What would RTH do?

That is the question.

If I were in a highschool yearbook, they would vote me most likely to die of a lynch mob. That does not prevent me from opening my mouth and serving a warm hearty cup of STFU to people who deserve it. My dark scathing humor will leave no matter of existence untouched. My innocence will touch your soul.

Welcome to a warped world turned inside out and upside down. All sorts of discretion advised.

Friday, August 20, 2010

When the Heathen Fasts (Conclusions)

So for seven days I have observed a fast similar to that what Muslims keep during Ramdan. I cannot call it the Ramadan fast as I am not Muslim, and I am sure I may have not kept it properly under their prescription. However, I did it as strictly as possible. No food or water from dawn to dusk. In fact I've been keeping the fast longer than I need to in my area. Muslims typically have a morning session of eating and praying before starting the fast and a prayer when they end the fast. There was no way I could wake up for a morning prayer, I've been skipping the prayer aspect completely though. So I have been surviving on one square meal a day. I've also been avoiding other things that would be frowned upon like pwp fiction and that jazz.

I did not keep the fast for religious reasons. I most definitely did not keep it to mock or belittle the fasts of others and hopefully no one assumes that. My reasons for fasting were personal. On a whim, it was an experience I wanted to put my body through. I wanted to see what sort of resolve and abilities I had. Also as someone who does not believe in fasting, I wanted to see if the human spirit could sustain a heathen.  

Here are my daily experiences:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7

Conclusions:

For the longest time I perceived the Ramadan fast as cruel and unusual. No food or water was a pretty strong expectations - especially the no water aspect. Most Hindu fasts do not expect absolute abstinence, but abstinence from most lavish foods. They prescribe a very light frugal diet. I've always been a major foodie. So the thought of no full square meals of the day was really down for me. But more than food I love water. I drink water all the time. I'm bored - I drink water. In fact I used to drink so much water that people would joke that if they sliced me water would flow instead of blood.

Anyway, I sustained the fast for seven days and could perhaps do more. The fast is by no means cruel. Unusual, definitely yes. But it is doable. I kept it on one meal a day. With a morning meal and plenty of morning water it should be doable up to 18-20 hours in my estimate. Children, sick and elderly are not expected to fast. I do hope they give due consideration of those hacking and chocking on their own spittle consideration. The tickle in the throat, the niggling cough made it worst for me. However, health is a caveat. Regular eating is the key to good health. A fast maybe an exception - but after the fast people should go back to normal healthy eating. Not undereating - nor pigging out to compensate.

What a fast does -

  • It instill discipline
  • It helps you discover resolve and mental strength you never had
  • It makes you appreciate food
  • It makes you appreciate what thirst and hunger feels like and empathize with those who have less
  • Weight loss (only if you stick to healthy eating after. Also my family does not celebrate this month. So my end of fast meal was very ordinary everyday food, except Chinese one day)
  • Makes you sleepy all faster
  • Upsets your tummy, its more the lack of water that causes digestive issues. It could also be a me thing as I am highly dependent on water.
  • For some reason it really boosts self respect
  • It creates deeper understanding into fasts kept by others
  • It helps you treat other fasters with respect and discipline, rather than pity or shock.

What it does not do -

(Of course this is from the perspective of a heathen)

It does not you holier or a better person
It does not express love or devotion. This is a purely physical endeavor. Love and devotion are of the mind and need to be ingrained in consciousness.
It does not connect one with God or the force. Again it is a physical endeavor and one needs to tap into spirit and consciousness to accomplish this.
It does not make one calmer. In fact it makes one more irritable.
People cite health benefits etc. I am yet to see. My sleep patterns, mood and other things have indeed been messed up. It also could be since I am a first timer. 
Fasting most definitely does not improve relationships, those need other efforts on part of people.
Fasting most definitely is not a way to say I love you or extend the life or loved ones.
Fasting most definitely does not get you good karma or heaven brownie points. Its a pure physical endeavor of will and for this you genuinely need to be a good person.

The Dark Lord's Prescription -

As a heathen I cannot mandate fast for any reason. Religious fasting like Ramadan or for love like Karva chauth is up to free will and what people believe. However, I do recommend that everyone try such fasting at least a few days every year. It is a unique experience in self awareness.

The other emotional and spiritual aspects of my fast are between me and the force.

When the Heathen Fasts (Day 7)

Today was the last and final day of my adventures in heathen fasting. I've completed the week with much more ease than I expected. I would love to take it day by day and see if I can stick to a month. Unfortunately, I visit family and have a wedding this weekend. So it is end of fast time for me. Besides I am a heathen beginner. Things ought to be small baby steps for me. Maybe a week, ten days, a fortnight - then a month. A year in the future? Now I guess that would be too much.

As usual, I did not wake up for the early morning eating. So I ran the day on my Nutella breakfast from 11 PM last night. Today was all preparation for the weekend getaway. Dropped the dog off, went downtown and had my ID card made, bought school text books, bought shoes and then went to the grocery store.

My nani wanted cheese singles for my nana. So I had to embark on a mission to the grocery store. Now I love snacks like jerky, go insane at the scent of coffee and as a Wisconsinite go bonkers over cheese. Usually grocer store outings are peppered with impulse buys of something to try or something to taste. However, this is the new me. A fasting me. A fast fasting me who is fast learning will power and strength I never had. I was amble to casually amble through the store and pick out the cheese I needed. I craved A&W Root beer, they make it with real vanilla. I've developed this whole new affinity for A&W Root Beer and Cream Soda. So I bought a large bottle and went home. Normally, I would crack open and chug down cold soda right away, but today - I just popped it in the refrigerator and went about to other business.

Lounged around a bit, packed my bags, kept thinking of random things to carry and shoved them in. I planned to mow the lawn but it rained, so that put a dampener on the plans. Now I will have to mow on Tuesday when we get back.

Anyway the rest of the evening was uneventful. I spent some time online and then some more packing and some stuff to pass the time till 8:15 and then I broke the fast. The best thing was that I got to drink my root beer during dinner. Ah cold vanilla sweetened root beer. Nothing like it. And when you have waited - it tastes a whole lot better. I don't need my breakfast at 11 PM today as I will be eating from tomorrow onwards. But I will drink tons of water. This has been quite an experience.

Lessons from Day 7

1) 24 hour grocery stores are a great idea. I wonder if the ancient faster went to grocery stores during their fast? Whatever did they do on sample Sundays?
2) Root Beer is always worth the wait
3) After 6 days the fast gets really boring. As in you have become immune to almost every temptation and nothing makes you feel awesomely powerful as you bleh away all potential crave creators. I wonder if this will last a while.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

When the Heathen Fasts (Day 6)

Today by far was perhaps the most difficult and challenging day of my fasting endeavor. When I began the day I did not know if I had the resolve to go through with it. It is unlike anything I have ever done before. As a major foodie who loves food, it is not in my nature to resist offerings of food. However, by the end of the day I had discovered will power and resolve, I never knew I had.

Well they were serving pizza at work today. All the office staff and farm staff were going to be there. Initially, I had planned to skip it and just take a nap in my car. Then I was asked to join the luncheon. I politely declined saying, I was not eating. Surprisingly, I was not asked why. They simply asked would I please join with them at the table since it was a company event. So I did.

There was lemonade, iced tea and my latest craving root beer. The tables were set out and pizza boxes all laid out. Cheese lovers, peperoni, meat lovers and veggie delite. The smell of fresh baked pizza was surrounding me in all directions. I sat at a table watching people devour pizza, having seconds and thirds. Normally I cannot resist the scent of pizza. It drives me nuts. I have to open the box right away and start munching. Strangely even though I was hungry, I experienced no cravings, desires, temptations or pangs. It was just like sitting and having an ordinary conversation. I was nonchalant and carefree. I could watch dozens of people eat and drink all around me - and I just went about with normal business.

I still took my afternoon siesta after the luncheon. It was hot again, so I was literally dripping in sweat by the time I was done. Took another nap when I got home and again went on a late walk. So it was almost 9 again by the time I was eating again. Actually, I figured I have been keeping the fast a good 15-20 minutes longer than I need to. I was going by southern sunset times instead of local. Silly me. Considering that, the past two days have been at least an hour more than I need to. Oh well, its been an interesting experience.

Lessons from Day 5

1) Waffle sandwich with Nutella is the best thing ever. I am not sure why breakfast places here are not serving it up yet. I feel my survival these days has been solely due to the filling, delicious and nutritious Nutella breakfasts late night.
2) Truly: Where there is a will - there is a way. I am discovering determination and resolve I never knew I had.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When the Heathen fasts (Day 5)

Day five on the whole was uneventful. By this time it is almost as if fasting is a lifestyle. I won't make a tall claim that I could do it for a month or more. But I think if I did it day by day, I actually have some discipline in me for being a heathen. You get used to it. The only thing I am not getting used to is feeling as if a skunk died in my mouth. I've been using Listerine, and rinsing with water frequently at work. It should be fine I hope.

Work was uneventful. Not eating or drinking is no biggie. I crave Cream Soda at times but it dissipates quickly, I'm learning that self control. The only eventful thing at work was crashing my computer and moving to a different cube. It kept my mind occupied too. Now I also look forward to lunchtime which I spend a good hour sleeping in my car. Its awesome.

The only challenge was having to cook a meal today. Since my sister is not fasting and she was coming home from work late, I was supposed to make spaghetti. I actually procrastinated hoping she would help me as I am hopeless in the kitchen. But she came roaring like a hungry lion and charged like a raging bull. So I quickly set to work. Put the water to boil, put the meatballs to roast, heated the sauce, put the pasta in. Then came the time to test if the pasta was done. My sister was biting my head off over it. So in one moment of complete slip of the mind while addressing her, I held a spaghetti to my mouth and bit it. But I immediately stopped myself and took it from my mouth. I't was a teeny bite, no taste, no consumption. I then decided to check pasta doneness with only my fingers. The sauce was tantalizing and meatballs sizzling. I however, was unmoved. I cleared the counters, swept the kitchen and took the dog for a walk.

It was almost 7:45 when I went for a walk today. That meant I came back at 8:45 almost. I thought to myself, hey - I might be able to do the fasts till 9 too maybe someday. I had my waffles and nutella sandwich snack at 11, so there is again some yummy in my belly. I sip on hot green tea all the time on the PC to soothe my throat from the lack of relief all day. I wonder if consuming Dayquill is allowed during the fast - it would maybe help me from annoying my coworkers.

Tomorrow will be a tough day. They are getting pizza at noon. It will be weird to say I am fasting, cos religiously I am not even supposed to be fasting. I also have to politely decline a lunch offer for Friday.

Lessons from Day 5

1) It is no wonder Italians really never jumped on any fasting brigade. How else are you supposed to tell if your pasta is done.
2) I'm really curious as to what they did back in the day with no Listerine or disposable finger toothbrushes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

When the Heathen fasts (Day 4)

I'm not sure if the days seem to get longer or shorter as this week of fasting is progressing for me. At least the unusual experiences like extreme hunger pangs, thirst or choking on spittle is seemingly reducing. Not that I do not experience this. In fact my tummy still rumbles, the throat still feels parched - but by now its like, its supposed to be that way - like an everyday occurrence - normal.

One big advantage I think the Muslim community has over me is that they are not doing this alone. Its a collective effort. They don't have people tantalizing them. If so at least their family is in on this endeavor. Either way I survived another day of fasting while working. It is challenging, but its working out like c'est la vie.

However, I was hacking again and my coworkers said that its time for some tea. I worked hard and suppressing that scratchy feeling in my throat. Then another coworker made popcorn and offered it. Yum, hot buttery popcorn, the scent of it wafting through the air. No matter where I walked it seems the scent molecules had spread around to do a shock and awe attack on me to break my resolve. The results baffle me. Under normal circumstances, even on a full belly after a big meal, I would have pounced on a bag and grabbed myself a fistful of golden yellow kernels to devour. But I just went back to work and somehow shut down that part of the brain that transmitted the delicious scents. I had made a commitment and was going to stick to it. But still with no faith to believe in, no reward to expect, no one to appreciate the efforts, no one to respect the fast, nothing - what possibly could a heathen like me find strength in?

I was tested again at home. My sister brought fried fish for dinner. Crisp golden catfish for herself and some large juicy fried scallops for me. Along with that a side piled high with hot French fries. Eat it now, she advised, eat it now while its hot and crispy. I leaned forward and sniffed, I sifted my fingers through the mound of fries. I cannot I replied with resolve. It will be disgusting cold, she said. I'll warm it in the oven, I told her.

Then she pointed that the sun was not visible. The timing is till 8:15 I explained. Then she gave me a point to ponder. When Mohammad was around, he stopped when the sun was no longer there - he had no meteorologists to tell him what the precise times were. Hmm for a lay person with no knowledge of meteorology, the overcast skies hiding the sun - would probably have meant dusk. Who knows. I still stuck to my resolve and took my dog out and basked in the cool glory of nature. At 8 as I was closing to home, I saw the sky change hues under the setting sun. Aha its dusk only when the sky changes itself to a dazzling display of evening colors.

I was strangely full on the scallops and chips. I did not have my late night breakfast of nutella and waffles today. Just some bread. I'm consuming a bottle of water again before sleeping to be hydrated. Three more days to go. I'm actually feeling mighty proud of myself.

Lessons from Day 4

1) There really is power in numbers and the crowd phenomenon. It is just easier to do what everyone else is doing. It is not easy to be the only one doing something.
2) I wonder how much technology and ritual can go together. The point is the ancients did not have meteorology or technology, they relied on instinct and understanding of nature. As humans we have lost touch with nature to a certain extent. I guess intentions are in the right place.

Monday, August 16, 2010

When the Heathen fasts (Day 3)

Today was the big day. I could not escape food cravings by sleeping most of the day. I had to be at work at 8 Am, stay there for 9 hours and not crave food or water. I had to endure an hour lunch, and find how to spend it without eating. I had to speak with coworkers and customers till my mouth ran dry and not drink water.

The first few hours were easy. They did not refill the candy bowl so that was good. Then after a few customer calls my mouth went dry. My water bottle stood there in front of me and flirted "Hello there, want to get wet with me. Hmm delicious lick your lips water. You want to press your lips and my rim and slowly sip on the goodness inside". I'm not sure where I mustered the strength from, but I picked it up and shoved it behind the phone out of my sight. My digits did not slip even once to caress the opening.

I spent my lunch time online and took a nap in my car. In retrospect the nap was too short. I should have skipped IF and spent the entire hour napping. I somehow survived the remaining day and the drive home. Coming home, I twiddled online some more till it was time to take the dog out. It was another gorgeous day outside with cool climate and breeze. Its funny how after some sweltering heat and head advisories the days have gotten pleasant again. I swear I had no idea the weather was supposed to be so kind this week.

I'm still suffering with the hacking cough. They are already saying "Off with my head" at work. Without some hot tea to sip all day the throat is creating a real ruckus. Then there is this issue with the mouth going stale. I don't know if food and water cleanse the palate or something and keep it fresh. I feel as if my mouth is going stale faster on the fast. In fact my mouth felt so stale and bitter, that I went to the restroom several times and rinsed and cleaned my tongue.

Lessons from Day 3

1) They should consider combining maun vrat with this fast. Talking gives one a dry mouth. So if you are abstinent from water - don't talk. Another reason to love the internet, the ability to talk without dry mouth.
2) I wonder if they have some prescription for stale mouth - like a mint leaf  you can chew and spit or something. I'm not feeling very confident of the breath these days.

Some people fast for love, some people fast for faith - what really does the heathen fast for? Sometimes I'm confused. What drives me and keeps me going? What force did I call on to keep that bottle of water away? If the force is strong with me for what reason? Since people fast for love, todays fast is dedicated to my dogs and cats - If fasting brings any purity or goodwill or longevity or blessings - I dedicate it to those who truly deserve unconditional love.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

When the Heathen fasts (Day 2)

I did not think I had it in me to survive a second consecutive day. However, with the grace of the force the heathen sustained another day. I woke up quite late at almost 11:30 AM, that too when my sister woke me up. So obviously again the morning window to start up with some light food was missed.

Then I spent three excruciating hours at the mall, shopping for a dress to wear next weekend. Excruciating was the shopping part. I should actually be grateful for the excruciating shopping part, for it really kept my mind of the not eating or drinking. Finally threw an outfit together after hours. Then for the final act of torture my sister decided she wanted Paciugo's gelato. I'm such a foodie and sweet tooth and I love love love their gelato. So I watched in silent agony as she devoured three delicious flavors of smooth creamy velvety gelato.

The afternoon was spent online. It is amazing how time flies when you are on the internet. I had budgeted just an hour because I had other things I wanted to get to, but I procrastinated again by allowing myself to get carried away online.

Oh well before I knew it it was time for Aria's walk. I'm wondering what goodness I have done in this or past lives for the weather was gorgeous again. There was warm sunshine, a gentle cooling breeze. The effect of walking down the neighborhood streets under the evening rays and the dappled shade of the canopy was a soothing experience. There is just something magical about the experience of walking with ones faithful companion, and feeling one with nature - especially on lovely pleasant evenings enjoying as the sun sets and the colors of the sky slowly fade and then you reach home just in time for a humble meal. If I were creating my religion and had to create fasting rituals, it would definitely recommend sunrise and/or sunset walks - for its the best way for humans to feel connected with nature, with the world and get a feel for what being one with the force is all about.

The only real scare I had was when I hacked this afternoon and my own cough spittle went down the wrong way. I was doubled over choking wondering if I could Heimlich myself to freedom or if I would have to cave and drink some water. Luckily my system managed to hack out that spittle and some more, and I did not have to cave in. Seriously, it would be just my luck by choking on ones own spittle. In fact I think someday when I people are really counting on me to fast stringently this hacking and spittle is going to come back and haunt me.

Lessons from Day 2

1) The internet has made everything better. Time travels at 2 X speed on the internet converting 14 hour days to appeal like just seven hours of net time.
2) I don't think the original faster ever suffered from chronic hacking cough. For if they did like me they would have made elaborate special provisions and guidelines for what to do when you choke on your own spittle.

I'm hydrating myself with plenty of warm water now. It wakes me up at night too pee, but it keeps me during the day. I'm second guessing my idea of nutella and waffles breakfast at 11 PM. Its sitting a bit heavy in my belly. But I seriously cannot do the whole 5 Am thing.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

When the Heathen fasts (Day 1)

Last night as I lay in bed restlessly, I was struck by an idea. I wanted to experience fasting and decided to keep a fast akin to what Muslims keep for Ramadan this week. It is for personal experience and by no means to mock or disrespect Islamic rituals.

The last time I kept this fast was ages ago when I was in school. It was just for a couple Fridays and to keep friends company. The fast ended at about 6 PM. I had also kept a Maun Vrat or day of silence back in the day. Every now and then I am bitten by this fascination to experience something different and see what it feels like.

Anyway, it is years later now. Back then I was very fit and active. Now I have turned into an American slob who is perpetually snacking and shoving food down my throat. Moreover, the fast lasts all the way till 8:15 PM this time around. Most people who keep such fasts have something that matters, faith and belief that helps them persevere. I'm a heathen. I don't believe in rituals or that any benefit comes from rituals. I am skeptical about everything prescribed by religion in general.

So what happens when the heathen fasts, lets find out what happened on the first day.

I woke up at 7:30 AM. The sun was up. I figured I missed the morning window of opportunity to eat and drink. I figured later that the fast begins approximately at 5:15 ish approximately. There is no way I am waking up that early to eat. Most mornings my mom takes the dog out. She had to work early so this was my task. So from 8 - 9 AM I spent an excruciating hour in the sun. You see unfortunately, I don't have a dog who can just do their business in fifteen. She needs to be worn out real good or else she will be too hyper. Usually these walks are alright as there is water in the park and then delicious cool water when I get home. Today there was no hope of that.

It was not too bad. I came home poured food and water for my dog and crashed. Watched TV for a bit, Food Network which was cruelly sadistic and then decided to sleep. I slept almost till 1 PM. It was a good peaceful sleep. No dream of cheeseburgers or water.

At 1 PM, I had another task on hand. Mowing the lawn. I don't think the original fasters had lawns in mind. Maybe they did rake their sands like a pretty Zen sand Garden, which I don't think was as labor intensive. The last few times I've mowed the lawn, I've come back and sprawled on the wooden floor like the Virtuvian man after consuming a gallon of cool water. It was a blistering day. But for being a heathen, I must have done something to please the Gods as they formed a dark cloud cover to keep me cool while I went about my mandatory chore. Those dark clouds were not meant to be there, they left as soon as I was done.

Then some IF, a cooling shower and then lazing around. Got yelled at by mom and sister for my stubborn endeavors like fasting. Final task came at 6:45 when I embarked on my second walk with Aria. It was blistering and my sister suggested taking water. But I cannot drink I protested. For the dog stupid, she told me. Ah yes, the dog. The way she salivates at the thought of food, she could not fast for an hour. She can meditate on the deck for hours, but fasting not her style. I think she follows some Eastern Zen religion of the fat laughing Buddha. I decided to keep walking and walking and admiring the greenery and reaching home just in time to eat. Had to make four pit stops to give the dog a drink. Ah the cruelty.

Came home and had Chinese take out. I don't think its the recommended or traditional food to break the fast - but thats what my sister craved. I thought I would be devouring food like a pig, but I could manage only a modest meal. Now that I am well fed and hydrated it does not feel too bad.  I shall hydrate myself very well before going to bed again. There is no lawn mowing in the agenda tomorrow, but I have to survive the mall. Then next week it is working and the evil candy bowl. Hopefully, no one brings donuts.

Lessons from Day 1

1) I know now why most Muslims don't own dogs.
2) I wonder if they just let their lawns grow wild for a month. I wonder if they are in the market for no-mow fescue.
3) What the fuck do they do for a dry chronic cough. I usually drink hot tea, but that option is out the door.

There is actually more than just experience to this. Its a personal journey, an understanding between me and the force. The force knows why I do things, and I will see what the force says. For now the force has been kind. Perhaps heathens like me can run on our own mortality and mortal desires.