I like the correlation between lent and borrowed; that you can’t have one without the other. This time, this moment, this love, this air, this land – none of these are mine to own or control. We are all here for a fleeting moment, and illusions of anything else are laughable. I have a choice to see this fragility as something to be conquered, or as gift to be honoured.
Alain de Botton was on the 7.30 report last night [I only seem to watch the ABC at the moment. And listen to Radio National. I feel so old.]. He was talking about Religion for Atheists, which he’s in town promoting. None of his stuff was that new – people need ritual and rhythm; we, as a secular community, need to recapture the beauty and ‘beyond ourself-ness’ that religion offers – but he said a great line while talking about what practices can be learnt from religion: Make appointments in your calendar with important ideas. The lovely thing, de Botton says, that religion has offered is that it draws people to reflect on their humanness. We need communal days of atonement, for example; a reminder that seeking reconciliation is simultaneously a basic human need, and something we so often instinctively avoid.
It’s timely, with Lent right here, and me resentful of the dark umbrella of religion, to remember that there might be something I need to own this Lent: something about being human that Lent needs me to discover. I don’t yet know what it is. It’s not discipline. It’s not vulnerability. It’s not knowing I’m human. I’ll have to wait to find out.
I cried twice while watching tv last night. Making me cry is not an easy thing to achieve, but an earlier 7.30 story about aboriginal child suicide, and the Foreign Correspondent story on the treatment of Sahar Gul, a young woman in Afghanistan, both did it yesterday.
I am taking up letter writing this Lent. Every day i’ll write a letter or send an email to a politician about a human rights and justice situation I’m concerned about. Those two issues will be my focus. It’s really just coincidence that I’m doing it over Lent, but I like that Lent makes it a discipline rather than a choice. I’m not doing this to do good. I’m doing it to be human.