Small Comments on Ramadan

The month of fasting begins tomorrow, August 22, though this is not universally accepted as the date as it depends on the actually barest crescent of the moon being sighted.

Growing up, the practice of fasting was my favorite spiritual practice; it still is, though it is arduous. One feels, at the end of a day of fasting, like a tree branch or a bone that bleached in the sun.

I learned to pronounce the name of month “Ramadan” only after Islam and the practices of Muslims came more into the public awareness. This pronunciation, with three syllables and a hard “d” is not the way I had always spoken it before in my Urdu-speaking home. Where one would say: “Ramzan.” Sometimes even your own language disappears.

Was it ironic when Bill Clinton, by three days, delayed one of the bombing missions over Iraq because it would have fallen on Eid-ul-Fitr, the celebration concluding Ramzan. Instead the mission began on December 25. As if there weren’t Iraqi Christians.

Today I am thinking of practical things: stocking up on high-nutritious foods, working out how I will do housework, exercise, and reading/commenting on student writing within the few hours of darkness I will have at the beginning and end of each day. The reason is that during the fast, the mind moves farther and farther away from temporality and from detail oriented work.

I love, at a difficult point in the fast–usually mid-afternoon–to engage a simple chore like a sweeping a room or clearing a table.

Pattern of the fast: wake in the predawn. Prepare your food and eat before the rise of the sun. During the day one must abstain from: all food and water. But also: cigarettes, gossip or slander, sexual activity.

One cannot, during a fast, immerse one’s head under water, breathe deeply of strong scents, needlessly tempt oneself with food, or otherwise attempt vicarious relief from the fast.

Pattern: in the first part of the day one feels bold and energetic from the food just consumed. At a certain point you do not feel hungry so much as you feel the ebb of that energy. One is supposed to avoid exertion in order to better focus on the fast.

During the long mid-afternoon, one disappears into oneself. At some point I find myself retreating to my darkened bedroom, breeze blowing through it, just to lie down and read or to take a nap.

At the end of the fast you are almost not even hungry, but eat just because fast-breaking time has come and it is what you have to do.

The cells of the body are constantly rejuvenating and replacing themselves. One cannot do something once and feel the full benefits of it sink into the patterns of the body.

And so with the fast. Twenty-eight days of this.

Twenty-eight days to explore the line between the interior of the body and the surrounding world, to think about what we bring to it and what we owe.

And what if a human is not a separate entity after all but a microcosmic amalgamation of universal energy.

Tell me the difference between entity and eternity.