For those of you who were up and about on Wednesday, Feb. 13, you may have noticed a few people walking around with some funny marks on their foreheads.
No, they were not the aftereffects of a particularly artistic cult gathering, nor were people training for the Color Run early. It was just Ash Wednesday, the day signifying the beginning of the season of Lent, which ends forty days later on Easter Sunday.
As a holiday of the Catholic Church, Lent is meant to be a time of personal sacrifice and examination for me.
I realize that the word “sacrifice” brings to the mind images of hearts being ripped out and corpses being flung down Mayan temples, but this is obviously not the type of sacrifice I am referring to.
…truly can be like a breath of fresh air…
I’m thinking more along the lines of skipping that late night snack, finishing your homework instead of watching that mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead or simply spending a little bit more of your time helping others than you normally would.
It is a Catholic tradition during the Lenten season to give something specific up, so that you can better focus your attention on spiritual enrichment and what truly matters most in life.
Personally, I have chosen to go my 40 days without television and a wide assortment of social media sites. And as someone who is currently keeping up with twelve, that’s right, twelve shows, and is also a daily visitor to sites like Cracked.com and Buzzfeed, this is a pretty substantial chunk of my free time we’re talking about here.
But I have to say, taking a break from the frantic and constantly updating world of media, even if it is so small a one as I have taken, truly can be like a breath of the fresh air you never knew you were missing.
In past articles I have argued the importance of television and other forms of media within our society, and I still wholeheartedly back that argument.
But it is good to be reminded every now and then that my life is not completely dependent on the presence of such media.
…distractions meant to fill in the gap created by my lack of incentive to actually go out and experience something meaningful.
Sure, I joke about how much it sucks that I still haven’t seen Leslie Knope get married yet, but in all honesty, there is a time and a place for television, and each year Lent helps me realize exactly what they are.
Ultimately, real life is greater than anything that can be put on a screen. The connections that I feel to my favorite characters on screen cannot even begin to match any relationships I could make with a physical human being.
I love television, and I love social media; I love the quick laughs, the overstretched dramas and all the awkward moments in between. In the end, they are nothing more than distractions meant to fill in the gap created by my lack of incentive to actually go out and experience something meaningful.
In this manner, television and other media like it are easy; easy to access and an easy way to forget your troubles and lose yourself.
But, to paraphrase the late and great Albus Dumbledore, sometimes we have to choose between what is right and what is easy. And if there is one thing that Lent has taught me, it is that media, and really any material things in this world, should not be the object of our focus.
If only for 40 days, 40 minutes or even 40 seconds, it is always good to consider something more, something bigger than yourself.