Shriven

Every year, Flavia has Pancake Day. The game is to see how many drunk people it’s possible to cram into her flat with every conceivable pancake filling available, and no space. Then the game becomes about finding the right pancake/alcohol balance for optimum hilarity. Being as I’m sexily abstemious at the moment, I thought I’d make myself useful in the kitchen so I turned myself into a one man pancake factory. There was a little squeezy pot of pancake mix with pink food colouring, so I could scrawl obscenities, political slogans, symbols, cocks, animals and disastrous messes on the pancakes before sending them out. Considering I was on nothing but tonic water, I was having way too much fun. By the end of the evening I had the scrawling and the flipping down to a fine art. Here’s Alex and I at the start:

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About halfway through I was shown a video of Cher singing every part in West Side Story. At first I thought it was a joke. But no. No it was Cher. Singing every part. I can’t work out if it’s brilliant or horrifying. Here’s a link so you can judge for yourself. You probably won’t manage the full 12 minutes. But you’ll get enough to wonder. Although you’ll never unsee it.

I kind of missed a trick by not drinking this evening. Tonight is the only official “last bender” in the Christian calendar. Pancake Day. It’s the last day before Lent. You confess your sins and you get shriven. Then you eat everything left in the house via pancakes before hitting your 40 day and 40 night fast in honour of Jesus in the wilderness and those locusts. Or was that John the Baptist? Easter is on April Fools Day this year. That would be a problem: “Jesus is risen! Ha ha no just joking.” The mathematicians among you will be shouting “But that’s 46 days away, not 40!” It is indeed. But it’s still only 40 days. How does that work? Well, you don’t have to fast on Sundays. I can get behind that. Me with my fundamentalist all or nothing take on self-denial. By those rules I can have a bottle of gin every weekend.

But the myth of Jesus’ temptation is a valuable one to contemplate. The meat of it is something we can all understand through our varied prisms. Three major temptations. We all have them to a lesser or greater extent in this lifelong war with ourselves.

First, hedonism. Satisfy the desires of the flesh immediately. Make bread out of a stone. Have one last bender. “Dry January doesn’t count for press night!” “Sundays don’t count in Lent!” Consumption of whatever you desire now, with no thought to the wider context. Pancakes! It’s a trap. If we never get a handle on our immediate desires we sink deeper and deeper into ourselves, and start to confuse consumption for contentment. Then we wonder why it is so fleeting and consume more and more. It’s a hard one to ignore as the economy needs it.

Second, egoism. “If you jump off this building, angels have to catch you because you’re important. Test it out.” “If I put loads of hashtags in my blog, more people will read it.” “I think my art/work is better than that person’s, therefore I’m a better person.” “I did a thing or knew a person that this person didn’t, so I’m an expert.” Me at the centre. I’m important/special/set apart. Another trap. We are so much less without our community. Everyone has something you can learn, even if (maybe especially if) their priorities and worldviews directly conflict with ours.

Finally materialism. “Worship me and you can be king of the world.” “I wouldn’t change if I won the lottery.” But would you? If you make a lot of money, win a lot, inherit a lot, would you start to conflate your wealth with your worth? Would you start to isolate from those less fortunate, thinking them somehow lesser? You see it happen a lot.

Lent is a time where Christians and all of us can look at these three traps. Through the simple measure of denying ourselves something we like (booze, Facebook, ostentatious shows of wealth?) we can connect to a deeper sense of ourselves, and find a deeper peace inside ourselves. Then at the end of it we can choose whether we really need that habit as much as we felt we did at the start when the immediate craving was still sharp.

Happy lenting people. I’m going to decide tomorrow morning what fuckery I do to myself. It might be sugar. It might be coffee. It might be social media outside of this blog. It might be all three. Or none. Or sex. That would be the easy one. But it’s sexy February.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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