The successive days of Lent – like a good addict just taking it day by day – are an opportunity to become clearer about our lives, their functioning or dys-functionality and also their greater meaning. If this happens during these forty (or forty-six) days it will feel more by accident than will-power. We do however need to prepare ourselves for the accident and to be surprised.
Clarity and obscurity, however, are never far from each other. We are never clear about everything, except perhaps sometimes in a deep dream where all things may appear for a timeless flash of eternity-as-a-whole and beautifully connected in a cosmic order that fills us for a moment with wonder and huge relief: a homecoming where we no longer need to think or worry or plan any more.
But most of the time, some things, or some angles of the same thing, are crystal clear while others are simultaneously as murky as the lake of Bonnevaux after heavy rain. Naturally we prefer to take refuge in the few clear patches of our perspective on the whole picture. Nor are these to be disregarded. But in fact it may well be the unclear things – the fog of life – which are more significant. In any case, we must account for and equally respect both the clear and the obscure.
This helps us to deal with the problems of moral obscurity, when we are not sure what to do or what is right or wrong. Few things and even fewer judgements about things are simply black and white. Motives – and human character itself – are often mixed or weak and unstable. The good can morph into the bad and the dark can suddenly surprise us with astounding brilliance. Living with this oscillation between good and bad (as we see them) is at times a little messy and irrational. But at least it defuses the worst viruses of prejudice, racism, intolerance and many of the other stupidities that cause such extreme misery.
Lent – by this I mean the daily Lent of our morning and evening meditation and the moment by moment Lent of the mantra – help us to stay on the middle path. It leads us securely through the patches of obscurity and helps us to avoid falling into the abyss of the great darkness, which is also the greatest superficiality and waste of time and always what we should fear most.