I apologise if you have lured you here under false pretenses. From the title of the post, you might have thought that this post is about living the life of the rich and famous …… it is not. Or you might have thought that it would be the confessions of a drug abuser and speed addict ……. but you would be wrong. Or you might have expected tales from the life of a race car driver …… but you would be disappointed.
Instead, I am writing about fasting. Fasting is the the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. It is now the month of Rahmadan during which Muslims all of the world fast from sunrise to sunset. No food or liquid should be ingested during the fasting period and this even means spitting out saliva instead of swallowing it.
The purpose of fasting is for Muslims to gain more noble values by gaining control of their natural desires and passions. Some Muslim friends have also explained that fasting makes them more appreciative of the suffering of those less fortunate.
Have you fasted before? I have four tales of fasting from my own experiences.
Tale No: 1 (The Early Years)
My first experience with fasting was in my early teens, when as a young Christian, I took part in prayer and fasting sessions. The purpose was to meet in groups to encounter God and to pray for issues and for one another. Aternating between periods of singing praises to God, silent devotion and prayer, these sessions would last from morning to evening (about 6 hours). We would often miss lunch as a result. The idea of fasting in this case was to put communion with God first before even our earthly desires. We used to do this about once a month and I actually enjoyed these sessions very much. Of course, not eating for just 6 hours isn’t really a very long time but it was my first experiences in fasting.
When I was at University, I also took part in a couple of these fast to feed the world programs. The idea is to skip lunch and to donate your lunch money to a food aid charity.
Tale No:2 (The Surprise)
When I was studying in the United Kingdom for my A-levels, there was a short one week holiday and as I was staying in a hostel, a friend invited me to spend the holidays with his family. Now my friend is Jewish and his family home was in London. I had a great time and enjoyed their kind hospitality. My friend did tell me that there was a very important Jewish festival (I think it was Yom Kippur) during that week which they had to attend the synagogue. He told me that I could go off and do my own thing but I was keen to learn more about a different culture and religion. ” When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, as they say.
He was thrilled that I showed interest and even wanted to go to the synagogue with them. Now this is when he sprung the surprise. Apparently we had to fast for 25 hours. With the wild impulse of youth, I accepted the challenge. So I found myself fasting for 25 hours and attending an extremely long service at the synagogue (from morning to mid-afternoon).
Despite the length of the service, I was taken in with the paegent.ry and the strangeness of the language and the go-ing ons. As such, I was distracted from thinking about food but that completely changed after the service. The mind is a little foggy on this point but I think both my friend and I cheated on the fasting thing when his parents weren’t around later. Still, it was the first time i felt truly challenged by fasting and gave me a better respect for those who practice it regularly.
Tale No: 3 (The Real Test)
A few years later, I was travelling through Yugoslavia. In those days the Yugoslavia dinar had no value outside of that country. Therefore, you needed to be careful not to change too much money if you did not want to be left with a bunch of notes that you cannot exchange back into any useful currency when you left.
Of course, being frugal, I exchnaged only a little of my traveler’s cheques. As a result, I ran out of dinar on my last day in Yugoslavia and spent the last 8 hours effectively penniless while waiting for a train at the train station. I was hungry and very thirsty and all around me was food and people eating food but I was the penilless backpacker looking in on the feast.
It was a very difficult time. Unlike my earlier fasting tales, this was not voluntary and I could not stop even if I wanted to. In a way, this enforced fast made me understand the plight of the hungry more than any other experience.
Tale No: 4 (Still Unenlightened)
Some people say that fasting helps in self discovery and enlightenment. The earlier fasting experiences certainly taught me some life lessons and I am better able to fast voluntarily as a result. However, as this story shows, I was still very far from enlightenment or wisdom.
This final tale was set at the end of a long, tiring holiday. My girlfriend and I was on the way home after a long journey which included a long hike and bus journey. We were tired and dishevelled and had not eaten for about half the day when we got to the train station. We were taking separate trains from there. After buying our tickets, my girlfriend took the last of her money and bought me a hamburger.
She skips up to me and hands me the hamburger, served with a smile. Almost simultaneously, this homeless man comes up to me and asks for some small change for food. I looked and saw the hunger in his eyes. I had no money left either and so perhaps of the lessons I had previously learnt from fasting, automatically, I passed the hamburger to him. I remember two sets of expressions; the gratitute in the face of the homeless man and the sheer shock on my girlfriend’s face. Perhaps i should have asked her if it was okay with her to offer the hamburger away. See……not so wise.