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 11 - 20 of 125

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secoyara

WOW. I just read this article and I didn't get ANY of those implications you are so vehement about. Steven, just breathe. The sanctity of Christmas is still intact.

secoyara

WOW. I just read this article and I didn't get ANY of those implications you are so vehement about. Steven, just breathe. The sanctity of Christmas is still intact.

Anonymous

It seems a tad bit ignorant to view Islam and restraint as mutually exclusive. Maybe you should learn about the religion from a source other than mainstream media before you make such comments. In fact, the description of Ramadan that Sarah gave is quite accurate. I ask you, if Ramadan was not an Islamic tradition, would you still be so cynical?

Mai Julaidan

Wow, RESPECT!

I have been in situations where i needed to explain the use of the month Ramdan to many none-muslims who wanted to understand why we practice this illustration of worshiping and i have never been even close to explaining it perfectly like you did in you article.

From now on I am quoting your words

Cheers')

Mai Julaidan

Wow, RESPECT!

I have been in situations where i needed to explain the use of the month Ramdan to many none-muslims who wanted to understand why we practice this illustration of worshiping and i have never been even close to explaining it perfectly like you did in you article.

From now on I am quoting your words

Cheers')

Anonymous

There are human truths in humans. Not in religion. Religion co-opts these truths and claims them for its own purpose.

Hedonism, Yogism, Zoroastorianism, Capitalism. Ultimately the same, a form of control. Originally, their intent is to provide for a basic human need. Religion addresses spirituality, capitalism addresses biology. But the ultimate ends are proven to result in bloody conflict and slavery to want, even if the original noble intent is to avoid those very things.

I agree with the gist of the article. Exercise self control, Learn your own body. Engage one another as human beings. Learn from cultural history -- yours and others.

My criticism is that swapping one idol for another one is a false promise and a dead end path. If you've taken that drug, you'll have a comedown. Best practice is not to take it in the first place.

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