Friday, 10 April 2009

Good Friday

For once Ive taken Lent seriously - I think, for various reasons, I've needed to this year - and have nearly completed my chosen observance. It's not been easy but it's not been the hardest thing to do either. This year Lent has helped me to examine myself and my behaviour in more depth than before, but whether it has helped me actually move on, or just bog myself down in introspection I can't be entirely sure. Trying to rid myself of strong feelings that are no help - a sort of compacted, curled up mixture of love and anger - has been a constant thread of these last six weeks, and hasn't really been successful, if I'm honest. But I've appreciated the dedicated time to focus on it. Lent isn't a wonderful time of year, to be sure, but it is a kind of ritual, a reminder, like other seasons, feasts and holidays, that there is a kind of narrative structure to life, and that we can grow as people by taking part in it. Ritual generally is a difficult thing to get hold of: I tend to think we have sublimated it into routine, especially the routine of work, because doing things within a pre-ordained structure does, sometimes, give us a kind of extra freedom to act. Routines give us location and stability and sometimes then the confidence to strike out on something, whether it be a project or a decision. Rituals act in a similar way. The other thing the two have in common is that to some extent they are shared experiences. Sharing a setting like this can also help with the stability and confidence you need to act.

Peace is a strange thing and I often think I run a mile from it. Last night I went to church for Holy Thursday and waited around at the end to watch the Host in the tabernacle - in imitation of the disciples waiting for Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. The total silence was seductive, and I sat there for a while, trying to loosen the chunks of irrelevance and pained introspection that naturally clog my mind up in such moments. It worked, I sat there in a kind of meditative quiet, but then the rubbish came floating to the surface again, and unwilling to make the effort to continue, I left.

As an aside a recent article by Simon Barnes in the Times pointed out that sporting achievement - for anyone, regardless of ability - where you push yourself hard, and do what you never thought you could - was the closest we come in the West to a form of meditation, in that it involved emptying out thought and anxiety and focusing in entirely on the one thing, existence, whose possibilities you are exploring. I found his argument entertaining but again not relevant to me. Exercise - running for 4 or so miles say - is a constant lecture in pain by my suffering, lazy body. I watch the distance all the time, focus on mentally whinging about minor aches and irritations and eventually stop, sometimes having pushed myself to my goal, sometimes not. I can see the potential for meditative time in this, but it doesn't work for me.

SO here we are at Good Friday, the commemoration of Jesus' death, his fear of death, his submission, his faith, the curious modernity of Pilate, the waiting. Not my favourite day by any means (can't bear the fasting) but one whose rhythms and rituals make me think again about the meaning of faith and the possibility of sacrifice. Not that I want to think about it, or even think that I could ever sacrifice anything for another person...but then, that's the point, I suppose.


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The Tin Drummer said...

Thank you Sweet (I may call you sweet, mayn't i?) Alas I don't even know what my demons are yet, except that they are currently indivisible from my love. This is the whole knotty problem.
I'm really glad you scent personal change in the post though: every change I think I have gone through in the last 10 years has turned out to be an illusion, or a delusion, so if you scent real change, that must be good.

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