Monday, October 10, 2005

Holy days

Tonight I've begun a three day fast. I ate dinner tonight, my wife's pasta e fagioli and two of the small, delicate chocolate chip cookies my son baked. Not quite three days really, but I don't need to quibble. Until Thursday night it's juice, herbal tea and water. No cookies, no wasabi peas, no midafternoon "walks" that happen to swing by the campus CVS and result in a bag of candy following me back to my office.

Why am I doing this? I admit I wasn't sure when I signed up, it just seemed like a good idea. But I've given it a little thought and have settled on three interlocking themes: solidarity, discipline, and healing.

Solidarity with my minister, who I consider one of the few spiritual leaders I've ever had reason to want to follow. He's been at this for most of a month. He's garnered attention, and not just for himself, but also for his congregation, his religion, and all the other people who oppose this unjust and undeclared "war" and feel powerless to do much about it.

I'm also doing it in solidarity with other members of my congregation, and on behalf of the others who may not be participating, or at least not to the same degree, but who I know are behind us. The way I used to support, in spirit, the members of my other congregation who marched in protest of the School of the Americas. It's a small thing, but something I can do.

Fasting is an opportunity to practice a spiritual and physical discipline. For several days I've been cutting out the unnecessary eating, and the alcohol and caffeine, in preparation. It complements the running begun mainly to help my Oldest Son get started but which is gradually changing from dreaded chore to antcipated activity.

The last time I fasted this long was about 20 years and 20 pounds ago, but I still recall the clarity and lightness I felt. I'm hoping for some of that sense of focus, and some of the extra time not spent obtaining, preparing, serving, and consuming food. Of course a good deal of that time will be spent peeing, but some of the time left will be for being aware of my thoughts, recording and perhaps sharing them.

I've never been much for meditation, at least the way I've understood it. But I've always known of and believed in the healthful effects it can have. I just haven't accepted the religious language attached to it. It's similar to the way spinal manipulation helps my back despite my not believing everything my chiropractor says.

For months now, maybe years, I've been focusing on ills and hardships. From the grand scale of hurricanes and earthquakes, war and pandemic, down to the financial, physical and emotional problems that are inescapable in a household, a family.

Like nearly everyone who wakes up in the morning, I feel there must be some purpose to each day. But I believe as Rev. Nick Cardell said that it is I who must give dignity to my life if I am to be worthy of the design, or build upon the accident. So I don't expect any lightning bolt answers from on high or even within, just some quiet time to understand the voice inside me.

And maybe in some tiny way, the healing I can work on myself will ripple outward, through my family, my congregation, my community, my country, the world. It's not much, in the way one grain of sand isn't much, and yet a brick building can't exist without all those grains of sand.

This fast then is my holiday, holy days, during which I both engage and detach from the world around me. A time I try to regain some balance lost, for me and my world.


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