An ascetic is 1. a person who dedicates his or her life to a pursuit of contemplative ideals and practices extreme self-denial or self-mortification for religious reasons. Or 2. a person who leads an austerely simple life, especially one who abstains from the normal pleasures of life or denies himself or herself material satisfaction. Or 3. a monk or a hermit (in the early Church).
We talk about this from time to time in my women’s group. It bothers some of us; another defends it, yet would never practice being one; one believes her husband is one; and I find myself coming back to the word over and over again.
Why? What draws me to this as an ideal? Is it the life I live compared to those who suffer daily and do not have the basic necessities of life? I have difficulty being content in my life and this idea of asceticism draws me in as a way to learn to live contentedly. I have everything I need and (probably, yes?) everything I want. The things I want that I don’t have aren’t things at all. I want to have a mellowness of heart and spirit, close relationships, peace in my soul, to be authentic, knowledge, wisdom, time to be with people I love, to live as God’s daughter – not one of these can be bought or sold. If I were to become an “ascetic” would I have these instead of the nagging discontent I live with each day? Is there a book “Asceticism for Dummies?” Is this my Lenten study?