Thursday, March 06, 2003

I've been doing some searching around about fasting customs in different religions. One thing that's interesting is that all of them say that refraining from evil actions is just as important as refraining from food and drink -- especially where speech is concerned. I guess since fasting involves restraint of the mouth, restraint of speech is rather associated with it.

My favorite is the Muslim hadith where Muhammad is said to have instructed his followers that if anyone insults a fasting Muslim, or tries to begin a quarrel, that Muslim should simply respond "I am fasting."

So, I'm trying to behave myself in online discussions, and actually used the response Muhammad recommended, as a sign that if I'm attacked, I'm not defending. I swear nobody beats Baha'is at denial -- a person calls a post of mine "falsehood", "tendentious", "so-called scholarship", just for starters, but denies that it is an attack, and further accuses me of "playing the martyr." What's hard about it, is that this person didn't even address a single thing I said, but if I try to explain further, then I'm in the kind of argument I should be avoiding just now.

But I began thinking about my own style. I'm no angel; I do sometimes lose my temper, and use various colorful phrases to tell people giving me a hard time to go jump in the lake. But, you know, I thought about this exchange today -- and it just would never occur to me to call someone a lying, tendentious, pseudo-scholar even if I believed it to be true. In fact, I seldom even *think* of people that way. And if I'm angry, I don't deny I'm angry. These same people get all upset if I turn the air blue with a few four-letter words, but they can use "polite" insults and don't see what they are doing wrong. The closest I ever come to that is maybe saying that "Such-and-such is a typical fundamentalist reaction.", and even then I make it general rather than personal.

Well, I suppose I should be counting my own sins right now. How persistant the need to justify one's self!

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Well, it's been a while since I've checked in here, but I thought maybe I'd give some musings on the Baha'i Fast.

Fasting has always been a struggle for me, being that I'm a rather self-indulgent sort. It's taken me years just to figure out *how* to fast effectively. I just sort of take it day by day; if I blow it, I try again, instead of giving up and figuring I can't do it. The hardest part is that keeping myself together when there are demands made on me e.g. in the classroom. I can't get irritable and snappy with kids just because I'm fasting. I always take a "just in case" snack, because I have to keep it together, no matter how tough any particular class is. I don't always need it, but sometimes I do.

The Baha'i Fast is a total fast -- you get nothing at all between sunrise and sunset. I find myself astounded at the rigor of the Muslim fast, which lasts for longer each day, and for more days, and it's considered a major sin if you break it. Baha'is haven't been imbued with that sense of sin for missing out on required spiritual practices, at least not in the West. Another factor is that we so often are doing it in isolation -- a lot of us are converts, the only Baha'is in our families. A lot of us don't have a supportive community. Certainly, the world doesn't stop because we're fasting. I find sometimes that I have to be somewhere in the evening at 6:00, and I'm faced with the prospect of either breaking fast early, or waiting a couple of hours after sunset. I generally do the former.

I've never been one who could manage to wax poetic about the spiritual benefits of the Fast. I do my best to get through it, but mostly it just means I'm tired, thirsty, and hungry -- especially as afternoon wears on. I know that's not a real good attitude, but there it is. I'm a real wimp when it comes to physical discomfort.

I've been looking around at the fasting practices of the different religions. Back in college, I used to do juice fasts sometimes, when I was doing yoga. But that was more motivated by a desire to lose weight than any spiritual benefit. But lately I've been thinking about experimenting with partial fasts, more along the lines of what Christians traditionally do. I've experimented with different meditiation practices and such, so why not give this a go? At the moment, I'm just envious that Christians can have bread and water, and still be considered to be fasting! I may have better luck at feeling spiritual about it, if I am disciplined, but not deprived. This, of course, would not be during the Baha'i fasting month, but a superogatory thing.