Hi everyone! Capt. Underpants here, from Great Orange infamy, reporting for duty. Thanks to aigeanta for the invite and for putting together this awesome site! I already like the improved sense of community here and the quality writing from lots of you. I only wish the timing of my invite was a bit better!
You see, I plan to be away for about six weeks due to Lent. Lent is a season modeled on Jesus' forty days of temptation, and is a penance taken in remembrance of the sacrifice that Christ made to assure us our salvation. One of the most memorable passages from the parable of the Temptation is when Satan appears before Jesus, who had been fasting for multiple weeks, offers him a stone from the ground, and says "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus then replied, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (Matthew 4:4) So Jesus invites us all to give up the "bread" of our earthly needs, materialistic concerns, and distractions that keep us from growing in the Spirit, and gain more sustenance from the teachings of God instead.
By the way, Lent isn't a season for Christians alone. Notably, there are no mentions of Lent in the Bible - it was created by the Catholic Church around the 4th century or so as a man-made remembrance. So it doesn't have to be about spiritual growth, per se - Lent is a good excuse for persons of *any* faith, or no faith, to examine their own lives and determine if your actions are aligned with your priorities. It's just easier to make lifestyle changes when you're doing it at the same time as a bunch of other people. So I invite all of you to consider if there is anything in your lives that you are doing, out of compulsion, laziness, habit, or whatever, that is keeping you from being the person you want to be. Would giving up those things for forty days help you get more of your lives back for what matters to you?
After my own reflection, I feel that my habit of following *so* much of politics is becoming harmful. The idea that many people have, myself included, is that following more of this stuff is more of a good thing - after all, don't we need to stay informed about the world? However, I feel that after a certain point, the time demands of following so many blogs, of engaging in so many online debates, and of sharing cute meme pics with political messages, all subsumes the desire to *act* on those things. If anyone has read Nicholas Carr's excellent analysis in The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, he spends some time discussing how the firehose of information coming from the Internet daily is making us more passive, which draws us more to the Internet to get our fix from the firehose, and thus creates a feedback loop that is hard to get out of. To try and break that loop, I've decided to give up following *all* politics, news, and social media for Lent.
And as high-information consumers of this stuff, we pretty much know how things will play out anyway. Obama and Democrats will furiously try to avoid the sequester, and will likely be forced into entitlement cuts as the price to pay for that (hell, he pretty much admitted in the State of the Union tonight that this is how it'll go down). There will be some sort of gun control and immigration bills that Obama will sign into law, but what passes will be weak tea compared to what *needs* to pass. And nothing will happen with regards to prosecuting those responsible for the war crimes of torture from the Bush administration, the financial crimes from the Great Recession, or from protecting the right of U.S. citizens to not be assassinated based on one person's say-so. At best, we know we live in an era where progress happens at a slow grind, if it happens at all. So missing a month and a half of the drama and distraction surrounding it doesn't seem too terrible to me.
It's true that taking a harmful behavior away isn't enough by itself - it needs to be replaced with a constructive action. For my part, I plan on replacing my blog time with spiritual growth, first and foremost. Prayer, bible study, and acts of kindness and humility will take a great deal of that time. I also want to spend more time playing with my kids, learning a new software platform for my job, and maybe make a dent in my huge reading list and pick up a novel or three. All those things will be great, but the question remains of what I will change about myself after Lent is over. I need to think about that some more, but I think I'd like to concentrate on one area of advocacy and really put my actions and passions towards that. A focus on one issue, with the expertise that would develop, seems to have a better chance at effecting real change than a general familiarity with everything might do.
Anyway, that's my plan. And I'm counting on you guys to catch me up on everything I've missed when I check back in Easter Sunday. I'm unplugging now, so I won't be reading your comments until then. My email addy is in my bio if you want to reach me for any reason. Hasta la pasta!