The Giver (Upper)

by Matt Benoit

Today, we’re going to talk about Lent.

Now, you might be asking yourself: Lent? Isn’t that the blue-colored stuff I often pull out of my belly button? No, that is lint.

So, you might again ask, what about lentils? No, those are those pea-like things that people often confuse with legumes. In Pullman, Washington, they actually have a gigantic lentil festival where people get waaaaay too excited about lentils, mostly because there is very little else to do there except watch the Cougars lose football games.

But, you might still argue (because you are too persistent in not wanting to be wrong), isn’t that a word that would come up in a conversation between my dad and my Uncle Rick, as in:

DAD: Rick, what’d you do with them pliers?

RICK: I lent ‘em to my neighbor, so’s I’m afraid I ain’t got ‘em right now.

But I digress.

Lent, and not lint or lentils, is the six-week period leading up to Easter in which many Catholics and Christians commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the woods (He just couldn’t bring Himself to eat those cute little squirrels) by giving up something in a righteous act of self-denial.

In other words, Lent is kind of like a New Year’s resolution, only a hell of a lot shorter. Still, most people usually keep their vows just as long, usually about 24-72 hours after making them.

Lent begins each year on Ash Wednesday (this year, Feb. 17), directly following the holiday of partying and excess better known as President’s Day (“Whooo, yeah! Washington and Lincoln! Gimme another shot!”).

Wait, that’s wrong. Actually, the holiday of partying and excess I should be referring to is, of course, Mardi Gras, which is French for “Marty’s Grass.” It is also known as Fat Tuesday, which is just one of a series of holidays whose titles include the day of the week they’re held on, including Blue Monday (a.k.a. Prozac Monday), Good Friday, Satisfactory Saturday, Palm Sunday, and, in following Ash Wednesday, Volcanic Pumice Thursday.

Many people sin as much as possible on Fat Tuesday before repenting and giving something up the next day when Lent begins. Besides considering what to give up for Lent, many struggle with what not to give up for Lent. Here’s an example:

Q: What is not good to give up for Lent?

A: Your children.

Q: Well, they really drive me crazy sometimes.

A: Yes, but that doesn’t mean you should put them up for adoption.

Q: Who said anything about adoption? I was going to sell them on eBay!

So what do you give up, then? Well, several leading bishops in Britain are calling for a “carbon fast” for Lent, and suggest giving up your iPod or mobile phone. Good luck with that one.

Our production editor, Emily Huntington, told me she’s giving up meat, alcohol, and caffeine, which means, essentially, that she’ll be draining almost all the fun out of her life.

Obviously, quitting things can be a great challenge, as Jake Gyllenhaal sums up so well in “Brokeback Mountain,” a Lent-inspired classic where he utters the famous line, “I wish I knew how to quit you.” Or maybe that was actually about gay cowboys.

Anyway, we at the Horizon had seriously considered doing a Whatcom Voices question for this issue involving Lent, but I was too afraid our responses would go like this:

ME: So, what are you giving up for lent?

A: Your mom.

ME: That was wildly inappropriate and wholly uncalled for. Put up your dukes!

We (me and this imaginary douchebag who insulted me) would then fight it out, throwing punches like Mike Tyson after being stuck with a horse tranquilizer, which is to say, not very well.

Then, exhausted from the sheer desperation involved in trying to hit each other hard and not really succeeding, we’d call it a draw, throw an arm around each other, and go drink some beer, which, coincidentally, I may give up for Lent this year.

And who knows? Lent could become as popular as ever, as I’ve actually been working on a Broadway show having to do with Lent:

ANNOUNCER: From the people who brought you the Broadway hit, Rent, comes something completely fresh and innovative—Lent: the Musical, featuring that hit musical number, “I’m Gonna Give It Up (at Least until Easter)”:

I’m gonna give it up

And I don’t care who knows it

I’m gonna give it up

I just hope I won’t blow it

On second thought, maybe I should just stick to giving up beer.

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