Editing: a Lenten Practice
“It reveals me to myself.“ I wrote this line in my last blog as I described this liturgical planner with which I’ve entered a complicated relationship.
I also wrote “It’s only January. I haven’t even made it to Lent yet.”
Well, Lent has arrived.
Wednesday I went to a noon service and received the imposition of the ashes on my forehead. “From dust you came and to dust you shall return,” the priest said to me. Over and over I heard that phrase spoken to every kneeling soul at the altar. It echoed in the sanctuary of wood and stone and now it echoes in my mind and heart. You are finite, it says. You are one of many; only human, who you are and what you can do and how long you will last are all limited.
That voice seems to be in chorus with the planner. As I struggle with using it, seeing it merge my digital calendar and reflective journal, facing its forcing me out of my denial about who I write in my journal that I want to be and what I actually do every day, I feel the truth bearing down upon me.
I didn’t mean to start this liturgical theme in my blog, but advent brought an anxious waiting, Christmas retold a story, and epiphany began a journey toward something to behold.
It seems a Mystery beyond me is being lived in my story. A wheel-shaped diagram on the inside cover of the book represents the liturgical year of the church. My own story seems to be a wheel within the wheel.
I set myself up last week when I wrote this line…
An epiphany is a moment of pause, a moment of revelation. But the still point of revelation is brief, for we are changed by it and it demands we respond in some way.
This made for a nice ending, only I wasn’t thinking particularly about the ‘some way’ in which I would respond. Then came Lent.
Some of theme words on the opening page describing Lent in the Sacred Ordinary Days Planner are self-examine, discipline, prepare, empty, fast, quiet, contemplation, and reflection.
It’s a fitting beginning for Lent: Response. I read yesterday that to ask oneself, “What do I give up for Lent? “ is to shortchange oneself. The better question is what practice will I add to my life, in place of the something I might need to let go, in order to better become who I was created to be.
Oddly, the word ‘edit’ comes to mind. Is that a spiritual practice? It certainly speaks to getting rid of things. The final stage in the writing process, I tell my students, is to re-read your work, to cut out all superfluous words. Where many words are, sin abounds, the Proverbs say. While I know this is true of those of us who talk too much and too often, I’m not sure it applies to essays of AP Lang students, though after reading five or six wordy ones in a row, I’m inclined to think loquaciousness deserves punishment and needs absolution.
Say it as tightly as you can – economy of word – I tell them. The fewer words, the more important the choice of each becomes and the more power each one holds. Editing is both eliminating words and choosing better ones; sometimes it’s putting the words in a different order.
I think about the pages of my life, represented by my journal, my planner and my calendar. Are ‘choice, fewer, and powerful’ the descriptions of the life recorded there? Is the order of things what it should be? I’m not sure. I fear it lacks power because there are not enough pauses, silences, blank spaces, and careful choices. Yes, editing is a spiritual practice. A Lenten practice of giving up and replacing, editing the filled spaces and times on that calendar to gain the fewer, deliberative and powerful moments that are born in space and silence.