07 February 2008

Ash Wednesday: How Long Until Easter?

This year will be the tenth that I celebrate Lent.

I remember my first Lenten season. I was still living in Arizona, and I was drawn to this ancient Christian tradition (dating back to 731) not only as a way to make Easter more meaningful, but also in order to get myself under control.

Ellie was a baby. And while I enjoyed taking her for walks around my Richard Avenue neighborhood, I wasn’t a very attentive daddy—especially when I was immersed in a computer game. For my first Lent, I gave up computer games. It was forty days. By the time Easter rolled around, I had a measure of control.

By the end of Lent the following year, I had kicked the habit, and computer games haven’t held sway over my life (or my attention to my kids) since. To be honest, I feel tempted to buy them, but never inclined to play them—that’s why Stronghold 2 sits in my software box, two years old, unplayed even as I write this.

This year, as I celebrated Ash Wednesday and contemplated my mortality (just 20 hours after deadly tornadoes had swept through the community where I worship), I thought about the changes that I still need in my life. The pastor had us write down our sins on a paper, then he burned them before our eyes.

It gave me pause, and a chance to implement the fasting that I had carefully considered for weeks.

I think the main thing I need to cut down on is information. I’m an omnivore—devouring everything I can get my hands on: news, science, sports, entertainment, international, local, everything.

A couple weeks ago, I read a blog that had a picture of a 700-pound man on it. The caption read, “If information were calories, what would you look like?” That really made sense to me. Information is only useful when it’s, well, useful. Therefore, I’ll spend Lent limiting myself to 30 minutes a night on the Internet. I will cut out all sports and entertainment sites/blogs, and I’ll see where that gets me.

Sports is a really strange influence. I read about three sports sites every day. Even though I rarely spend money on sports or sports merchandise, I spend about an hour a day following sports like a soap opera. Entertainment news is similar. I know more about people like Tom Cruise, Britney Spears and Heath Ledger than I could ever need to know.

More importantly, a lot of these sites are gateway sites that leave the me two clicks away from stuff I really, really don’t need to see: porn, gambling information, lurid videos, etc. Staying away from sports will hopefully keep me that much further away from other bad stuff.

A final resolution is to give up using the perjorative, “Two-time Bush Voter.” I have really been hammering my Right-wing friends with that one recently. I’m just really fed up with the direction my country is headed—more than ever—and I guess that’s my way of taking it out on them.

For example, when a friend wrote a group e-mail recently, stating that Barack Obama’s “nice words” didn’t necessarily mean that he could pull the job off, I wrote back:

“I don’t need a two-time Bush voter to tell me how disappointing politicians can be.”

See what I mean? It’s rude. It’s almost as bad as when I was referring to the Right as “The Befuddled Masses” and then calling them “BMs” for short. It’s wrong.

That’s what Lent is for, I guess: refocusing on what I can do for Christ and ridding myself of extraneous stuff. I’ll keep you posted—as always.

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