New Civilization News: Austerity and Sunbursts    
 Austerity and Sunbursts7 comments
14 Mar 2004 @ 16:00, by Craig Lang

According to traditional Christian teachings, the season of Lent is one of preparation and austerity. It is a time when the faithful prepare for the tragedy of the Cross, and the promise of the Resurrection. I thought about this in a slightly different way this morning, as I looked out the window at a gray March sky.

The first word that entered my mind, to describe the morning, was that very term, "austere". It was a bleak, blustery sky, with a cold wind out of the north. There were a few flakes of snow floating in the air. The brief flicker of spring warmth seemed to have been snuffed out by the chill resurgence of winter, a reminder that winter was not finished yet.

I have never considered myself a traditional follower of any religion, even though I was raised a Lutheran. But I was taught all the traditional teachings - including those about Lent. And somehow this day seemed to perfectly echo the traditional lenten theme - a time of sparseness and of preparation for the challenge and the hope that lies ahead.

I had been sick for most of Friday and Saturday, with a roaring sinus infection. It had forced me to miss a day of work at a time when our project is at it's busiest. It had also forced me to miss the monthly Minnisota MUFON UFO investigators meeting. And thus, I was not be able to give the talk I had put together (those who know me, will know that thngs have to be pretty extreme for me to miss a MUFON meeting... :-) ... ). All in all, it was a less than pleasant turn of events from what had eariler promised to be a fun and interesting weekend.

The day on Saturday was instead spent mostly asleep. When awake, it was occupied with sipping echinachea tea and trying not to feel too disappointed at the turn of events. It was a time of trying to stay focused in the present moment - and I realized that perhaps, this was the lesson that the Universe was trying to teach me on this day.

Maybe the point of the day was the necessity of avoiding attachment to outcomes. Maybe the lesson was once again, that of mindfulness. It was one of those lessons that each of us can espouse so easily, especially after reading books such as Eckhart Tolle's "The Power of Now". Yet when the chips are down, it can be so hard to actually put this wisdom into practice. Perhaps, I decided, the Universe felt that once again, I needed yet another lesson in how to be Mindful - and so this one came in the form of a sinus infection and a missed UFO investigators' meeting.

The next day, Sunday, I felt alot better - still a bit cruddy, but at least passably human. I managed to drain my sinuses by means of a hot shower (a small portable Roto-Rooter would have been nice), to eat breakfast and to get ready for Church. The sky was gray and depressing outside, and closely matched my mood. A very gray cloud hung over this human as he got dressed and ready.

A short time later, having eaten breakfast, Gwyn and I were off to church - with me looking forward to my usual nap during the sermon :-). But today, I was captured by the message in an entirely different way. The sermon was on Lent - a very brief(!) talk by the minister on the emptiness that seems to come in preparation for the Christian holy days. I smiled as the gears started turning in my mind (and as this article began to take shape).

One key point was that the time of preparation, then of pain, ends up as a time of resurrection and of hope. The master theme of the story is just this - that what, at one moment, may seem to be the most hopeless, can actually turn out to be our greatest joy. And this was the message that got my attention. And as the service ended, and a brief social hour began, my spirits felt trememdously uplifted by this thought.

As we stepped out of church and headed off to our next destination, a nearby lunch counter for after-church coffee and conversation, I noticed that the clouds had begun to part. The sun shone through the breaking cloud deck. Blue sky was starting to replace the gray of the morning. To me, it was as if somehow God was accenting the message I had just heard, that after darkness and gray comes hope and light.

I looked up at the sunburst and smiled as we got into the car. Life in the present moment can truly be sunny and beautiful.


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7 comments

15 Mar 2004 @ 02:30 by jazzolog : Hope
Thanks Craig. Everybody wants the Mountaintop Experience. But a time of fasting and wander in the desert gives us true strength as well. I love a Sabbath such as you describe here.  


15 Mar 2004 @ 08:27 by martha : I believe the real
message is that in the darkness and grey there is always light. Thanks for the glimpse into your life. The season of lent has been a large factor/influence/energy in my life and yet I practice no religion. But the most life transforming experience in my life occured during this time.  


15 Mar 2004 @ 09:09 by azangel : Peace...
I have been where you were Craig, as I too, am recovering from a cold. I also slept most of Saturday. This winter has brought much introspection for me. After living in AZ for almost 7 years, this Minnesota season has definately been a HUGE adjustment for me. It comforts me to know that I am not alone. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for bringing me a sense of peace and hope that spring will arrive. There are many events occuring in my life right now... many endings. With closure, sometimes comes grief. You have given me the courage and peace of mind to focus on the new beginnings that await me. Thank you again.  


15 Mar 2004 @ 11:40 by jmarc : IANAC
I Am Not A Catholic. Never been one,and it doesn't hold any attraction for me , but i have found that observing lent in some fashion can be the most natural and rewarding thing to do. This time of year in the northern hemisphere is the toughest, especially for those of us who's work is seasonal. The acts of austerity that we commit to can be rewarding and quite beneficial, as they give us a chance to exam what is superficial, and what is important in our lives. It's also fun to splurge a little and get wild on fat tuesday, before we commit ourselves to our lenten fasts.;) And when it's over, maybe we find that whatever we gave up during the lenten period wasn't so important after all.  


15 Mar 2004 @ 12:36 by craiglang : IANACE .... :-)
I Am Not A Catholic Either... :-)
I was raised a Lutheran (which in many ways can be very similar). Though I have always been Christian, as soon as I left the family home's front door my actual religious affiliation became "ambiguous", where it has remained until relatively recently.

As you said, I tend to find the concept and practice of austerity to be very meaningful - although in this case, the austerity was more emotional than material. It is the sense that hope comes with adversity that I really find - well - hopeful.  



15 Mar 2004 @ 14:44 by jmarc : ianace lol
lately i've been referring to myself as an Mystic Ecclectic Nondenominational Christian Hermetic. But that's such a mouthfull, i usually just avoid religious convrsations.  


15 Mar 2004 @ 14:52 by craiglang : MENCH: a new religious ACRONYM
So does that make you a MENCH (Mystic Ecclectic Nondenominational Christian Hermetic)? ... :-)

(Note: We gotta find some type of Mouthful of Verbiage (or MoV) that we can abreviate as ACRONYM)  



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