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 21 - 30 of 125

Page 3 of 13

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.

ken vallario

the practice of idolatry is about the most human thing I can think of...what else is there? how do we know we hold not the truth, but an idol, a symbol of that mystery to which we all must claim ignorance. but the case is often over simplified, religion is made a caricature, when it once was what capitalism is today, a guiding principle. and these guiding principles are simply the vehicles of human endeavor, and our relationships with them are complicated. a rich historical understanding is impossible without some reverence for the heroic nature of the religious life.

we are all religious, we are all superstitious in the final analysis, because we are finite, and our desires are ultimately a mystery. but, in order to respect the article, if a religion points to a direction that will increase balance, then i support it, and when the religion points toward further division and violence, then it goes against what i would call preferable.

we are now living in a polytheistic world, where many gods are competing for our souls. the revolution will most likely be a result, not of some complicated political theory, but that religious kind of person that will help us see the 'one' god to which all these idols point. political analysis, and philosophy are reaching a point of impotence, simply as a result of an entanglement of ideas. with a world so deep in polarities, we are tasked to search our hearts to see if we believe in anything divine. is a miracle really possible? because, in my opinion, this is the real discussion concerning the 'respect' of religions. do you believe in miracles? happy holy days....and by the way, fasting is unamerican.

ken vallario

the practice of idolatry is about the most human thing I can think of...what else is there? how do we know we hold not the truth, but an idol, a symbol of that mystery to which we all must claim ignorance. but the case is often over simplified, religion is made a caricature, when it once was what capitalism is today, a guiding principle. and these guiding principles are simply the vehicles of human endeavor, and our relationships with them are complicated. a rich historical understanding is impossible without some reverence for the heroic nature of the religious life.

we are all religious, we are all superstitious in the final analysis, because we are finite, and our desires are ultimately a mystery. but, in order to respect the article, if a religion points to a direction that will increase balance, then i support it, and when the religion points toward further division and violence, then it goes against what i would call preferable.

we are now living in a polytheistic world, where many gods are competing for our souls. the revolution will most likely be a result, not of some complicated political theory, but that religious kind of person that will help us see the 'one' god to which all these idols point. political analysis, and philosophy are reaching a point of impotence, simply as a result of an entanglement of ideas. with a world so deep in polarities, we are tasked to search our hearts to see if we believe in anything divine. is a miracle really possible? because, in my opinion, this is the real discussion concerning the 'respect' of religions. do you believe in miracles? happy holy days....and by the way, fasting is unamerican.

Katherine

Ken, I've been reading all your comments on this thread, and I am glad to have found at least one sane voice. Happy Advent.

Katherine

Ken, I've been reading all your comments on this thread, and I am glad to have found at least one sane voice. Happy Advent.

Maria Mahdaly

Islam has always been a way of life to me. Ramadan and its practices has been a value. Look into what it brings as a value and not as a religion.
Thanks for the article

Maria Mahdaly

Islam has always been a way of life to me. Ramadan and its practices has been a value. Look into what it brings as a value and not as a religion.
Thanks for the article

David Somers

Mike is right - nobody is asking anyone to adopt Islam - just look within to extract the values instilled in Ramadan.

David Somers

Mike is right - nobody is asking anyone to adopt Islam - just look within to extract the values instilled in Ramadan.

Westdude

What does Xmas do to the environment?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

CHRISTMAS -- THE MOST PARADOXICAL SEASON
By Flavioos

-- The season when tons, tons, and tons of trash - that could be avoided - are irreverently dumped into the environment.
-- The season when graceful young trees are taken away from their original habitat, used as toys for a few weeks and then dumped into the trash.
-- The season when trash collectors have their work drastically increased by the amount of dead trees and other weird pieces of trash they have to take away.
-- The season when a considerable amount of electrical power is wasted on fanciful decorations.
-- The season when people feel the obligation (not always a pleasure) of giving something to someone.
-- The season when millions of wrong gifts are exchanged and part of them recycled by returning to their original stores to be repacked and sold again.
-- The season when people spend all their moneys, and part of their coming paychecks, on thousands of unnecessary things, forgetting that they might be starting the New Year broke and sorry for having credit cards.
-- The season when merchants feel free to raise merchandise prices, without any justification or apology.
-- The season when lifters take advantages in crowded shopping centers and markets to steal merchandise.
-- The season when Santa is allegorically used to promote businesses and implant lies and false beliefs into the mind of children.
-- The season when some people feel so lonely and devastated that get drunk or even commit suicide.
-- The season when -- disregarding the joys of being healthy -- people ruin their own health by eating piles of junk foods.
-- The season when the media reviews the disgraces and tragedies of the year.
-- The season when Christians -- ignoring ethical principles -- send Xmas cards and messages to Moslems and Atheists, Jews and Buddhists.
-- The season when people are not able to realize that their religiously-rooted festivities and celebrations instigate all those unhappy incidents.

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