Blogging for Lent
In Anglo-Catholic churches, we confess on Shrove Tuesday (before pancakes) and atone for our sins over Lent. Lent is one season a year when we're invited, with the rest of the church, to take our own place in the world a little more seriously, to inquire as to how we're doing every single day, to invoke some ritual that will draw our attention back to that fundamentally difficult problem, am I making a difference? (or the more fearsome question that follows it, could I do better?)
Lenten rituals usually focus on a particular sin. Folks concerned with consumerism or gluttony or self-indulgence give up chocolate; folks concerned with their own lack of seriousness commit themselves to serious reading every evening, deep meditation, or prayer.
Penniless dissertation-writers are rarely accused of either gluttony or a lack of seriousness. So when I go to the confessional tomorrow, I'll be having a chat with God about my personal sin for the year, vanity. Yes, vanitas, the antique-sounding sin that reminds us of mirrors, with the strange double-meaning. Caring too much about oneself: she examined herself carefully in the vanity. In the other sense, wasting time: Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.
The senses bear examination: the first sense, dwelling too much about one's own self, looking in the mirror, wondering about one's prospects for success, being overly concerned with the judgments of others (one advisor's rather than God's?); the other, worrying about trivial things rather than higher things. Thinking to much of oneself and not enough about the world. Thinking one can accomplish everything and not doing the little things. Pretty much the same thing.
So this year I'll be blogging for Lent. Blogging, because there is nothing to make us remember how little one can do like blogging for a small readership, as most bloggers ultimately do.
The New England Puritans kept diaries only for their family -- a small audience, large enough to combine into a city upon a hill and a light to the nations. The million and mounting bloggers do the same, except that now, all their thoughts are archived in public -- an entire open library of Lenten meditations, the proud, the wise, the vain, all reciting what's important to them in public, some with self-knowledge and some with none. Here's to looking at vanity.
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