Why I Gave Up Giving Up
by Rob Cottignies
I've been slowly reading a book about the world's religions, oddly titled The World's Religions. I've read about Ramadan, Lent, and Yom Kippur, all of which deal with fasting and/or giving up something dear. I decided to test the waters with Lent by giving up hot sauce. This may sound menial, but those who know me well know that this was a huge sacrifice. I put hot sauce on almost everything- Tapatio on rice, Trader Joe's hot sauce on eggs, El Yucateco (green) on pizza, and sriracha on the remainder. This example of pickiness should tell you how serious I am about hot sauce.
So, I really enjoyed the idea of Lent: giving up something I regularly use and enjoy for forty days. Since March 5th, I've had many meals which would have tasted splendidly with the appropriate hot sauce, yet denied myself with pride and several instances of whining and pouting.
I gave up giving up after twenty-two days, which is more than half and I'm trying to convince myself was a worthy accomplishment. While talking with my dear friend Sam, who gave up alcohol for Lent, we decided that life was too short to deny ourselves of goodness. Granted, many people have little goodness, but shouldn't I embrace the goodness I do have by enjoying it? How selfish and pretentious would I be by saying 'I have so many wonderful things. I might as well refuse one of them for six weeks for no reason'?
And 'no reason' goes straight toward my second cause for the ceasing of Lent- there's no point for me to do this. I study religions but am not religious; therefore depriving myself of hot sauce ultimately only hurts me because I don't subscribe to the religious implications.
This was a nice experiment for me and I applaud those who stick with their period of self-denial. I plan on doing this again with hot sauce and other things, but randomly and for maybe one week at a time. To honor the teachings of Jesus, I did not return to hot sauce in some extravagant manner. I've known people who lasted for all of Lent only to binge on Easter, thus missing the point completely. It's about self-discipline and moderation. I had an average meal and put what I remembered to be an average amount of hot sauce on it. As for Sam, his sobriety is still to be determined.
There is no possible way I could properly observe Ramadan but Yom Kippur is Friday, October 3rd. This is about twenty-five hours of fasting and self-reflection. I won't pray but will likely meditate and read during the period. Who's with me?