Among the most common appetitive items given up for Lent, in my circle, is the Internet. Sometimes this is restricted to Internet “news and entertainment,” and I was delighted to hear from several of my GRs (“gentle readers”: an email correspondent actually used this abbreviation) that even though they were blocking almost everything else, they would still be following my daily rambles.

I commend this view, with reservations. The first would be, “What else haven’t you blocked?” The second, “Do you trust yourself to resist temptation when something really juicy comes up?” I know I wouldn’t; and as good CPs (Catholic priests) ever warn us, there is danger in biting off more holiness than one can chew. Be careful what you leave yourself wishing for.

Cigarettes and whisky make a good example. I know many people who are alive today, and not confined to psychiatric institutions, thanks to these two useful substances, which might be considered as modern medical advances, if we set the initial date for modernity early enough. Tobacco is the only known cure for neurosis; distilled alcohol the most effective preventive for nervous breakdowns and “the vapours.” These in themselves might be endured for a season, but under the pressure of news and entertainment, one thing may lead to another. When early treatment is not sought, sudden acts of violence may follow, and I think a great deal of monstrous sin and unnecessary bloodshed may be laid at the door of abstemiousness.

I’m not saying don’t give them up, however. (Please! don’t put words in my head!) I’m just saying that, if you will eliminate cigarettes and whisky from your daily regimen, conscience dictates that you first get your Internet provider to stop service at source, and then have yourself locked in a padded cell.

Alternatives to cigarettes and whisky have often been suggested to me, but only by the naïve.

Laughter, according to the old Reader’s Digest, was the best medicine. GR will notice my use of the past tense. It is now against the law in many jurisdictions, which still permit outdoor smoking, and taverns (which count as indoors), thanks to their generation of tax revenue. I believe laughter falls into the category of “hate crimes,” since it is impossible to construct a joke in which some person, place, thing, or aggregate is not stung in some way. Moreover, self-deprecating humour carries, nowadays, an additional threat: that of piling on. Indeed, one might as well whistle the enemy’s attack dogs directly, for the typical graduate of a contemporary post-secondary educational institution has never encountered self-deprecation.

In Canada, under the Elder Trudeau’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, I believe laughter is permitted between consenting adults; although this is not yet court-tested. So I suppose I might suggest this, too, and observe, that if you can find another adult who consents, there may still be something left to conversation after the bottle empties — and they find you giggling to yourself like a madman, or an iPhone user.