Literary Fast


Ramadan (the Muslim month of fasting until sundown) began tonight at sundown.

When I imagine not eating for a day,  I envision someone who is completely delirious and gnawing off her fingers. Let’s just say I don’t have the fortitude to fast.

But a lot of other people do. Many religions have a period in which you fast or give something up: Christianity has Lent, Bahai’s have while-the-sun-is-up fasting in March, some Buddhist monks and nuns don’t eat until after noon and, according to my source, Judaism forbids consuming food or water, so brushing your teeth is out, during Yom Kippur (more fun fasting facts at Wikipedia).

Each religions’ reason for fasting is slightly different so my lumping them together and simplifying them is clunky and certainly loses the nuances, but fasting cleanses the soul and strengthens spirituality.

Sometimes people refrain from eating life-sustaining nutrients like food; other times, they stop eating something they like. Among my Christian friends, giving up coffee and chocolate for Lent is common.

I wonder if anyone has ever given up something non-food-like, but equally life-sustaining: reading or writing.

“Yes officer, I saw that sign. No, I don’t know what it said – I gave up reading for Lent.”

Despite that obvious advantage, what would be gained from it? A better appreciation of literature? A build up of creativity that’s bursting to come out at sundown?

No, I’m not proposing some self-deprivation test. I get squirrelly when I don’t bring a pen and pad of paper with me somewhere…what if I have an idea? Where will I put it? And I get antsy on the commute if I don’t have something to read (or a Sudoku to complete). I can’t imagine a month!


3 thoughts on “Literary Fast

  1. Certainly not life-sustaining, but I tried giving up gossip for Lent one year in HS. Problem was that I didn’t give myself a working definition of gossip, so I constantly found myself in situations that could have been breaking my fast. Not sure how successful it was.

    • To not listen to gossip in high school is like not touching water while you’re swimming.

      How’d you feel about it afterward? Successful or not, you tried.

      • Haha – true.

        Afterward… sort of felt like almost every conversation could have qualified as gossip, in one definition or another. Felt bad that I didn’t speak up more to stop potential gossip. Bad that I had participated myself. And like truly giving up gossip would have been akin to a vow of silence.

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