Lent and the Pritchard Scale
March 9, 2022 | Jim Angehr
Hello pandemic, my old friend: as we approach the second anniversary of the world shutting down, I find myself thinking back to those strange and eerie weeks of spring, 2020.
No lies: most of those memories are unpleasant.
Nevertheless, one of the relatively few happy remembrances from that period is the mini-movie marathon I was able to undertake with my children. From the “kidz these days” file: today’s teens and preteens are on average far less movie-aware than I'd been at those ages. Blame video games, social media, and the general fact that I had the foresight to have grown up in a far better period of human existence.
Although pandemic shuttered my kids’ activities with friends, Clan Angehr was able instead to take tours through the golden age of cinema. With my younger girls, it was The Karate Kid and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, while my older boys digested heavier fare like The Godfather (Parts I and II; i.e., the only two Godfather installments) and some David Fincher.
According to my sons, however, the winner of their 2022 Great Movie Spellunk may have been 1989’s Dead Poets Society. It’s a flick that has it all––teen (melo)drama, Big Ideas, boushie boarding schools, and Robin Williams as an iconoclastic high school English teacher.
‘Memba when old Robin compels his students to rip out pages from the poetry textbook? What’s excised are passages from the (apparently fictional, if the internet is to be believed) literary critic J. Evans Pritchard, who lays out a graphing framework by which the value of any poem can be quantitatively tabulated. Seeing that I’m likewise the creator of a profoundly epochal spatial rendering system that perfectly captures the complexities of life and art (I see you, Comic Zone!), I possess natural affinities for old Pritchard.
On the other hand, the Pritchard Poetry graph is admittedly rather silly: take a poem, first calculate its significance, and plot its score along a “y” axis. Then graph the poem’s perfection of expression along the “x” axis, and ¡voila! The best poem is the one that’s uppest and to the rightest.
As with any sonnet worth its salt, now allow me to introduce the “turn” of this blog post. Let’s construe Lent along lines similar to the Pritchard graph. It’s the Good Seasons Chart! Pick a season, any season, and then on the “y” axis measure the extent to which the season is engaged voluntarily, and on the “x” axis take stock of the potential impact that this season might hold for you.
According to the Good Seasons Chart, Lent wins! I can’t think of another period of time that is both highly voluntary but also deeply impactful. Consider, for example:
— Seasons like spring, summer, etc. Highly impactful, but minimally voluntary. You can’t opt out of winter, Smalls.
— January/new years’ resolution seasons. Highly voluntary (as in, whether or not you assume a new year’s resolution), but minimally impactful. “My new year’s resolution really stuck this year,” said no one, ever.
— Thanksgiving and Christmas. Only skipped by the most quixotic of misanthropes.
— Eagles season, Sixers season, Phillies season, Flyers season. Frustratingly involuntary, negatively impactful.
Behind Door #2, however, is Lent, namely the 40 days-plus-Sundays in the church’s liturgical calendar between Ash Wednesday and Easter morning. The season in which followers of Jesus, or of those exploring the faith, put down certain habits and take up others in order to metaphorically follow Jesus into the wilderness of temptation, all the way to (and through) the cross.
Lent is highly voluntary. Non-Christians don’t practice it—I get it; why should they?—and I’d wager, too, that more believers than not pay Lent little mind.
And yet. For those that opt in to Lent, many will say that this is a season that changed their lives. “Lent was so good that I’m keeping up what I was doing indefinitely.” “With God’s help, Lent turned my life around.” “In Lent, I got serious about pursuing Jesus and met him for the first time.”
Friends, we’re a week and change into Lent 2022. What will your Lenten story be?