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 51 - 60 of 125

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ken vallario

i would agree that adherence to a fasting regimen during pregnancy is a sign of a simplistic relationship with religion. however, i would argue that there is a value in fasting, spiritually speaking, to gain awareness about one's body and one's mortality, and one's relationship with desire, etc. so, given a sophisticated spiritual environment, fasting can be a useful tool, and should not be dismissed as dated, simply because some people misuse it. the same could be said for the tradition of gift giving.

Globatron.org

I agree. We definitely need to re-examine as a culture this thing we call Christmas. I especially enjoy its Pagan roots too.

I was sickened this Christmas when my twenty month old little girl yelled at her four year old sister that some toy we just gave her was hers by saying loudly, "MINE!"

I wrote a poem about it I was so moved to act on this obvious development of her ego and connection with objects.

http://www.globatron.org/headline/meditation-on-things

If I could only let my children know that the things we give them have no meaning without understanding the love that they symbolize. Maybe it's too early to start such teaching at 20 months of age. I'm willing to give it a try.

I don't feel empty at all though as I have used this as a time to reflect on all religions, especially my families heritage of Christianity.

Great post....

Globatron.org

I agree. We definitely need to re-examine as a culture this thing we call Christmas. I especially enjoy its Pagan roots too.

I was sickened this Christmas when my twenty month old little girl yelled at her four year old sister that some toy we just gave her was hers by saying loudly, "MINE!"

I wrote a poem about it I was so moved to act on this obvious development of her ego and connection with objects.

http://www.globatron.org/headline/meditation-on-things

If I could only let my children know that the things we give them have no meaning without understanding the love that they symbolize. Maybe it's too early to start such teaching at 20 months of age. I'm willing to give it a try.

I don't feel empty at all though as I have used this as a time to reflect on all religions, especially my families heritage of Christianity.

Great post....

Corey F.

It's called Advent. Of course, the basic idea is that one undertakes acts of self-denial in preparation for Our Lord's coming, similar to the Lenten preparation for Easter. The Orthodox participate in what is called the Nativity Fast, in which they abstain from red meat, poultry, meat products, eggs, dairy products, fish, oil, and wine, except on Saturdays and Sundays, on which fish, oil, and wine are permitted. However, a great deal of Western Christendom also encourages four weeks of recollected preparation for Christmastide.

The point of all this, of course, is that one need not look far afield from the true tradition of Christmas to find these ascetic practices. And, naturally, one need not be Christian to appreciate the value to be found in retreating from the frenetic and empty busy-ness surrounding the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Corey F.

It's called Advent. Of course, the basic idea is that one undertakes acts of self-denial in preparation for Our Lord's coming, similar to the Lenten preparation for Easter. The Orthodox participate in what is called the Nativity Fast, in which they abstain from red meat, poultry, meat products, eggs, dairy products, fish, oil, and wine, except on Saturdays and Sundays, on which fish, oil, and wine are permitted. However, a great deal of Western Christendom also encourages four weeks of recollected preparation for Christmastide.

The point of all this, of course, is that one need not look far afield from the true tradition of Christmas to find these ascetic practices. And, naturally, one need not be Christian to appreciate the value to be found in retreating from the frenetic and empty busy-ness surrounding the weeks leading up to Christmas.

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