"You are what you eat" the saying goes. I have found this to be false since I am not yet a Wheat Thin (my favorite since I was a kid). Of course, I'm not an anything thin at this point, and so maybe that's the point. Obesity, in fact, has become the health issue of our day - and the reason is pretty simple - we eat a lot of junk - stuff that didn't even exist 100 years ago makes its way into our bodies and presents challenges that our systems don't really handle well.
But, what about what we feed our minds? If you look around these days, you will generally see two things in people's hands. Cheetos (or some other form of junk food) and a cell phone. I know I have eaten Cheetos when I am not hungry, and I certainly read articles when I am not really interested. I think we have become addicted to junk information. And, like junk food, our minds don't handle junk information very well. Tension, anxiety, a general sense of nervousness, inability to concentrate, no patience for deep conversation or thought...
Think about the time spent going from Facebook to Gmail to Choose-Your-News-Platform and back again. Ever done that? Check Facebook 5 minutes after you looked at it to see if there was anything else? Go back to Yahoo news and read the same headlines as 10 minutes ago?
It's like junk food, or soft drinks - notice how soft drinks don't really satisfy? Ever met anyone that was nearly continuously drinking a Coke? Or a Diet Coke? Or, had that moment when you were trying to talk to someone, and their "smart" phone chimes, and you are forgotten in the immediate urgency of the need to see what happened? And you ask, "What?" and are told "Nothing"? And then your phone chimes?
Junk information is making our minds fat and destroying our potential.
All these things, junk food and junk information, satisfy something called concupiscence. Big word that simply means, at its core, appetite. We all have appetites - and in and of itself, there is nothing wrong with having an appetite - it keeps us from starving to death. And from remaining ignorant. We also have an appetite for knowledge. But, since The Fall, our appetites are disordered, subject to passions not controlled by our intellect or our will. And, just like the insatiable need for empty calories, we have developed an insatiable need for empty information. Yet, knowledge and information are not synonymous. We pour empty calories into our brains - information that you can't really use for anything.
And so, we have Lent - an attempt to, among many things, control our desires rather than have our desires control us. An attempt to reconnect with the source of knowledge, and the goal - God.
A worthwhile Lenten observance then is to do what some have done - give up Facebook, or otherwise "unplug". And what do we get out of this effort? Well, let's tally:
- Time - time to do something else, like pray.
- A Stronger Will - concupiscence saps one's strength - turns us into slugs. Passing up the donut on the way to the gym or passing up some mindless "news" story on the way to the Bible - both have a return on the investment.
- True Relaxation - the frenetic pace of information flow is taxing - and void of value. Most of it is useless or even meaningless out of context. Stop watching the news for three days and note your anxiety level. It will drop.
- Opportunity to Re-connect - with spouse, family, friends.
- Time - time again for God.
The Devil is the Great Distractor - I am convinced that his weapons of choice today are Facebook, iPod, and The Bachelor.
Take this Lent to stop eating mental junk-food and replace it with food that has fiber, vitamins and essential minerals. Pray daily, even if it is just first thing in the morning, "God, I give this day to you, guide me", and in the evening, "God, thank you for this day." Crack open the Bible you have and, beginning with a short supplication to hear God's word, read, even just a little.
For us Catholics, take the time you would be watching some mindless movie on Saturday afternoon, and go to Reconciliation.
Get mentally and spiritually fit this Lent. Deny yourself.