types like Thick Nhat Hahn. And when it comes to the Bible, I'm more of a Thomas than a John, so I just can't get behind views that strike me as judgemental. But that's me.

Simon said...

Interestingly, Moksha, I have The Miracle of Mindfulness (by Hahn) on the growing list of books I intend to buy. Perhaps I'd best bump it up slightly in importance since it would probably come rather highly recommended by you. (If that's one of his you've read.)

Alvis said...

No, I'm not Anonymous. I can leave a comment now. This subject is too complex for me to leave just a sentence or two. I'll have to wait until this evening when I can think over it some more.

Moksha Gren said...

Si - It's not one that I've read...but I'd still recommend it. I've read three of his books and they tend to say relatively similar things. He's a consistant man, so I think you're pretty safe. The book that introduced me to him was Living Buddha, Living Christ. It's an interesting primer in Buddhist thought as presented for a western reader. I even got my Mom to read it.

Alvis - Not anonymous, eh? Hmmm. Who else posts under their own name? Anyway, thanks for swingin' by. I look forward to your thoughts.

JET said...

The "Pay It Foward" Lent has already worked. I am proud of Moksha for giving up soda and a customer came in, and me being in a better mood, we had a good talk and she know wants to refer a friend.
Moksha, if you were a real man, you would give up all liquids.

Mark said...

I'm all about being good to each other and always trying to do the right thing. In the back of my mind there's something that believes we're all connected in some way. And, there's part of me that just refuses to believe that human consciousness and anatomy (not to mention the anatomy of any living thing) resulted strictly from natural selection. But, when I see a Jesus fish on a car, and then a Darwin fish with legs, I give an internal thumbs-up to the latter. I think that's because spirituality is so personal, while science is not.

Throughout the years? Boy, was that an understatement.

Anonymous said...

I wish I was witty and intelligent enough to write a riddle or something but I'm not. Here's my best shot:

100 years but it felt much less,
you dated my roommate but I digress..
We were the inseperable six that year I said,
But Duke ran off and found Pinky instead.

It sounded much cooler in my head.

Moksha Gren said...

Mark - I agree. Not sure how it all works...but I get that sense too. And I'll second your feelings on the Jesus Fish. We also have billboards here in Missouri (don't know if they're everywhere), bright green with huge, white block lettering that just says "JESUS". Not really sure what that's suppose to do. As much as the bumper fish bugs me, it is a personal statement of belief... on a person's car seems like an ok for that sort of thing. But a billboard? That just says JESUS? I don't get it. Who's that aimed at?

Anonymous - [Slaps forehead] Of course! Even the nickname comment makes sense now. It always seemed to me that your nickname should have been "Hokey" The extra syllable takes away the slut-factor. Although then the phrase "Hokey Pokey" takes on a disturbingly sexual connotation ;)

I'm realizing as I sit here, that with all the roommates who became brothers-in-law, sisters who became their own sisters-in-law, ex-girlfriends who became posters' ex-roommates, etc...this blog community is feeling a bit incestuous (but in a good way).

For those of you who don't know, Anonymous is a good friend of mine from college. Friends with FreddyJ, Duke, and me from freshman year on. As mentioned above, her roommate (another member of the inseperable six)and I dated some time. Anonymous is now Sarah's mom and I shall call her Hokey even though her wedding took away the basis for that nickname.

JET said...

Ah, the Jesus Billboards. If I have someone with me, I like to yell. "OH JESUS!" as we pass the billboard, and when they ask what is wrong, I just point to the sign.
Mark, I like your quote, "I think that's because spirituality is so personal, while science is not."

Hokey said...

Just don't slap yourself too hard. Did you get the 100 years reference???? Centennial???? :)

I think I'm more clever than I actually am!

Moksha Gren said...

Hokey - I missed that.

I think I'm less clever than you think you are!

One Wink at a Time said...

I'm sitting here discussing this with Alvis. We'll get back to you. If he'll settle down long enough to have a serious discussion...

Panache said...

I didn't realize the younger generation spent so much time and energy contemplating, reading, philosophizing and jabbering about such issues as Lent. As Moonshot and Mouse's mom, I know where they are coming from on this. It is interesting to read how others (maybe not Christian) react to and think about it.

Our church does make a small sacrifice during these 40 days. For our Fellowship hour we serve only stale pretzels with nasty coffee. I just don't participate because I don't like stale pretzels and nasty coffee. I have never really practiced "giving up something", although there were a few times I eyed my husband pretty seriously. (Just kidding M & M)
I don't think the sacrifice is really what counts. It is remembering and being thankful for the only meaningful sacrifice that was made. But I am heartened to hear you all thinking about this so much.
Keep it up. Jet is funny!