Monday, February 10th, 2014:
It's 9 am and I've been up for an hour debating whether I should do a 500 calorie fast today and a full fast tomorrow, or whether I should just do a full fast today. I guess I've already decided on a full fast tomorrow, because I'm drinking green tea. Quite frankly, I'm scared of going without food or caffeine for a whole day.
My hesitation with fasting doesn't necessarily stem from a fear of discomfort--though I know it will be uncomfortable--rather, I fear a lack of energy. I have shit to DO, and I need sustenance to DO it--physical sustenance. Fasting was probably easier in more agrarian societies because they understood the link between physical sustenance and spiritual sustenance in a completely different way due to their relationship to the land. When you're farming or gardening, you are dependent on weather, on the whims and populations of insects, on the fertility of the soil, and on many other things beyond the realm of human control. When you're dependent on such things it's easy to realize that spiritual and physical sustenance have a symbiotic relationship--you have to have faith that something will make the rains come--or make the rains stop--in order to get through some days.
Now that we're so far removed from our food system though, fasting doesn't necessarily force us to realize our dependence on the land, nor on God. We choose to fast from "distractions"-not from sustenance itself. Media fasts--those are popular--yet we tend to forget that not so long ago we were not dependent on media for entertainment, communication, or even geographical knowledge. And if I fast from media, what role does empathy play? When I abstain from media I don't really suffer; I may feel enriched by stepping away from my cell phone, but I can still exist in a spiritual vacuum.
When I fast from food however, I am forced to understand what the experience of hunger is like for the 1 billion people worldwide, and the 50 million people in America, who have shit to DO, but who can't feed themselves and their families because they don't have the resources. They have to go hungry because they don't have a choice. How many people do I encounter every day that are suffering from hunger? And how do I stand in solidarity with those people as a person of privilege?
For me, fasting isn't about denial and deprivation, it's about reawakening to the idea that food is a gift from God, and that not having access to such a gift is a great injustice that should be immediately amended. Fasting is about entering into a more joyful and dependent relationship with God, and resonating with the call to feed Jesus' sheep and to become a "repairer of the breach" I have unconsciously helped to create that separates those of us lucky enough to be well-fed from those who experience hunger every day.
Thanks be to God for my daily bread, and for the daily opportunity to shape my world into one in which such bread--daily healthy, sustainably harvested, fairly compensated, spiritually just bread--is a right and a reality that we can all savor together.