Giving up for Lent


For many Christians today is the beginning of misery. Not recovering from the hangover of Carnivale, but rather starting with the 40 day self-deprivation over Lent.

Many religions feature periods of deprivation – Islamic Ramadan, Jewish Yom Kippur, What is it that makes such a painful tradition so pervasive and enduring?

Perhaps is the strength such deprivation gives us. Nassim Taleb describes in his book “Antifragile”…

  • “Deprivation is a stressor…There is this antifragility to the stressor of the fast, as it makes the wanted food taste better and can produce euphoria in one’s system. Breaking a fast feels like the exact opposite of a hangover.”

My most acute experience with such deprivation was living for a year in Togo, West Africa in the early 1980s. The world was a lot less “global” back then and there are no Internet, no Starbucks, no McDonalds in Togo even. In fact, I can’t remember anything from the USA sold in the stores there. They did have a few grocery stores with a limited stock targeted at the upper crust ex-pats and government officials, but priced way out of my budget. So I enjoyed the local fare. But when an American visitor arrived with something like Oreos or M&Ms, it was like manna from heaven. Rarely in my life has anything tasted so euphorically delicious as that single Oreo cookie I was offered.

Absence may make the heart grow fonder, and abstinence makes the appreciation grow stronger.