Not being much of a planner, I began to think this morning about what practice, if anything, I’d like to give up or adopt for Lent* this year.
In the past I’ve given up a variety of things, and have even decided to instead adopt something positive (though technically, Lent is not about adding, but about subtracting). But to be honest, I’m not sure it has been all that significant or meaningful, other than being a hassle to go out to eat when everyone else is eating meat or drinking beer or having chocolate cake for dessert.
But this morning as I began to think about today being Ash Wednesday, and whether or not I might do anything to acknowledge the season of Lent, the thought popped into my head—why not give up being full? I know what you’re thinking—fantastic cop-out and way to still get to eat whatever you want! Which, perhaps, it is.
But it strikes me that in our society of excessiveness, of having everything we could ever want or need almost immediately accessible, giving up being full is something that can have personal implications, but also potentially ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’ type implications.
What also strikes me is that ‘empty’ in our culture, is pretty much a negative word. Empty is what your fuel tank is when you are looking frantically for gas station. Empty is what a party is when it isn’t all that fun. Empty is what the milk is when you go to make your morning oatmeal (okay, maybe that one’s not all that mainstream). Empty is what you call the glass half full of—and that makes you into a pessimist.
Empty is a disappointment. Empty is lack. Empty is failure. Right? The practice of giving up something for Lent is overly focused on self-denial, puritanical (which is religiously ironic, Lent being a more Catholic emphasized practice), or simply pointless—why bother giving up anything, when you can have it so easily? Why go without?
But, it seems to me, full can become a burden. Full can become crowded. Full can become addictive. Full can become consumed (pun intended) with its own gratification.
So I began to wonder, this Lent, what giving up full might look like.
Might empty be room to breathe? Might empty be a beach that you have all to yourself—with miles of sand and crashing waves? Might empty be a space in which to relax, contemplate, or meditate?
As I sit here, still full from last night’s carne asada tacos on the way home from Carnival in Ensenada (not to mention the fish tacos on the way to Carnival), it is not hard to imagine empty as a good thing. That was hours ago and I am still full. Don’t get me wrong—they were delicious. And I also realize that there are those for whom this struggle, about empty and full, can become so intense as to lead to a disorder, whether that be one of eating or hoarding or…
But what my full from Carnival stomach is helping me realize, on a more metaphorical level, is that though there is a time to feast, there is also a time to refrain from feasting.
So, that’s that then. A lenten practice. Giving up being full—a fairly ambiguous and undefined one (which, of course, is my preference) but a practice nonetheless. Let the cuaresma begin.
*Lent, cuaresma in Spanish, the season that begins today, Ash Wednesday, and carries on until Easter Sunday—this year April 8.