Well, here we are again at Lent. For the uninitiated, I compiled a brief primer last year. Also, because it just seems an appropriate yearly tradition, I give you a whole website of Tertullian. *sigh, wipe tears*
As I mentioned several posts ago, my theme this year is Radical Transformation (h/t to rhyte for the book suggestions and to Duff for the inspiration, even if I can’t recall what it was he said exactly). I’d like to point out, in my defense, that the entirety of last year (2009) was a radical transformation itself, and I rather like the idea of continuing the path. It’s true that I typically give something up at Lent, but I was in no particular place to do so last year, not for Lenten purposes, at any rate, since Lent began less than three weeks after I decided to quit drinking again. Instead, I took up a discipline regarding peace and against anger as an act of spiritual and social exploration that I then chronicled here (also part of the discipline). So, as with last year, I am picking up a discipline, in this case an exploration of the theme through a collection of books drawn from ones rhyte mentioned and ones I saw as logical additions to the pile. And, I’ll work out the connections that I find (and the ones that elude me, I hope) here.
I’ll begin with an author I read several pieces by last year, Pema Chodron. Her Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion seems not only an appropriate beginning, but a timely one as well, given recent events around here. I’ll follow with From Survival to Recovery: Growing Up in an Alcoholic Home, a book from our friends at Al-Anon. Next up stands to be a radical departure from the preceding two, Jacques Attali’s Noise: The Political Economy of Music, because we all need some philosophy to bend our minds around. Jumping back into reality, I’ll head into Greg Mortenson’s and David Oliver Relin’s Three Cups of Tea:One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time, because I haven’t ever taken the time to finish the whole thing, and I should. It’s clearly worth it. And while we are inhabiting that portion of the world, we’ll head eastward to find His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Becoming Enlightened. And, since we’re on the subject, we’ll wander over to Thich Nhat Hanh’s Living Buddha, Living Christ, another book in the category of “should have already finished this.” I have four additional books available as possibilities, should I finish these by Easter (it isn’t totally out of the realm of possibility, no matter how unlikely it looks), but I’m leaving the reserve spaces open in cases one of the books above leads me down a different path.
Niftily, I bought no new books in order to compile this list, which befits one piece of Lent for me–I am buying no books for myself during this season. Not old, not new, none. Want to talk to someone who has compulsion problems? Come visit my library house. I typically read four or more books simultaneously, and I’m ever on the hunt for a new fix. So, I’m going cold turkey. No book purchases for me. Nor will there be any made “for G” (uh, not that I ever do that). I practiced reading only what was around this weekend, while sick. I finished Watchman, Let the Right One In (which I started when the movie came out and hated; I can’t figure out what I hated so much now, as it was quite good), and Satanic Panic: The Creation of a Contemporary Legend. Two were household books and one was a Library loan.
I can do this. I mean I wasn’t jonesing for a trip to the bookstore or anything. Really.
On that same vein, I noted that two of the above were books I have begun (repeatedly in one case) and not finished, either because I got distracted or got wrapped up in one piece of the book and went rabbiting off to the next related notion without finishing. It seems important to me to work on this habit of mind–write down the ideas that threaten to send me off track and explore them later, after finishing the book or task at hand. Not surprisingly, that habit of distraction is one that made my dissertation experience such a chore (as is true of so many others). But, several of my goals for the year involve sitting down and composing articles and redrafting the beast, er, dissertation, so I think I need the practice of being here, being present with this one activity, one book, one moment.
That alone would be a radical transformation.
Yes, so this year, however, I’m taking what will sound like a familiar tactic to many and giving up things for Lent, including the books mentioned above and, to my son’s horror, I’m giving up consuming meat. Yes, yes, I’m going veggie (vegetarian, not vegan, for those who are concerned about such distinctions). My muse on the path is Isa Chandra Moskowitz, she of the Post-Punk Kitchen, alongside the Moosewood Collective (of course, my family would probably point out that as muses go, these are hardly new ones for me). I am not dragging the fam along for the ride (mostly); they get to consume whatever meat G or I happen to prepare.*
I expect this to be a most interesting season.
*G and TG are actually going along partway, given that I accidentally scheduled a few veg-friendly meals along the way. Usually new recipes, and they do so enjoy being my test subjects.