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February 25, 2004

Ash Wednesday





Did I say Ash Wednesday was in March this year? Thatís what I get for looking at the internet cross-eyed. But then, this is a Holiday one might wish to put off. As my year 2000 laundry list of the unpleasantries of the Park indicates, itís a sort of negative holiday, and of those I observe perhaps the one most subject to my own peculiar interpretation. I donít pretend to celebrate it in any orthodox fashion, and I certainly donít enforce it as a specifically Christian occasion. Nor have I seen fit to mark the feasting and indulgence that traditionally precede it (though I did make mention in 2001.)

Itís worth remembering that compared to most people, now and throughout history, we live in relative luxury. For us, every day is Fat Tuesday. Which makes a period of self-enforced abstention all the more fitting, if that much less likely to be observed. Even if we grow too fat, we are apt to turn to the latest fad diet to offer the unlikely promise of weight loss amid indulgence. In America, even the poor may be fat.

But rich or poor, whatever we are used to comes to seem as no more than our due, while anything less leaves us wanting. So itís hard to take a step backwards. And yet, that seems to be my fate just now, as I am unemployed and without good prospects. And Iím getting fat. If Iím going to keep up with my own rhetoric, I suppose it behooves me to use this day as an opportunity to point myself in the right direction: not backwards, because my back is against the wall, but towards a future I cannot yet fathom.

This is not easy for me, as any optimism I may have displayed around here is only a prescription against my native pessimism and melancholia. At least I should know better than to trust my worst instincts. Despite my dark visions in 2002, the Park has not yet burned or been devoured by alien beetles. On the other hand, worse things have happened in the wider world, which I alluded to in last yearís post, one of a series of antiwar entries I felt compelled to produce.

It might be hoped that the troubles of the world at large would serve to put oneís own in perspective, but itís just as easy to see them as a hall of mirrors, amplifying one another into infinity. It doesnít make me feel any better that joblessness is widespread in America right now, or even that the situation may help to dethrone the odious regime in Washington. Not if the ďsolutionsĒ run to self-serving protectionism, when the real sin is that there are so many on Earth who are not fat, but rather so impoverished that they are eager to do our work for a pittance. Iím happy to give them the jobs, but I must have a pittance-and-a-half to survive.

Well, I know better than to say such things (though that doesnít stop me from saying them.) And I know that the best hopes are often unguessed at. Iíll survive, one way or another. And Iíll use such spiritual tools as I have in my kit to do so. The strictures of asceticism are a good place to start; not for nothing are they granted a place among the Holidays. Heck, with any luck Iíll find a miserable, low-paying job just in time to take me away from the best Spring birdwatching.
Happy Lent everybody!