Slowed by Fasting

For a while there, I just gave up on eating and drinking. I’m telling you, I was done with it.


What a weird and counter-cultural thing to do in a world of Whoppers and I’m Lovin’ It and Have it Your Way, to say nothing of obesity epidemics and 140-character limits on attention. (Yeah, I guess I might as well say it. Harrumph.)

Fasting. Muslims do it. Christians used to, though even by my faithful mother’s heyday, she would merely give up one of her oral pleasures – usually chocolate, never cigarettes – for the Lenten leadup to Easter. (Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 famous days in the

Not the view from downtown Dalian, but sunrise is lovely anywhere.

wilderness, getting ready to bear a mighty Ministry; however, this exemplary practice seems to have been largely abandoned  by followers of the Son.) Baha’u’llah also prescribed it for a 19-day period leading up to the first day of spring (the Baha’i new year), from sunup to sundown.

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Slowing and Fasting

I know, I know. Where are the rants on the Olympics from the sports-loving Canadian expatriate? They’re in gestation. It has been a fun sort of oddness to watch Chinese sports television — CCTV 5: All Skating, all the Time! — from a Canuck mindset. For now, you might want to check out a recent non-Olympics post on an athletic passing, not quite so tragic or sudden as that of the Georgian luger, but still one that moved me. It’s in the It’s All About Sports! section.

Okay, so what about those Better Read Than Never reviews? Don’t you do any reading while you’re in China? Well, you bet I do, and I’m even publishing some of my earlier rambles in a glossy but editorially questionable ex-pat magazine here called Focus Dalian. But to answer your question, here are a few recent alphabetical journeys: another re-reading of The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, a spiritual butt-kicking for those “whose reach is beyond their grasp“; The Rebel Angels, a witty and erudite Robertson Davies novel, first of the Cornish trilogy; Who’s Afraid of a Large Black Man?, in which former hoopstar Charles Barkley wonders interestingly about race and power “and why everyone should buy my book” in conversation with a pre-Presidential Obama, a post-Presidential Clinton, Morgan Freeman, Ice Cube and other American notables; Mind, Heart, & Spirit: Educators Speak, a remarkable collection of testimonies and memoirs stitched together by Canadian poet Heather Cardin; Changing Planes, linked short stories by Ursula K. Leguin that acerbically explore alternate nearly-human realities (gosh, she’s good — I’ve also been reading her Earthsea Cycle as bedtime for a few young bonzos, deep and wondrous tales that an adult can also thrill to); Norman Bethune, my old boss Adrienne Clarkson’s biography of the great Canadian hero of revolutionary China; Waiting, a fascinating and distinctive novel of a Cultural Revolution-era family, by the expatriate Chinese novelist Ha Jin; The Advent of Divine Justice, a powerful book which is really one long letter to the then-tiny North American Baha’i community by the Faith’s Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, before the Second World War (a vision and a call just as awesome in 2010); Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s classic romance, glorious writing and funnier than I’d expected; and last, so that this listing paragraph might be righted (and written), Dreams of My Father, Obama’s pre-Presidential and pre-Senatorial memoir, and how wonderful is it, if we must have individuals in such positions of power and fame, that the Number One Dude can think and really write? It’s not easy to find English books in Dalian, but we brought plenty and (who knew?) our Thailand sojourn led us to a little Chiang Mai hub of remarkably good used bookstores. We will survive.

Yeah, but we still remember a promise, hmm, last August (!), that “there will be details” of this Chinese experience? Justice is on your side, faithful readers, but the trouble is that I’ve been too busy experiencing. And justice is also on my side, because I didn’t say when, now did I? Luckily, my bride is a more prompt, practical and pictorial reporter than I am, and so your lust for details on our lives in China can be satisfied with a trip to her LiveJournal record. It’s fun and thoughtful stuff.

What about fasting? Yes, we’ve heard about my chronic slowness, but we’ve hit that sacred, spring is coming time of year and I’m fasting, fellow babies, I’m fasting for the 37th consecutive March. I hope to do it well, to go beyond syllables and sounds, beyond brainless fridge-prowling and absurd appetites, and beyond eat-drink to pray. I wish me luck, and I hope for sparks and progress, but I always love it. A cool blogger called Phil is writing his experience of fasting the Baha’i way, and I recommend him. He’s always a good read.

So here’s my question: is there anything else you’d like to know? You could comment. I’m also told that it’s easy — hey, I’m the god-king of this little electronic pasture, so I’ve never actually subscribed to it — to get hand-delivered to your Inbox by hitting the orane button up top. Let me know how that goes. Thanks, as always, for reading.

(Pulling a) Fast One

The warmest of shouts out to the people of Bahá today, et bon courage, as they enter their period of fasting. (And give yourself an extra helping of sausage tomorrow morning if you got the pun in the title, be you believer or not.) I’d write more about this fasting business, but I’ve been up since six and it’s a SNOW DAY IN OTTAWA but I drove Sam to school and I’m going back to bed! Yippee!!

Today’s cosy indulgence will be sponsored by the cracking open of a novel, The Go-Between by the (alas, no longer scribbling with us¹) English writer L.P. Hartley. It’s the one with that pregnant first line, “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there…” No matter how well it begins, there will likely be sleep. There has already been guitar, and there may be more. There will certainly be shovelling. (Yes, my sweet, and dishes and laundry.) And today’s forecast is that the sweet and overwhelming inspiration to write will strike me with both fists at exactly 1:00 pm this afternoon.

¹ Anyone out there get this particular literary allusion? Think snow falling “like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards”. (And if you can’t wait for next Christmas – or you need to know the answer NOW – please click here for my favourite re-creation of childhood. It’s worth five minutes. Heck. Six.)