It’s Fat Tuesday. My Facebook friends, who normally heap vituperation on the Catholic Church for its silly old rules about chastity and self-denial, are now posting ecstatic updates about paczki and Mardi Gras parades.
I’m not offended–after all, the day of feasting before Lent is a custom, not an official part of the Catholic liturgical calendar, so it’s not like they’re appropriating our sacred rituals for their own amusement. (Though they do that, too). But I do wonder if they’re nonetheless paying an unintentional tribute to Catholicism.
After all, paczki don’t make much sense in the philosophy of modern hedonism. Why get excited about them unless you’re going to fast for the next 40 days? It’s true that they’re only “seasonally available,” but such periodic availablity, unless subject to genuine environmental or religious limitations, is instead subject to corporate marketing schemes, like McDonalds varying the availability of the McRib.
I think people get excited about these vestigial and supposedly neutral bits of Christianity because they realize that the struggle of self-denial, the cyclical interplay between feast and fast, makes the world a more dramatic place.
Of course, Epicureans understand that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and hence promote moderation for the sake of preserving pleasure (not to mention health). But that’s so banal. It’s the difference between two lovers kept apart by fate versus two lovers who voluntarily limit the time spent together in an effort to keep their relationship interesting. Such strategic manipulation might work but has little mystery or awe attending it.