Friday, February 23, 2007

My Lenten Revelries

I'm giving up soda for Lent this year. This surprises a lot of people, since I'm neither Catholic or Christian. But I quite like the idea of giving something up for 40 days every year. It's good for personal discipline, and giving up soda is also good for my health. I figure I average more than 250 calories of soda every day. If it's true that 4000 calories equals one pound of body weight, eliminating soda until after Easter will drop 2 1/2 pounds from my ever-growing body mass. I'm hoping it's all fat; I'd hate to lose a few pounds of, say, kidney. Or, worse, brain tissue.

I decided on a broad definition of "soda": any carbonated beverage, or any beverage made mostly from high-fructose corn syrup. This is mostly so I can't cheat. It would defeat the purpose of skipping soda if I replaced it with fruit punch or soda-fountain iced tea. So far, it's only been two and a half days, and it's been difficult; I had trouble having pizza for lunch today and not ordering a Coke with it. I'm hoping it gets easier, or at least more habituated.

A few years ago, I was discussing my Lenten plans with a friend of mine who's a Catholic priest. At the time I think I was exercising -- doing pull-ups every morning and every night for Lent. I said I like the idea of doing something every year for Lent to make yourself a better person, and that I appreciate that Lent can be more about improvement than about making oneself miserable. He said, "no, it's actually about making oneself miserable." In my post-Catholic warm fuzziness I had forgotten all about this; the purpose of Lent is, in part, to emulate Christ's suffering in the desert. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, shortly before he died Jesus went into the desert for forty days to fast and pray, and also to be tempted by the devil. I have a good mental image of this. And I can imagine that whatever we do for Lent to make ourselves miserable, it pales in comparison to what Jesus went through. Fasting is hard; fasting with Satan helping is much worse. I can picture the devil, pointy-horned and cloven-hoofed, hanging around with Jesus in the desert. I'm picturing the Prince Of Darkness in big Bermuda shorts and one of those hats with a sun umbrella attached, taunting Jesus: "I bet you're hungry. I can hear your tummy rumbling. Want some cake? I've got some yummy chocolate cake right here. Nice and fresh -- [devil licks icing from his fingers] -- mmm, good! Sure you don't want some CAKE? And, what goes really well with cake? Hey, look -- I've got a big glass of ice-cold milk right here. It's awfully hot here in the desert -- you sure you don't want some of this milk?" Multiply that by forty days, and you've got an idea of Christ's suffering. So I'm completely okay with my minor sacrifice of giving up soda in honor of that.

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