The Big Ideas of 2010

Ramadan

Why not look to Islam for a bit of restraint?
CHARLIE ENGMAN

Most of us, whether we’ve experienced it directly or not, are familiar with the idea of a comedown. A comedown is what happens when a drug, usually a stimulant, begins the long, painful process of withdrawing from your system. As the euphoria of the high begins to wane and the anxiety washes in, you suddenly start to feel dizzy and disoriented. The drug, previously situated between you and reality, is wearing off and, as it goes, you’re left to navigate the void created by its absence. That means going through the process of reconnecting to yourself, to your body’s natural rhythms and your mind’s natural pace. And when it’s finally over, you’re left feeling listless, lifeless and blank … the soaring high replaced by a crushing melancholy.

That’s how I feel every year after Christmas.

Once the cheer I’ve been mainlining since the day after Thanksgiving dries up, I’m left with an emptiness I can’t quite describe. There’s nothing like the sight of Christmas decorations after the holiday has passed. Walking into a room strewn with yuletide detritus is like returning to the scene of Bacchanalian excess the morning after, when all you’re left with is a headache and a vague sense of shame. The thought of candy, cookies, credit cards – consumption in any form – invites feelings of guilt and disgust. I can’t wait to eat a salad, go to the gym. I vow never to go to the mall again. I just want to get clean. Coming down from Christmas – reconnecting to my body’s natural rhythms and my mind’s natural pace – takes days.

I doubt I’m alone. Most people seem a bit pallid and disconnected, not quite themselves, in the days following Christmas. It’s as if we’re all trying to traverse the void that the holiday, with its attendant excess, has left in its wake. But what if we were to introduce some elements of Ramadan into our celebration of Christmas? Muslims, during the month-long observance of the Islamic holiday, abstain from eating, drinking and sex during the daylight hours. The practice of fasting is meant to teach patience, humility and restraint. It is meant to inspire empathy and appreciation. It’s a way to achieve “God-consciousness” and repent for past sins and misdeeds. Above all, fasting is meant to bring one closer to one’s spiritual self. By denying the body, practitioners are strengthening the soul and the mind. It is an exercise in discipline and meditation that, once completed, should leave one feeling more connected, more whole.

Westerners have a long tradition of borrowing from other cultures to temper an immoderate nature. Yoga brings us calm, Tao brings us balance – so why not look to Islam for a bit of restraint? Maybe we can begin this year at the height, rather than the depths, of self.

Sarah Nardi

125 comments on the article “Ramadan”

Displaying 1 - 10 of 125

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Anonymous

Why look to religion at all?

Religion is the socialization of spirituality, a primarily individual relation to oneself and ones world. Religion has a long history of mobilizing sinister action on the basis of a false promise of salvation.

Anonymous

Why look to religion at all?

Religion is the socialization of spirituality, a primarily individual relation to oneself and ones world. Religion has a long history of mobilizing sinister action on the basis of a false promise of salvation.

mikezephyr

why? because there are human truths even within religions.
islam and its practices, for all intents and purposes, is the vehicle for expressing a deeper value that can work against the corrupting consumerism that is seemingly omnipresent. this could easily have been a meditation on jesus or buddhism.

the article is not asking you to don a keffiyah, swing around prayer beads and chant death to america in a roaring crowd. just to put down the gluttony in favor for, and get this- a high form of hedonism!

mikezephyr

why? because there are human truths even within religions.
islam and its practices, for all intents and purposes, is the vehicle for expressing a deeper value that can work against the corrupting consumerism that is seemingly omnipresent. this could easily have been a meditation on jesus or buddhism.

the article is not asking you to don a keffiyah, swing around prayer beads and chant death to america in a roaring crowd. just to put down the gluttony in favor for, and get this- a high form of hedonism!

Poignant

Indeed, imagine western christians abstaining from gluttony and vanity during the holidays and instead exercising some restraint. Imagine what could be done with all the money people waste on stupid goods that are in all likeliness made by 14 year old south asian girls in slave labour camps.

I do not share the authors' view in regards to Christmas whatsoever, in fact I can't wait for it to be over before it starts. It bothers me tremendously that christmas has come to represent profits for companies like borders, chapters, barnes and noble, hallmark, cadbury, nestle, hasbro, parker brothers, Ganz, best buy, sony, sport chek, panasonic....and many more

I cannot stand the ridiculous manufactured propaganda of the month of December. It is shame Jesus birth is synonymous with consumer spending and corporate exploit.

Poignant

Indeed, imagine western christians abstaining from gluttony and vanity during the holidays and instead exercising some restraint. Imagine what could be done with all the money people waste on stupid goods that are in all likeliness made by 14 year old south asian girls in slave labour camps.

I do not share the authors' view in regards to Christmas whatsoever, in fact I can't wait for it to be over before it starts. It bothers me tremendously that christmas has come to represent profits for companies like borders, chapters, barnes and noble, hallmark, cadbury, nestle, hasbro, parker brothers, Ganz, best buy, sony, sport chek, panasonic....and many more

I cannot stand the ridiculous manufactured propaganda of the month of December. It is shame Jesus birth is synonymous with consumer spending and corporate exploit.

KeepAmericaFat.com

Nicely put Poignant. I couldn't agree with you more (aside form the fact that Jesus is irrelevant). I actually wrote a piece with similar themes on this web site : (www.keepamericafat.com)

KeepAmericaFat.com

Nicely put Poignant. I couldn't agree with you more (aside form the fact that Jesus is irrelevant). I actually wrote a piece with similar themes on this web site : (www.keepamericafat.com)

Steven J Strang

I disagree with the previous poster. If one can gain something positive from a religious tradition, then why not do so? One doesn't have to embrace a life of religiosity, nor accept all of the tenets of a religion, in order to extract things from it that are positive.

Religion doesn't HAVE to be "sinister" and it doesn't HAVE to be a "false promise." The value of any religion lies in the hearts and minds of each person, and the intent is what matters. If one uses religion or any other philosophy for positive purposes, there is nothing wrong with it. The source of inspiration for positive change shouldn't matter--only the end result should matter.

Steven J Strang

I disagree with the previous poster. If one can gain something positive from a religious tradition, then why not do so? One doesn't have to embrace a life of religiosity, nor accept all of the tenets of a religion, in order to extract things from it that are positive.

Religion doesn't HAVE to be "sinister" and it doesn't HAVE to be a "false promise." The value of any religion lies in the hearts and minds of each person, and the intent is what matters. If one uses religion or any other philosophy for positive purposes, there is nothing wrong with it. The source of inspiration for positive change shouldn't matter--only the end result should matter.

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