In honor of Fat Tuesday, a coworker brought a King Cake into the office today. I had some, and it was delicious.

As several of us sat at the table and partook of the cake, we discussed the subject of giving things up for Lent. One coworker mentioned that she used to give up sugar for Lent, but this year, having just lost her mother, she didn't think she had it in her to give that up for forty days. I joked that I was giving up Lent for Lent. This wasn't entirely honest, since, in reality, I have never celebrated Lent at any point in my life, so I could hardly give up something that I never did in the first place. I grew up in a church that didn't do liturgical calendars, and later as an adult become involved with other churches that also eschewed such things, so I had no real concept of anything related to this time in the church calendar.

In a previous posting, I commented on the fact that Jesus did not fast--that Jesus led a celebratory life of shared meals with the outcasts of his society. In that sense, Jesus was not an ascetic. And yet, he was not an acquisitive, sedentary hedonist either. There was a simplicity to his celebratory lifestyle that defied the simple polarity between hedonism and asceticism. He was an itinerant preacher of the Kingdom of God; he traveled from town to town, and some scholars have compared him to the Greek Cynics, who lived without personal possessions as they used their wit to question the established wisdom of their society. How much he resembled the Cynics is subject to debate, but it does seem to me that in any case he led a simple lifestyle.

The older I get, the more I have come to appreciate the value of simplicity. I am a creature of consumer society as much as the next person is. I have my mp3 player, my computer, and my car. Yet I can't help but consider that there is meaning in how I live my life. I am no Luddite, and I like technology as much as the next person does. And yet, if I allow myself to be swept along by technology without asking it to justify itself at each step along the way, have I become enslaved by it?

As some of us make a decision to give something up for Lent, I wonder if it might be useful to ask ourselves not what we will give up for 40 days, but rather what we could give up permanently. How can we make our lives simpler? When does our addiction to technology or possessions get in the way of our spiritual lives? Perhaps, if I focus less on the spiraling demands of acquisition and more on the quality of my interactions with others, my spiritual life will improve. Maybe there is something to this idea--perhaps we need to celebrate life, but at the same time do so simply and inclusively.