Monday, July 22, 2013

Fasting for Humanity

If somebody asks me whether I fast Ramadan for some higher deity I'd be lying if I said I was. I don't know what I'm doing anymore with this stuff. I haven't for a very long time. When I read posts that were written in the midst of spiritual passion, passion that felt as if it was going to burst out of my chest, I feel as if they were written by somebody else a lifetime ago. I can't feel like that at the moment, and the reserves that I drew upon then are now completely depleted.

Then I think about stories I've heard of Syrians in refugee camps, of people in desperate circumstances that they didn't ask for and facing trials they weren't prepared to undergo. I think how easy it is for me to fast knowing I have food ready for me at the end of the day. But what would I do or say if I didn't? Or if I had children who didn't? I don't know but even considering that thought gives me a chill. For all my failings as an individual the past three years have taught me so much more about what it means to be human and fallible.

We like to think of ourselves as paragons of virtue when we speak with the moral clarity of some high priest for this or that dogma. The "Resistance" with a capital "R" for example, or when we refer to the sacrifices necessary to fight some nebulous great Enemy. I used to feel like that. But isn't it ironic that the great narrative of a titanic clash between good and evil that the resistance narrative uses comes from the same strip of land which introduced that concept into organized religion through Zoroastrianism? Was it not the great clash between Ahura Mazda and a mysterious "hostile spirit" which was the precursor to our own Abrahamic faiths? And within the story of an epic war to end all wars weren't there also the seeds of oppression? And from oppression didn't we also see the rise of self deceit?

Most religions emerged out of a genuine desire to do good, but it seems almost universal that the dogmatic hierarchy which follows that initial creative impulse subverts far more than it preserves. Today we have people who wish to uphold that hierarchy as guardians of some supreme truth - possessing the right to absolve any sin and to damn any soul. These people forget that even the Zoroastrians believed the followers of the "Lie" would fall forever into a hell fire of some sort. To hell with the Lie, and to hell with them I say. Isn't self deceit the greatest of lies?

If I'm fasting, it would be a lie to say I'm doing it for some bearded old man sitting on a throne in the clouds. It'd be far more sincere to say that I'm fasting because it puts me in touch with my humanity and the suffering of others. I can't give them relief, but I can carry the same burden as them even if for a while. Maybe then they can feel better knowing they are not alone in this world even if nobody can help.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yesterday when I left taraweeh prayers and saw the Syrian women begging at the door of the mosque, I certainly felt that what I had participated in was an empty lie. Ye that understanding also comes from the story that I know. As a master story, whether I believe it is not what matters. It is something that I use to understand the world. Trying to understand the world is my way of talking with "the old man," and I find it enabling for the most part. Because without a story, or a frame, you can understand nothing. Like you say, resistance is a story, a way of explaining the world. I don't think they are equal, I'm not a relativist, but believing is not a matter of paying homage (with prayer or fasting) as much as it is being willing to try out the story, of letting experience be the judge. Which is what I believe you are doing.