Strengthening your Faith- In Yourself too
By Nadia O’Brien
I often look at my two dogs in wonder- they eat the same food every day, yet they do not complain, they stare at me, most of the day, yet they don’t get bored, they don’t watch tv, read books, play games on the internet, yet they are content. I am not just in awe of them- I wish I could be more like them. I wish I knew how to be happy with living a simple and meaningful life. I wish I were not stuck in the vicious cycle of craving, needing, and wanting more from my life.
How difficult were the first few months of quarantine for you? Did you get bored? Run out of things to do? Imagine the first-ever lockdown in the plague-riddled Florence in 1720 – a world quite different from the one we live in. How did people stay occupied without the internet, ps4s, smartphones, tv serials? My guess? They ‘kept the faith’.
How many of us can genuinely say that we do not enjoy the hustle and bustle of life? Sure, sometimes we do get too busy to go for dinner to a friend’s house or laze on the sofa and binge-watch Friends. But if you had to pick, I mean, really pick, would you prefer having too much to do or nothing to do at all?
I asked myself this same question, and then I realised how caught up I was in always doing things, how much I thought I enjoyed it, and how badly it was affecting me. The system that has increased physical and mental health risks exponentially has created such a concept as over-qualification, has overworked and exhausted us in every capacity, has made us forget to love ourselves and how to have real relationships with people, has also managed to drag us so deep into itself that we, as customers, are now the most integral part of its existence.
It is now that we most need ‘to keep the faith’. Faith, irrespective of whether it’s in Jesus, Krishna, Durga, Buddha, Allah, the Universe or Science, is about believing in something bigger than you and me. It is about having an anchor to hold your cool and keep you grounded. My faith in the Lenten season gives that to me.
For those of you who have no idea what “Lent” means, put quite simply, the 40 days of Lent is to Catholics what Ramzan is to Muslims, what Navratri is to Hindus, and what Saga Dawa is to Buddhists. It is our most holy time, a month of self-reflection and physical, spiritual and emotional cleansing.
During the Lenten season, members of the church practice penance and “give up” that which they are the most attached to. It is through periods like these that we solidify our faith and our faith, in turn, strengthens us. The whole point of it is not to be swayed by the material, but to make healthy choices, and reflect.
For a heavy drinker, giving up alcohol saves their life, for a chain-smoker, giving up cigarettes saves their breath, and for an ardent meat eater, giving up meat would protect a few lives on the planet. Their faith acts as their anchor. It gives them a reason to hold on, something to keep them grounded, a reason not to give in.
Lent holds much more significance in the chaotic contemporary world we live in, where everything is about financial gains, profiting off people who have less, and on and on it goes. The market never goes to sleep. It never runs out of things to sell, and it never runs out of consumers- people to sell it to. We criticise the market, forgetting that it is consumer-oriented- it would not run if not for us. It comes up with the most bizarre things to sell, and even the die-hard Marxists continue to give in to their mainstream marketing techniques. This consumer-oriented market has made us greedier, more materialistic, more selfish, and continues to widen the gap between those who have and those who do not.
Entering a colourfully decorated store during Lent makes resisting a whole lot more complicated. The clean white shelves, sweets that burst and crackle on your tongue, mugs that change colour depending on whether the drink is hot or cold, doughnuts filled with custard, chocolate-coated biscuits, crispy, deep-fried chicken, and the cinnamon-scented candles- suddenly appear so much more colourful, delicious, and appealing. You cannot have it, and that makes you want it more.
You can smell the freshly printed books, yet you cannot buy them. The Amazon Sale is on, yet you cannot cash in your shopping cart. You long to feast on gol gappas (or puchkas or pani puri), bhel puri, pav bhaji, and dhaba chai, yet feasting is a luxury you do not have. You are in a constant tussle between faith and the human nature of wanting more. Which do you pick?
Lent helps you acknowledge your privilege. To live without what you do not need. Lent teaches you to slow down and realise what is most important in your life. I realise I don’t need it to be Lent, or even be a Christian to pick up and imbibe every lesson that it has to offer – to stop, wake up and smell the coffee, feel the sun on your face, find your anchor- something that pushes you onto the right path, something that helps you grow, learn and thrive. That’s Lent for me!
Pause. Introspect. Evolve.