Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Yes, it is still Ramadan

and yes, I am hungry.

Sometimes during Ramadan I feel like I am looking at the world through a glass window. I think one reason for that is that most people don't really have the concept that Ramadan lasts for an entire month. Maybe they notice on the first day, when there are articles in the paper, but by the second or third week, when time is starting to drag a little, they've moved on. And why not?

The thing is, it's not like I want to keep reminding people. For me, though, it's uppermost in my consciousness almost all the time. Sometimes, when people ask, "How are you?" it's all I can do not to say, "I'm hungry, that's how I am." I don't mind being hungry. It's just that it dominates they way that I feel.

Another reason I feel a little out of step is that sometimes the very idea of talking (or maybe it's more the whole social interaction) just seems to take way too much energy. Yes, I will get in the car and take my kids where they need to be, but once we get there, I'm done. Saving my energy for the return journey. If by some chance I actually do get to talking with someone, I generally not only enjoy it, but feel the better for it. It's just that the idea of it is hard.

There was an op-ed article in the Mercury News by a Christian women who for some reason had taken a pledge to fast during Ramadan as long as the U.S. is in Iraq. She had fasted previously for Lent, so was not entirely new to the concept. In her piece, she described Ramadan as "the Olympics of fasting," which made me feel very self-congratulatory. Unfortunately, I don't think self-congratulatory is really the mental state I should be going for here. But then, I already knew I had a ways to go to really properly enter the spirit of Ramadan.

For me, one of the hardest things is the way fasting can influence decisions about what to eat or what to do. At night, sometimes I eat when I'm not hungry, because I'm remembering how hungry I was during the day. And during the day, often, I will be cautious about what activities I undertake because I don't want to get too hungry, or too thirsty, or too tired. And I especially do not want to get sick, as I have every Ramadan since I started fasting.

I can't remember the name of the basketball player who used to play center for the Houston Rockets. He was Muslim, and very devout, and observed Ramadan every year, even to the extent of playing games while he was fasting. He played well, too, with every bit as much dedication as during other times. I can't begin to imagine having that degree of inner strength. Have you seen how much fluid athletes normally need during a game? And here I am feeling sorry for myself because I get thirsty while just hanging around the house, not even doing anything particularly strenuous.

Even if I feel a little out of step with my day-to-day acquaintances, one thing I love about Ramadan is feeling so connected to the larger rhythms of the earth and sky. Ramadan is a lunar month, and watching the moon wax and wane has a special significance at this time. All the clocks and all the calendars are afterthoughts. The moon in the sky measures our progress in the only way that really counts. When it is full, I know we are halfway through. When it goes dark again, I know we are almost done. And when we see the first new moon, it is a new month, and time to return to our daily life for another year.


Blogger Vivian said...

Sarah, thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts on Ramadan and fasting. I'm learning a lot. When you break the fasting each evening, do you need to maintain certain diet since it's during Ramadan? (sorry if this is a dumb question, I really don't know much about Ramadan.)

Most Chinese holidays are based on moon phase as well, such as the New Year (first new moon of in the Luna calendar). I saw a very bright crescent moon the other night, and I was actually thinking about your fasting. The last full moon was the Chinese mid-autumn festival.

Another interesting bit, in other cultures there is good deal of eating for the autumn holidays -- Oktoberfest, mid-autumn festival, Thanksgiving, and other harvest related festivals. Ramadan is about fasting, in the fall, when there is food aplenty. Lent is in the spring, when the ground is still frozen and food is scarce. Buddhists fast every first and fifteenth of the Luna month (new moon and full moon).

Just some random thoughts taking up your blog space.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Actually, that is a good question and some interesting comments. I was going to answer them in this comment, but then it started to get so long I decided to save it for an entry at a later date.

And thank you for your thanks. Sometimes I think it's kind of self-indulgent to keep going on about these things.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Not self-indulgent at all, Sarah. I, too, am enjoying your Ramadan musings. I appreciate the thought and purpose that you clearly invest in your fasting. Growing up Lutheran there was not much thought about the greater lessons that Lent can bring when one refrains from a behavior that is automatic.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Thanks to you to, Jennifer. I've missed hearing from you lately.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Vivian said...

Correction for my earlier comment, the Mid-Autumn festival is today, not last month. And that also means your fasting is half way through. Have a good one!

9:23 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home