Lent began Wednesday.
That's the 40 days or so before Easter and the Resurrection. It's a particularly Christian sort of thing.
It's also the reason for Mardi Gras — the Fat Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The idea, I think, is that people get a chance to indulge in everything they're supposed to give up for Lent.
Seems to me that most people forget that giving up part, but hey, that's our modern world.
Where did this giving up thing come from anyway? It is a recurrent theme in many religions, not just Christianity. We often hear about the guru fasting to come closer to spiritual reality. Priests and monks back into antiquity reportedly did much the same to focus on God.
Give up eating and drinking for any length of time and you're going to start seeing something, for sure. Whether it is spiritual reality might be up for debate.
I've been taught that the 40 days is related to the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert before he began his ministry. But there's also the time he spent preparing to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Bottom line, it does make sense to me to mark the time of year by giving something up. I've done the chocolate thing. I gave up cursing one year. Another year, I gave up eating liver (that was an easy one).
I thought I might try to do something a little more meaningful. So I've decided to give up trying to control things I have no control over.
That might sound easy, but it isn't. It's simply human nature — at least my human nature — to try to make the world around us conform more to what we want it to be.
That's the reason for tons of good things, by the way. Trying to help the homeless, or more abstractly end homelessness, stems from a desire to make the world a better place. At its core, that's trying to control an issue.
Control is the number one reason why people get into politics. When we agree with what they do, it's called making a difference. When we disagree, it's called power grabbing.
On a personal level, I often try to control what happens in my life — where I work and what I do there, when my family is going to get this or that project done, what this charity or that concentrates on, how my city is going to tell its story, who will get that next bit of approval — on and on.
There's a fine line between taking responsibility for your actions and acting like you are responsible for what happens. Sometimes, you're just not the decider.
We've all used the excuse that "there were circumstances beyond my control." Well, in the wisdom of my old age, I'm discovering there are few things that are within my control. The problem is, I keep forgetting that, and I go back to trying to control things.
You're probably tired of me quoting the Serenity Prayer, but I'm going to do it again anyway. It goes, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
For Lent, I'm going to concentrate on the first part and give up the second part. Maybe, just maybe, it will help give me that third part in a small way.
I can't wait for Easter. Maybe there's a way I can make it come faster. Nah.