There is a forty-day fast in Theodora, a spiritual conversion that I tried (very hard!) to write appropriately for the time and for the character.
When, as a Buddhist who grew up Catholic, I came to write this part of the book it was with both trepidation and also enthusiasm. Enthusiasm because I love the idea of a contemplative life, always have. Trepidation because I wanted to get it ‘right’ – yes to the time and historical accuracy, but more to the needs of the character. Many people have written about Theodora’s conversion, either as a a cynical lie, or as a blinding epiphany.
For me, being/becoming Buddhist, though I have been practicing 25 years, has been a much longer process of slow understanding, slowly taking in, slowly becoming. That probably makes sense, I’m sure, to the average western view of Buddhism as a calm/removed state of being (which is not – often – my experience!!), but it took much much longer than forty days for the solidity of my practice to become habitual, then ingrained, then part of me, I think it’s still becoming that.
We don’t need to be Christian, or Catholic, or faithful at all, to realise that the real usefulness of Lent – a time of consideration, of listening – a forty-day time of doing anything valuable is a fine thing. (ie, long enough so that it begins to become more than just a game.)
It is extremely old-fashioned to think of Lent as a time of giving up. Even when I was at school 35 years ago, we were encouraged to consider it as a time of doing more – praying more, thinking more of others, looking outside as well as in.
I imagine most of us can do with a time to do this, we don’t have to call it ‘Lent’, but the run-up to really-truly spring is as good a time as any to consider where we are, and what we’re doing.
I’m grateful to a complete stranger who prompted me to write today’s blog, by writing her own blog about my book. Thank you.
I love that this Buddhist, looking at that Orthodox saint’s life, gave a modern Methodist* something useful. If we all managed forty days of doing something useful, that might be a start?
We went to the funeral of a good woman this afternoon. A woman who most certainly was not about giving up – who did masses in her too-short life, who travelled and gave and loved and learned and didn’t stop and was still learning – actively studying – and planning to travel more, do more, be more when she died suddenly last week.
Life’s too short to do giving up.
*I gather the book can also be read by atheists with no ill effects.