Tuesday, 9 February 2016
Lent, a time to cleanse and reflect
Well, this is it! Once again - for me, the 25th Lent in a row when I deny myself the pleasure of drink. And also meat, fast food, added salt, sugar, soft drinks, cakes, biscuits, confectionery, salt snacks... What's left? Fish, dairy, fruit, veg, bread, rice, pasta. And water.
This is the time of year to eschew the physical presence and focus on the Infinite, to ask the Big Questions regarding the human condition, the spirit, the consciousness. Why we live, what it's all for. To put under scrutiny that infinitesimally tiny chance that we exist at all. That we are aware of it as it passes.
Why? Time to step back, for 46 days, one eighth of the time it takes for our planet to orbit its star - time to contemplate. In awe, and in mystery. And to consider the how and why of our existence. Here we all are - busying away at our lives, getting on with it, facing the challenges of bank account and dentist and washing up and shopping - but what's it all for?
Over the next six and half weeks, between now and Easter Sunday, I intend, as I've done over the past years, to get serious about the nature of existence and the Universe. From the subatomic to the pangalactic. Here we all are, worrying about Brexit and Zika and Putin and Isis - and yet, out there, and in here, there is a Universe that we need to get to grips with.
Will it keep expanding for ever? Or will its expansion slow, will it begin to contract in upon itself? What is Dark Matter, that makes up the bulk of the Universe? Mere mathematics?
And - Most importantly - what is the purpose of it all? Why does the Universe exist at all? Does it have an aim? A goal? And what part in all of this does our own consciousness play?
There is a quest. A purpose. We strive to discover. And for me - brought up as a Catholic - the period of Lent is as good as any to concentrate on these questions, while at the same time going on a fast, a time of self-denial, that is linked to deeper focus on what matters most.
Touching the spiritual - if genuine, not a going-through-the-motions ritual, but a real experience of being in the presence of the Eternal - is not an everyday experience for most of us.
To do so requires a sensitivity, a yearning, an awareness that there is a quest going on; the aim is to make those moments more frequent in our lives, and that from them, we may learn and grow.
And that really big question is - what next. What happens after we die. We can only have an inkling, but what we feel, what we believe, does, I think, play a part in the outcome.
Join me then, in another 46-day pilgrimage in which I try to get a step or two nearer the Infinite, the Universal Singularity, a step further on the journey from Zero to One, a step closer (though we are far, far, away) to an understanding of God.
Click on the Human Spirituality and Lent labels for a rich back-catalogue of musings upon our condition.
This time last year:
It was 50 years ago today... Beatles arrive in New York
This time three years ago:
Adventures in the Screen Trade - the truth about Hollywood
This time four years ago:
This time six years ago:
Today's dose of wintery gorgeousness
This time eight years ago:
First intimations of spring