Our place here is on the edge of metro area sprawl. It makes for an odd mixture of rural and suburban. The surrounding mountains cut off most tv and cell phone reception. There are no water or sewer connections and we are our own trash service. At the same time, I am writing this on a high-speed cable cable modem courtesy of our cable tv company whose connections are strung below the power lines on the poles that march across the fields outside my window. It is, as I said, an odd mix that I tend to take for granted. After the evening feeding at the barn I find it as easy as anyone to escape into cyber-space or watch time tick by while gazing slack-jawed at a tv screen.
Nonetheless, the lack of certain services inevitably brings the real world crashing back in. A power failure means, not just lights out for a while, but no working well pump and soon thereafter no working indoor plumbing. Even if the grid stays up pretty reliably, dealing with your own trash on a regular basis keeps you grounded. We had a problem with the farm truck, our normal hauler to the county dump, and things had piled up a bit. When younger son and I got everything loaded and off on Saturday, the bags, boxes and other detritus of modern living from our own and my in-law's households filled the truck up over the bed and piled high until it was barely contained by the hay rack. If Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout had been an extra in the Grapes of Wrath it would have looked like our old Dodge truck heading down the back roads. Makes it hard to pretend that you don't know exactly what you are consuming, how much and how it is packaged. It is good to haul your own trash out if, for no other reason, it reminds you of just who you are and how you live. It can be a sobering discovery.
Those of us who are semi-regular Church-goers can get used to treating the Church like one more public utility. We get a little spiritual nourishment, lay down some worries, and head on without really much thought or effort. After all, that's what we pay priests and preachers to take care of for us. The disciplines of Great Lent break us out of that kind of complacency. We might think of it as the Church telling us that, for at least part of year, we need to haul out our own "spiritual" trash. We soon find that we have let a few things pile up and that they are getting a little ripe. The process shows in another sense just who we are and how we live. And this too can be a sobering discovery.