I Didn’t Go To Church Today

I am not a religious person. I had very few religious friends growing up and was indifferent to their beliefs. Despite being exposed to religion (I attended church and Sunday school until I was 13), I never adopted the church’s beliefs because none of it made sense to me. But I am not here to discuss the existence of God or dabble in the finer points of religion: I am here to talk about Lent.

Unlike my peers in Sunday school, I chose not to participate in the traditional giving up of an important part of my life for forty days to symbolize a story we’d read in class. While my peers suffered for a month and a half without candy or other childish extravagances, I calmly continued my life as usual, indulging in the things they could not and feeling an odd sense of satisfaction as I did. I was not raised to believe in the Bible; my parents brought us to church every week in a passive attempt to break my sister and me away from the television for a few hours while still living up to their parents’ expectations that they raise their children to be religious. Thus, Lent never meant anything to me. I understood the story in the Bible, but I did not see why my life should be affected by something that I only recognized as a work of fiction.

At Gonzaga, I have found that most, if not all, of my friends hold some sort of religious beliefs. Lent is now a more prominent part of my life than ever despite my not partaking in it. To be quite honest, however, I would not have known about it starting this year but for the countless Facebook statuses proclaiming, “I am giving up Facebook for Lent,” or “No more dessert until Easter!” I can name what most people are giving up even if they haven’t done this or I’ve never spoken to them: the news of what others give up is apparently fierce gossip at a Catholic school. Let me discuss the two categories of things of which I have heard of people giving up:

The things that people give up for Lent seem to be either indulgences or addictions. Indulgences include things like dessert, eating out, and partying (yes, I did hear of this one from an actual person). These are things that one doesn’t really need in one’s life to begin with; these are things that one adds to create pleasure. Often they are privileges that one is granted. These are ignorant things to give up for Lent. Abstinence from superfluous items in one’s life does not make one a better person. In many cases, others do not even partake in these things to begin with. And what happens when Lent ends? The superfluity begins again and one may once again indulge in something of which one deprived oneself for 40 days. Gluttony and destroying one’s body are free to run rampant for another 11 months.

Addictions are vast and numerous but usually include favorite foods, drinks, or activities (such as Facebook). Now, may I ask, why would one attempt to cease from exposing oneself to something to which one claims one is addicted? If one is truly addicted, then one would not be able to last for the full 40 days without this thing. And if one lasts the 40 days, what then? One will either immediately return to one’s old habits, thus proving only stamina and not the willingness to give it up, or cease the activity entirely, which only proves that it was an awful choice of something to give up. If one is able to come out of Lent and continue giving up the thing one chose, then all one did was use Lent as an excuse to break one’s addiction, making the choice to give it up completely meaningless. Why not choose another time to break the addiction and leave Lent to something one will actually want back by the time Easter comes, something that will not make one superfluous again?

My aim is not to denigrate anyone’s beliefs. Rather, I implore someone to come up with something given up for Lent that does not fit into either of these categories and let me know what it is, as I am very eager to hear it.

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Listen…

I went to a poetry reading last night and my class was assigned to reflect upon its effect on us. So here’s mine:

Before attending Li-Young Lee’s poetry reading, the only exposure to a similar event that I had in the past was in eighth grade when we studied the 1950’s: during the class’s final week we all dressed up as beatniks, wrote beat poetry, and read it to the class while drinking Cokes and coffee. Needless to say, I did not enter Li-Young’s poetry reading expecting it to resemble that event at all. I imagined a small crowd situated about a stool at the front of the room, where Li-Young would read his work from copious sheets of paper, his speaking unaided by a microphone. I imagined the audience’s immense enjoyment in the subject matter and a profound, personal connection between them and the reader. However, I feel that my experience was nothing like this. There was a poet, yes, but I did not feel that personal connection. I experienced difficulties both paying attention to his words and bonding to his presence. This, of course, was not helped by the fact that it appeared that many of the hundreds of students in attendance did not want to be there at all. As I walked to the Globe Room, I felt surrounded by alternating choruses of, “It’s just some lame poetry reading” and “What a waste of my time!” Although not wholly taken aback by these remarks, it did annoy me that they continued all the way up to—and during—the reading itself.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I love poetry. I embrace everything it has to offer and yearn to experience a deeper meaning and truly sense what the poet is attempting to get across to his or her readers. If anything, I felt more detached than ever during this reading. Although it was convenient to hear the poems as they were meant to be delivered, I felt an obvious difference between this reading and my own reading of his poetry. I felt like I was being dragged by the poet’s mundane tone of voice and was ashamed to see that the people around me seemed so disinterested that they were letting themselves be dragged along as well. I wished to be free of this, but I could not. I could not connect to the aural manifestations of the poems because I knew that had I read the majority of them beforehand, I would have felt something completely different. In essence, it was the overwhelming apathy of those surrounding me coupled with my allowing of the poet’s voice to drag me through the otherwise brilliant work that led me to have an unfavorable experience.

I am aware that poetry readings are ubiquitous in modern society and that people generally attend them by choice and are not forced to do so. This is not the end of my encounters with auditory poetry, though I cannot identify which of the variables of this event disinterested me the most between the overall carelessness of those around me, the combination of the poet’s voice and his presentation of the poems, the lack of a personal setting, or the poet himself. In order to fully grasp the satisfaction that I have heard arises from a successful poetry reading, I will have to experiment. I love poetry enough to continue this and believe that I will unearth a pleasing combination of the setting I seek. Although some may view this as an unfair judgment, as this is my first real poetry reading, I do not believe that a person must appreciate an event for the sole reason that it is their first of its kind. My first poetry reading was wholly an experiment: I successfully identified my major likes and dislikes and will apply them constructively to future readings I attend. At my next poetry reading, I will not enter expecting it to follow a certain set of guidelines; I will instead sit comfortably and wait for the environment to demonstrate its full potential.

Come On In, The Senility Is Fine

I do want to visit Reykjavík, Iceland someday.

Anyway, here’s a thought I started writing about a few months ago that was never really finished. I attempted to give it some closure, but I’m not sure how I did. I think it’s still unfinished. We’ll see.

There is a particular type of person that unknowingly annoys me to no end. The people who are good at absolutely everything are the ones who, come choosing a college or a major, could pick anything but choose something new because they know they will be able to handle it. These are the ones who get A’s in classes but don’t care for the course material as much as someone who might love the class and get a B. I prefer to acknowledge this distinction between those who care and those who find school so simple that they can go through their years without trying and virtually end up a better student than a person who cares to learn but cannot grasp the material as easily. I wish there was a greater opportunity in college admissions essays to express my love for a subject rather than prompts that yield no real insight, such as “Name a person who has influenced you and why” or “Describe your room.” (Along those same lines, I wish the admissions officers would read the essays rather than store them as a last resort for making a final decision.) What do the people who are good at everything — those who have never disappointed their parents with poor grades, who extend valuable insight in each of their classes as readily as if they are speaking in a social environment — do with the rest of their lives? While the rest of us focus our attention upon mastering a single subject, what do the people who long ago mastered all of the major subjects at a socially profound level accomplish by furthering their education? By my observations, they either choose something new or further their education in a “easy” subject in which they particularly excelled but held no real interest.

Moving on, my life hasn’t been terribly exciting lately. I started classes on January 13 and they’re all fairly good. I’m taking (as far as official class names go) General Psychology, Introduction to Criminal Justice, Survey of Western Civilization I, Studies in Poetry, Philosophy of Human Nature, Applied Flute, Wind Symphony and GU Chorale. But I just call them Psych, Crim (or Criminal Justice if I’m feeling ambitious), History, English, Philosophy, Flute, band, and choir. Because apparently “choir” is easier to say than “chorale,” or the concept of a chorale is still foreign to me. Whatever. If you guessed that I’m overloading on credits, you’re wrong. It’s still only (yes, “only,” compared to others) 18 units. I’d give a detailed description of each class if my desire was to bore whoever reads this to tears, but since I wish to retain my reputation as a somewhat kind-hearted person, I shall refrain from doing so.

I’m going to dinner in about half an hour and then going to wind symphony from 7-8, which should be fun now that we’re past the awkward sight reading stage. (Well, I suppose a short summary of wind symphony can’t hurt.) We’re playing “Lincolnshire Posy,” a six-movement piece composed (NOT A PUN) of the composer’s (there we go) arrangements of old folk songs. The time and key signatures are very odd because he — well, let’s give him a name! Percy Aldridge Grainger — wanted to keep each folk song as close to the original song as he’d heard it as possible. So we’ve got some 1.5/4 and 2.5/4 time signatures with multiple flats and sharps. The piece itself isn’t hard, it’s keeping up with the unfamiliar markings that is proving difficult. We’re not performing this until early March, though, and it’s sounding pretty good already.

Tent City is upon us. (Skip this paragraph if you detest sports.) The ticket distribution for Thursday’s and Saturday’s men’s basketball games occurred yesterday afternoon and since we’re playing St. Mary’s on Thursday, people are actually interested in going to the game because they’re our only WCC competition. There are at least 30 tents next to the intramural field full of people who will be at the front of the line for Thursday’s game. Everyone who isn’t sleeping outside who has a ticket won’t be able to enter until all of the tent people (or Tent People) have entered the arena. Then we will proceed to beat St. Mary’s and all will be well. Though we’ve never actually played a ranked team at home before, so that should be interesting. At least, not that I can recall. St Mary’s is currently #22 in the AP Poll and we’re #20. They’ve only lost one game, but they’ve only ever played unranked teams, whereas we’ve beaten Tennessee twice (they were hovering around #12 each time; one time we were ranked above them and one time we were ranked below them) and took UConn into overtime when they were #2 (we eventually lost, but I believe we actually went up in the poll). Basically, it should be an incredible game and I can’t wait to get there an hour early and get third row seats. Yay pep band!

According to the word count thing below the text box, I’m near 900 words. I think that’s a cue for me to stop or everyone will stop reading soon, if they have not done so already. I need to fix the clock on this, it’s two hours ahead. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this long, diverse entry and I cannot promise that another one will come in the near future.