Sunday, September 26, 2004
I successfully fasted for twenty-four hours for Yom Kipur without pushing anyone into traffic or slicing anyone’s head off. The Yom Kipur fast is a nasty one: not only are you not allowed food, but you’re also not allowed any form of liquid whatsoever, including coffee. No coffee make Surly super surly. By the beginning of the afternoon it was as if someone where massaging my spongy brain matter with acid-tipped stiletto heels.
This is fast is not, as many believe to make you feel as horrible as possible for one day, forcing you into a subservient and repentant state until the end of your fast when you feel virtuous and righteous for having made it through the entire twenty-four hour period. This would logical since it is the Day of Atonement. It’s not altogether accurate, though; if you actually feel yourself to be virtuous and righteous, you’re not being very Jewish. If you’re Jewish, there’s always something you can be doing better or more of (or less of). The purpose of the fast is, while atoning for all the bad things you did during the previous year, big bad and little bad, to help you into the shoes of someone less fortunate than you – just to nail home the point that much more poignantly. A forced starvation is a very pointed way of achieving this.
I felt the caffeine withdrawal more acutely than I did the hunger. This does not mean that now I understand the hardship of those who cannot afford coffee. I’m sure they have other things on their minds than standing in Second C*p or Starfuck’s trying to decide whether to get the Brazilian Meadow blend or the Bolivian Mountain blend.
What I do understand better now is how a former colleague had to muster all his concentration at work as he suffered through a painful medical condition that eventually ended his life. I could barely read after just a few hours of no coffee. He worked full time and did a good job (although he did need help with detailed stuff occasionally). I was barely able to hold a conversation. I have a much better appreciation of what he had to do every single day and am in awe of what he achieved in such a circumstance. All the petty problems seem to melt away when you find another perspective, even if it’s only for a few hours.
And on the theme of putting yourself in others’ shoes, Radmila wrote something beautiful, something very few people in Canada or the States have ever had to deal with in quite this way. Read “Repost” (Sept. 25).
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