Content Note for food, fasting.
It is Shrove Tuesday, or to give it it’s more down to earth name, Pancake Tuesday. Today marks the start of Lent. Lent is a period set aside for fasting, contemplation and preparation by Christians as they approach their most holy mystery, that of the empty tomb.
It is not just Christians who have a period of fasting in their traditions. Buddhists and Muslims among others have a specific time of year where they try to prepare the body and mind for their contact with the divine. For fasting is seen to not only affect the body, but to clear the mind.
Historically fasting has meant abstaining from food. It has been the production and consumption of food that occupied so much of people’s time and energy. Food was tied up with major celebrations in a way that our Christmas turkey is a pale shadow of. When you live a life where a bad harvest can lead to death and starvation food is central in a way it is hard for us, with our chest freezers and cupboards groaning with food, to understand.
February, the month when Lent usually starts, was also known as the hungry month. The stored, salted, and dried food from last years harvest ran out, but the new spring crops were not yet ready. It was a month of getting by, with an eye on better times. In many ways our ancestors were making a virtue of a necessity. Our modern concerns are less around feeding ourselves, or our families (although the rise of food banks shows that for many less privileged than me food is a primary concern). With this in mind I am not giving up the usual sweet treats this lent, instead I am having 40 days off Facebook.
For me, as for so many, my surplus is of distractions, the way I treat myself is with a few rounds of candy crush, the way I mark a celebration is by up loading the pictures to Facebook, properly tagged and geo linked to say “I was here”. Along with many others I perpetually cry that I have no time, whilst I fill the time I do have liking cat pictures and reading articles I would have never clicked on without my news feed.
Habits can be one of the hardest things to break, especially when we have decided they are a treat, our reward for a busy day. However when something becomes a habit we cease to consider its usefulness to us, or even whether is it harming us.
So 40 days without Facebook. In itself it doesn’t sound like much, but I am already planning to read more, to perhaps go back to keeping a personal daily journal, to use the time, since time is my most precious commodity. I intend to no longer say “I don’t have the time.” Instead I hope to look at my life and wonder what I need the time for, and how I can best use it.
You may not be religious, I do think though that whatever your belief looking at your life and thinking “what can I give up to make my days more full of the things I believe matter” can only be positive. What habits currently take up space in your life that you need for other things?