It is not an accident that we settle into spring training just as the season of Lent descends upon us. If you’re a Catholic, especially in this town, such a turning of Earth demands a complete change of life and diet, a commitment to penance and spiritual renewal. I myself plan to make everyone’s life around me horrible. I’m giving up sugar. Wish them the best.
There’s a coffee shop here on the West Side that just opened a few months ago (I almost modified that with “new coffee shop” but then I realized that we have no coffee shops to begin with, unless you count the dispenser at McDonald’s, so to have “a new one” is to say… “one.” Per aspera ad astra, purveyor of lattes in the Land of the drive-through pony keg.) And the coffee shop just announced that it will include egg salad on its menu for the next six weeks. “You get us,” I typed appreciatively in the comments, next to an emoji of the Vatican flag.
Lent arrives just as we’re most prepared for winter to be over. It forces us to acknowledge that no, we have chosen to live where the air and the things coming out of it hurt us, and yes, we’re going to complain about it, and then never leave. It demands a complete re-evaluation of our most basic spiritual underpinnings. “Why do we live here?” we ask ourselves.
In spring training it’s easy to want to leap ahead to the full season, with its lack of viruses and ability to walk outside secure in the knowledge that the weather is probably only going to do one thing: Be hideously humid. But we know the squad we’re seeing is not the full squad, and the players surging now could well be in traction by May. We gotta wait a while.
That’s Lent, too. You want a Peep but if you dislike the people around you enough to give up sugar for 40 days, you gotta wait a while. Lately, there’s been a movement on to move away from giving up items for Lent and instead do more. To practice, I tried to pray a Rosary today, and because this can be a lengthy, concentration-heavy process involving 53 Hail Marys and 6 Our Fathers and any amount of suddenly finding yourself deep in thought over why they don’t make cell phones that fold into little tiny squares yet and if so, how fast I would lose it in the parking lot of the public library, and if so, was there a way to physically attach the phone to one’s body and if so, why not cell phone earings, and if so, what kind of earrings they might make, and if so, the earrings had better be sparkly and not big plastic stupid things like they just rolled out of an episode of Webster.
So I searched YouTube for a Rosary meditation video. When someone else was doing the heavy prayer lifting, I can follow better, and typically what these videos consist of are fifteen minutes or so of tinkly music, stained glass, and one darn perfectly said Rosary. You can relax. This person practiced. This person edited. This person is not going to screw it up, so you’re not going to screw it up, so it’s a smooth chunk of Lent for everyone.
But NOT THIS GUY. I found a video by someone who had apparently accidentally happened to record himself, unedited, praying the Rosary along with a PowerPoint presentation, and then decided to just slap it up on YouTube. It was five decades of strugglebus. And, I mean, props to this guy for wanting to share and encourage a strong prayer life, but there were no take-backsies on this recording. Not one. Over a very long seventeen-minute session, the following took place:
-Windows attempted to update his computer. Dude kept plowing through the Apostle’s Creed because God triumphs over all things, even forced reboots.
-(laughs for absolutely no reason)
-“Oh wait, I think the Bible quote here is wrong.”
-(takes very loud drink of water)
-“…I lost count”
-(yells directly into microphone) “OUR FATHER, WHO ART…”
-(mutters very softly, five miles from microphone) “Hail Mary, full of grace…” as though very bored of this entire enterprise and now regretting all life choices
-“Our Fath- oh wait. Hail Mary…”
For some time I considered bailing out, but by the third decade I was committed to seeing what might come out of the laptop speakers next, perhaps background explosions and SWAT team announcements. And when it was over, I was absolutely furious with this guy: If you’re creating something for public consumption and screw it up, START. OVER. That’s what computers are FOR. When unyoked from the Internet, they let us start. over. You don’t need another quarter. You don’t need to run offstage. Just start over. All you need is a delete key and five more minutes.
Then I realized this was probably the realest, most organic Rosary ever recorded in the history of Catholicism, and quite magnificent in its honesty. It’s how we all really do shove our way through by millimeters sometimes, often in public, always looking at ourselves in the mirror at the end of it all.
I think that’s why we have a Lent and a spring training, side by side, one following the next. It’s a start over. It’s an invitation to the delete key. It’s an opportunity to get it right this time. The final product might not be what you want when you want it, but at least Attempts are Being Made, and this I salute.
Make an Attempt today! Maybe you need nine pitchers. Maybe you need nine start overs. It’s okay. The humidity is coming.