Sunday, April 12, 2009

Losing Hope

The thing about Easter I've always liked is the season of Lent. It's better than the candy, which is never that great. It's better than the plastic grass, which gets on everything and ruins vacuum cleaners. It's even better than Easter ham, which is great when it's right out of the oven, but then appears to start sweating semen after it cools in the fridge for a day or so.

I like the idea of giving up something as a way to show devotion, as part of your path toward purification or centering or whatever you want to call it. This is different than giving up something because of a legal action. That hardly counts as anything spiritual.

Back when I was a Christian, and I was, there are pictures to prove it, I tried to embrace the season of Lent. I did this even when I was only a nominal Christian, back in college when I called myself a "seeker," which was short-hand for agnostic mystic who thinks crystal pendants are cool.

Over the years, there were many failures. The last big one was the year I gave up caffeine. This was on par with a fish giving up water, but I was serious about it. I stuck with it, and unfortunately, placed a bet on it. That year, I entered a cooking contest. As part of the thing, after the judging everyone went around with little paper plates and sampled a little of what the other contestants had brought. Without thinking, for dessert, I took a spoonful of chocolate mousse. It didn't dawn on me what I'd done until I'd taken two bites. I'd blown it with three days to go. I was heartbroken and felt like Judas for a couple of days. I also lost a lava lamp.

I'm not a Christian anymore. At the moment, I'd categorize myself as a backsliding Buddhist. I still completely get the message, but I've been behaving rather poorly for some time. I've had a few drinks here and there (very, very few). I've harbored deep resentment toward a variety of people and been on an uncontrolled, downward emotional spiral for a while. It has been ugly. The blog don't lie.

Part of this is a meditation problem. Meditation is good for clearing out the garbage in your head --I mean minus the ability to bend spoons and levitate that comes with diligent practice. I haven't been doing it. I've been avoiding it like going to the dentist.

Christians need to pray. Buddhists need to meditate. It's a pretty simple formula and hard to screw up. I have been.

Part of this is getting wrapped up in all the craziness of wanting things to go right. It's curdled hope. Hope, itself, is not a bad thing. There's nothing wrong with wanting tomorrow to be better or for me to hope I'll get a lucrative book deal just like my sister-in-law or to hope my wife will somehow manage to secure a couple of grand to put down on a house. What's wrong is turning hope into a kind of narcotic by saying life is only bearable if I get book deal or live in a home that doesn't look like it was decorated by the characters of Trainspotting.

In Buddhist terminology, this is referred to as "attachment."

So, we'll do this again. I'll call it my own personal Lent. I'm swearing off the self-pity and the self-loathing. I'll get back to meditating, too. Maybe it will work and maybe it won't, but I've got to try something. Even I'm getting sick of listening to me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a lifetime West Virginian, I can offer you this unofficial state motto: "Abandon all hope ye who enter here".

As a young man your age, I too had hope. This stupid idea kept me in a constant state of upset and turmoil. Once I resigned myself to my fate, things started to look up and peace came over me, because if you expect the worst around here, you'll NEVER be disappointed. And in those few times that something actually GOOD happens, you'll be satisfied in knowing that it wont last long and things will return to normal soon. :)