A large Buddha sat serenely in the clearance section of a local home decorating store. A distant echoing voice seemed to shout, Zen for your home, marked down from $499.95 to only $99.95! The path to spiritual enlightenment has never been more affordable! Get it while supplies last! Buddha didn’t even blink.
I suppose I shouldn’t be critical, especially since I’m not Buddhist. However, I do wish they hadn’t set him so close to all the severely discounted December holiday merchandise. Then again it was one of the few times the market could humiliate baby Jesus, the Star of David, and Buddha side by side. With that kind of religious equality we may have a chance at world peace yet.
Fasting is an integral part of almost every major religion and culture. It’s a common practice in Korea (at least among the older generation) where Buddhism and Shamanism thrived for so long. Christianity’s arrival added to the already ample fasting traditions. Once a year my mother does a three-day fast that she breaks with cooked ground pine nut gruel and bitter boiled medicines. She believes, as many Asians do, that fasting is a physical and spiritual cleanse. Most fasts among Koreans last three days or seven days, during which you can drink optional medicines and take fiber supplements. Some Christian Koreans even attempt 40-day fasts. My mother insists that after a fast her body feels lighter, she has more energy, and her voice becomes more powerful. I believe that fasting lowers your metabolism, wastes precious muscle mass, and encourages abdominal fat. Which it probably does.
But I also take modern medicine with a grain of salt. Those countless cultures and religions that have engaged in fasting rituals have survived without much apparent harm and still continue to fast regularly. Perhaps my mother feels better because of a placebo effect, but perhaps she feels better because, well, she feels better. I have never fasted in my life, even when I was ill. I have never been so poor that I couldn’t afford food. I have never been so busy that I couldn’t eat for 24 straight hours. I have never been anorexic. I am surrounded by almost obscene plenty in my home with its full cupboards and two refrigerators. I don’t know what hunger is.
As a food blogger, it’s obvious that I adore food. It’s because I adore food that I wonder what would happen if I not only removed food from my life for one day but removed all expectation of food from my life for one day. Of course, fasting won’t teach me what real hunger and poverty are like, but it will focus my mind and satisfy my curiosity about my body and my tolerance. If it cleanses me too, bonus! I never object to a good incidental cleansing.
February 14 could be the day I finally try it. Why Valentine’s Day? Well I’m single at the moment and—here’s the devious part of my plan—on the 15th I’m breaking my fast and buying flowers…on sale. On clearance! While education and enlightenment should never come cheap, it doesn’t hurt when flowers do. That plan may backfire if it turns out that flower prices go up due to post-Valentine’s Day “OH CRAP I FORGOT VALENTINE’S DAY!” bouquets with pre-printed cards that say:
Dear rocket hot _____,
You are so so so beautiful / handsome and your ass is so not too big / penis is so big. I’m dirt. Forgive me. Here are some extremely expensive flowers and a _____-studded scepter / _____-studded PlayStation 3.
With all my love,
I’ll take my chances. Don’t worry, I’ll have a nice food post for Valentine’s Day ready in advance. There’s no reason why you should go without too. Gluttony is still tied for my favorite vice.