Adventures in the Fast Lane

on Thursday, September 03, 2009

Fast Food?

I apologise if you have lured you here under false pretenses. From the title of the post, you might have thought that this post is about living the life of the rich and famous ...... it is not. Or you might have thought that it would be the confessions of a drug abuser and speed addict ....... but you would be wrong. Or you might have expected tales from the life of a race car driver ...... but you would be disappointed.

Instead, I am writing about fasting. Fasting is the the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. It is now the month of Rahmadan during which Muslims all of the world fast from sunrise to sunset. No food or liquid should be ingested during the fasting period and this even means spitting out saliva instead of swallowing it.
The purpose of fasting is for Muslims to gain more noble values by gaining control of their natural desires and passions. Some Muslim friends have also explained that fasting makes them more appreciative of the suffering of those less fortunate.

Have you fasted before? I have four tales of fasting from my own experiences.

Tale No: 1 (The Early Years)
My first experience with fasting was in my early teens, when as a young Christian, I took part in prayer and fasting sessions. The purpose was to meet in groups to encounter God and to pray for issues and for one another. Aternating between periods of singing praises to God, silent devotion and prayer, these sessions would last from morning to evening (about 6 hours). We would often miss lunch as a result. The idea of fasting in this case was to put communion with God first before even our earthly desires. We used to do this about once a month and I actually enjoyed these sessions very much. Of course, not eating for just 6 hours isn't really a very long time but it was my first experiences in fasting.

When I was at University, I also took part in a couple of these fast to feed the world programs. The idea is to skip lunch and to donate your lunch money to a food aid charity.
Tale No:2 (The Surprise)
When I was studying in the United Kingdom for my A-levels, there was a short one week holiday and as I was staying in a hostel, a friend invited me to spend the holidays with his family. Now my friend is Jewish and his family home was in London. I had a great time and enjoyed their kind hospitality. My friend did tell me that there was a very important Jewish festival (I think it was Yom Kippur) during that week which they had to attend the synagogue. He told me that I could go off and do my own thing but I was keen to learn more about a different culture and religion. " When in Rome, do as the Romans do", as they say.

He was thrilled that I showed interest and even wanted to go to the synagogue with them. Now this is when he sprung the surprise. Apparently we had to fast for 25 hours. With the wild impulse of youth, I accepted the challenge. So I found myself fasting for 25 hours and attending an extremely long service at the synagogue (from morning to mid-afternoon).

Despite the length of the service, I was taken in with the paegent.ry and the strangeness of the language and the go-ing ons. As such, I was distracted from thinking about food but that completely changed after the service. The mind is a little foggy on this point but I think both my friend and I cheated on the fasting thing when his parents weren't around later. Still, it was the first time i felt truly challenged by fasting and gave me a better respect for those who practice it regularly.

Tale No: 3 (The Real Test)
A few years later, I was travelling through Yugoslavia. In those days the Yugoslavia dinar had no value outside of that country. Therefore, you needed to be careful not to change too much money if you did not want to be left with a bunch of notes that you cannot exchange back into any useful currency when you left.

Of course, being frugal, I exchnaged only a little of my traveler's cheques. As a result, I ran out of dinar on my last day in Yugoslavia and spent the last 8 hours effectively penniless while waiting for a train at the train station. I was hungry and very thirsty and all around me was food and people eating food but I was the penilless backpacker looking in on the feast.

It was a very difficult time. Unlike my earlier fasting tales, this was not voluntary and I could not stop even if I wanted to. In a way, this enforced fast made me understand the plight of the hungry more than any other experience.
Tale No: 4 (Still Unenlightened)
Some people say that fasting helps in self discovery and enlightenment. The earlier fasting experiences certainly taught me some life lessons and I am better able to fast voluntarily as a result. However, as this story shows, I was still very far from enlightenment or wisdom.

This final tale was set at the end of a long, tiring holiday. My girlfriend and I was on the way home after a long journey which included a long hike and bus journey. We were tired and dishevelled and had not eaten for about half the day when we got to the train station. We were taking separate trains from there. After buying our tickets, my girlfriend took the last of her money and bought me a hamburger.

She skips up to me and hands me the hamburger, served with a smile. Almost simultaneously, this homeless man comes up to me and asks for some small change for food. I looked and saw the hunger in his eyes. I had no money left either and so perhaps of the lessons I had previously learnt from fasting, automatically, I passed the hamburger to him. I remember two sets of expressions; the gratitute in the face of the homeless man and the sheer shock on my girlfriend's face. Perhaps i should have asked her if it was okay with her to offer the hamburger away. See......not so wise.


Anonymous said...

love the do you get in that thing? ha, ha.

anywho...never fasted. okay, that's not true. I did it for blood tests. but never for enlightenment or control, etc, etc.

squirrelmama said...

How wise and caring to offer your food to the homeless man, LGS. I know if you were to come upon a hungry squirrel you would always offer your acorns. :-)
Blessed is the squirrel of a Big Heart.
Personally I don't know why it is called a "fast" when the time passes so slowly without food but then, that's the language for you.

kat said...

I love the depths of thought and experience you have and share.

No, I have not fasted but as a Catholic growing up, I had to refrain from meat on Fridays (and I refused to feel guilty or bad when I snuck a hot dog anyway).

I Love food.... but it is unnatural for me to cook and prepare meals... and as a smoker, it is easier to light up and substitute a cigarette for food, isn't it...
but when I do cook, anything, it is an event that I celebrate :-) maybe I will get the hang of it.

Fasting probably means no coffee first thing in the morning... so I cannot do it .... I would be a very cranky person in any 'emergency survival cast adrift lost in the wild' situation!

kat said...

LGS, anything you can tell me please of Dr. Willie Smits out in your part of the world?

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Some will say I haven't fasted either since I never really made it past 24 hours.

wise? I had to do a lot of damage control and groveling after that as my girlfriend was not a happy camper.

As for using the the word "fast". I guess they co0nsoled themselves by imagining the time of starvation will go "fast".

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Now how did you start with the smokes? I am sure your cooking is great because of your passion and your sense of humor - a great combination in all things.

As for Willie Smits, I do not know him personally but a quick enquiry to my colleagues reveals the following; he is involved in orang utan conservation in Kalimantan (Indonesian part of Borneo Island). Now the Indonesian side of Kalimantan has seen a lot of orang Utan habitat lost to forest conversion to oil palm or agricultural use in particular but also to logging activities. He is a bit of a controversial figure and many scientists and conservationists do not agree with his methods.

For example, he promotes forest regeneration with economic benefit for local communities. The latter is important to win their support for conservation efforts. However, it seems that he proposes the use of a) Acacia Mangium and b) sugar palm. Both provides economic benefit but many conservationists would consider the solution as bad as the problem. Acacia mangium is an alien species and planting them is not the same as generating a natural rain forest. Sugar palm is used for biofuel which again is something conservationists are not happy with as it would appear to support the idea of cutting forests down to develop biofuel plantations.

In conclusion, Willie smits is very determined to save Orang Utan but his methods are at odds with many conservationists cause though his methods may help orang utan, it is still detrimental to the natural forest ecosystem.

the walking man said...

If the path you described was the one that led you to understand what a true fast is then it was a worthwhile path.

Mr. Charleston said...

Like you, my only true fast came by way of being without funds, but it did last for 24 hours. 24 hours without food that is, not water. I believe fasting began as a health issue, not a spiritual one. Although one can well imagine ancient man being hungry to the point of delirium which, in those times, was considered spiritual. I suppose I should have said "deliberate" fasting began for health reasons, as a colon cleansing practice. Good post.

secret agent woman said...

Oh no, I came here expectng to see a burger trike. :)

It was good ting you did with the hungry man.

I've never fasted intentionally - I have pretty serious blood sugar problems if I don't eat and get faint and shaky.

kat said...

Watch his talk!

Those other folks must just be jealous!

Just because one cannot formulate a Perfect remedy or
Exactly recreate what was there before, should Not mean one does Not begin the process.... one that has
turned a Biological Desert into a thriving area .... both for people and wildlife, linking them together for mutual and sustainable benefits!

Sheer genius and audacity.... inspired by the orangutan he rescued !!!! to help All of them, long-term as a species
and not just short-term as individuals.

passion and wisdom and insight... bold and daring.

what a guy!


I have fasted before during a very dark time in my life and I can honestly say that I do not regret doing so. I think it is good to do once-in-a-while. But I would also tell people to be wise. If, as some have mentioned in their comments, you suffer from physical ailments it might not be in your best interest to do so.

But God can teach us a lot through our suffering, even if its just to know what the poor go through every day of their lives.

Janice Thomson said...

Loved this post really are a compassionate soul. I fast at each equinox for 2 days - it gives the body a break from having to constantly work and many times I have worked out a few problems if that can be called enlightenment. :)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

There have been times in my life when I was hungry and fasted involuntarily, and I have bought meals for homeless folks on occasion. I would like to think I would have done as you did in that station because no matter what our problems are, there is always someone with worse ones.

geewits said...

I would love to skip a day without eating, but I take a daily medication that is a "Take with food" medicine. Also, scientifically, people should not fast. There's that whole blood sugar thing. And I hope this doesn't annoy you, but that first church sounds sort of cultish. I love what you did at the train station. I would have done the same thing.

Marja said...

Good on you for passing on the burger. I have fasted at times but still think it isn't bad when their is light at the end when you are in a fortunate position.
I didn't get enlightened but I did get a bit light headed.

Owen said...

Fascinating subject, and you've apparently had some interesting experiences with deprivation. Interesting how some religions believe there can be virtue and enlightenment to be gained through fasting. North American Indians had some rituals involving fasting also, part of their spiritual journey...

I was 18 the only time I ever had an experience with fasting, as a student at a place called the National Outdoor Leadership School in Wyoming. At the end of the 30 day course in the mountains, the last 5 days are called the survival period, where the students put to test the skills learned during the course. In small groups without the instructors we had to hike back out of the mountains, after having buried whatever remaining food supplies we may have had left. We were encouraged to drink water but to not eat during that period, in order to have a powerful experience... The hike out was maybe about 30 miles as the crow flies, but over the continental divide and through some very rugged country where we were off any trails. One afternoon it took us three hours to cover about a mile and a half of river canyon where avalanches had felled all the trees in areas creating dense nests of logs very hard to hike over with our big backpacks. At the end of the five days I'd lost 15 pounds, and I was slim to start with. At night we were practically hallucinating about the meals we were going to have when we got back to civilisation... The stars in the sky took on incredible brilliant tones, the mountains grew intensely in clarity... there is certainly an impact on neurological fonction when fasting... that no doubt has been linked by religiously inclined people to be of religious nature or origin. Yes, a fascinating subject, maybe one day I'll head back into the mountains and fast again for a few days, to compare reality with my memory...

Hope you had a great Summer, I've been awfully absent from alot of blogs while on vacation and whatnot... hope to be by more often in days to come...

kat said...

Owen, Lovely photography you have! A feast for the eye.

Anonymous said...


Lone Grey Squirrel said...

The forced fast was in a way the most eye opening compared to the planned fasts, although prayer and fasting has its own benefits.

Mr. Charleston,
Thanks for your input. Whether for health or spiritual, I do think it is worth trying and finding out for oneself. I certainly learned to respect people who do fast regularly and more appreciative of what it means to face hunger.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Secret Agent Woman,
I am glad I reacted almost instinctively to give the burger away but with a little wisdom I could have done it without upsetting my girlfriend. Ah, the things I know now........Fasting not a good idea for someone with blood sugar level issues. :)

I think Willie Smits will either be the genius or the fool. He is going against the consensus of his peers but then, it is in this way of innovation (and controversy) that genius is given an opportunity to bloom. I do not feel wise enough to make any judgment at this point but will follow this story with interest.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I agree. I went through a very dark patch in my life too and although I could not understand why He allowed the pain then, I do feel that I have grown as a result and He has been able to use my experiences to help others. While I would never want to go through that again, i can now at least be thankful for the good that came out of the experience.

I am sure that you are more capable of expounding on the benefits of fasting. I wish I had the opportunity to listen at your feet to your experiences.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I had been challenged before about how I would treat the homeless and had pondered about it. So when it happened, it was almost automatic which is good. If I hadn't thought about it before hand, perhaps I would have wasted the opportunity just by hesitating. I always try to help the homeless if I can cause I really believe that it is only by God's grace that I enjoy relative security and abundance.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Well, to me you are already a hero as you put your own concerns on the back burner to do your meals on wheels work. I am not sure about the scientific position on fasting. I think as long as you do not have an underlying contrary condition, it is probably good to fast once in awhile.
As for my early fasting and prayer experience, I wish I had the conviction and passion to do it today. It wasn't about earning brownie points or because it was a dictate from the church leader. It was about spending quality time with God.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I agree. Our fasting only gives us a glimpse of the suffering of the poor and displaced. We know our suffering is temporary. It takes a lot more to appreciate the sense of hopelessness and helplessness that they feel. Fasting is not the solution but is a useful tool to open up our minds....just a little.

Good to hear from you and don't worry, I begrudge no one for having a good summer. Your experience in the wilderness must truly have been a milestone in your life. I wonder if I could have survived that. I suspect by day 3 I would have hiked out to the nearest roadside diner. (I have been known to catch a bus while participating in a cross-country run......).

TechnoBabe said...

Fasting for me is not associated with my faith as such. As a child we just didn't have food but we didn't call it fasting. And last year due to a traumatic episode, I ended up in a homeless shelter. I did get food there but prior to that I still did not call it fasting. I don't have an over abundance of money or food or anything these days, but I am beyond blessed. And I share what I have been given because it belongs to all of us. I like your blog and I will read your posts from the beginning.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Thanks for visiting and commenting. I do hope you will not be a stranger here. Sounds like you've had a tough time but I am glad that you feel blessed in spite of that or even because of that.

Dr.John said...

Not wise but right.
When I saw the opening picture I wondered if you rode it or ate it.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Dr. John,
"Not wise but right". I guess I could say it was the right thing to do but it wasn't done right! Ah, but the wisdom to handle women correctly is a subject of many tomes.

Anonymous said...

What interesting stories from you and your readers! I've been fortunate enough to never have been forced to go without food, but I often to a spring cleansing fast where I go 24-48 hours without solid food (just clear liquids) and then a week with very plain steamed vegetables, whole grain rice and such. I don't know how much good it does me, but it certainly makes me appreciate the tastes and textures of my usual diet afterwards

Jo said...

I have fasted, but I'm not sure it is good for the human body, if done in an uncontrolled setting. Fasting, however, is much different from imposed hunger -- which too many people in this world suffer from. Your act of kindness was a much more significant act than any fasting. You reached outwards toward another human being, rather than going inward.

Religions have all sorts of peculiar practises, which may or may not be open to criticism, but the practice of human kindness towards another fellow human being definitely earns you a halo, and perhaps a few more feathers in your angel wings.


Anonymous said...

I still re-run my yearly 9/11 tribute post to my husband and all firefighters. It still has all the ORIGINAL comments from my readers and you are there. It's kind of a trip down memory lane for all of us, and I invite readers to continue to leave comments, year after year, as a type of "blogger reunion".

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin