A wall of moisture-laden clouds climbs up the western slope of the Sangres. The clouds climb higher and higher. Like surfing waves, the clouds curl as they crest, and in my mind’s eye, I can see a blond god in a black wet suit riding the wave. Today, like most days, the clouds are hung up. In need of moisture, we pray for them to work their way up and over the mountains. We need the snow to the east. The clouds drift down and then having second thoughts, they ease up and retreat.
Today is Fat Tuesday, English for Mardi Gras. It is the last hurrah before the Lent. Carnival comes from the Latin, carne vale, “farewell to the flesh.” (In the not too distant pass, I would assume that the pious would abstain from to their own fleshy desires as well as forsake the eating of animal protein.)
So this is it. The last day to indulge… to let it all hang out… to paint your face… plump your lips and glitter your flesh with gold dust. And once you are done primping, you are ready to strut your stuff with an excess of dining, drinking and dancing. Come midnight, the party is over and Ash Wednesday is just a dawn away.
On the cusp of the Lenten season, I must hurry to sort out my intentions. Today, I vow to eat no desserts, chocolate, or candy for the duration of Lent. Some years I have given up coffee which is actually the greater sacrifice, but I have gained a few pounds. By giving up sweets, perhaps I can lose some weight. Which leads me to a moral dilemma.
If my abstinence is to mean anything at all, shouldn’t my choice be coffee? Giving up coffee is a true sacrifice; whereas, giving up sweets would cut my calorie intake. A true sacrifice should not come cloaked in benefits. Giving up sweets is a sleazy choice.
I know what I should do, and yet… my flesh is so weak. I dither.
I’ll give up coffee… I won’t give up coffee… I’ll give up coffee and sweets. I’ll buy a pound of coffee every week, smell it, salivate, dream and then donate it to the Sharing Center. Ah… now we’re getting somewhere. Coffee will be my hair shirt. Already I’m feeling more virtuous.
You might wonder, why, having fallen from the church, I would even observe Lent. I think about an answer. Tradition calls, as does the need to exercise self-discipline. In this ever-faster world where instant gratification is at our fingertips and everything from ready-food to E-mail to the remote control makes everything immediate, waiting, yearning, and anticipation seem to a thing of the past.
Perhaps a bit of delayed gratification will, for a short time, put me in touch with those who wait and yearn to no avail.
********************* Postscript posted Thursday, Feb. 23.
I sit at the computer, my third cup of coffee at-hand. Laugh if you must.