It may well have escaped your notice that the season of Lent is almost upon us. Lent is a period of fasting, as is Advent; and whereas people used to fast before the feast, now we forget the fast and fast-forward to the feast.* And how: Easter eggs are already in Sainsbury’s and Easter is not until April 21st. It’s not even Lent for another three weeks.
*see what I did there?
Not that most Christians actually fast during Lent. It’s more common to give something up – chocolate, say, or booze. The last church I went to had a more imaginative approach to this, suggesting that one might give up TV (we did that and ended up getting rid of it for good) or swearing or being critical (I’ve tried that and it’s really hard. God, I’m so bad at it. I’m a terrible person…) This seems more conducive to spiritual growth than a token avoidance of chocolate, though if one is addicted to chocolate it would be beneficial.
What’s interesting is that while these fasting times of Advent and Lent are largely ignored in a frenzy of chocolate and present-wrapping, the emphasis has shifted. We still have periods of abstinence, only now the emphasis is on physical health rather than spiritual growth. And the periods have time-shifted: instead of Advent we have Stoptober for giving up the fags and Go Sober for October for giving up jokes (just kidding: I could never do that.) Then there’s Dry January alongside all the other post-Christmas health kicks – so instead of December we have October and instead of March, January. Everything has moved back a couple of months.
But as for actual fasting as in abstaining from food and drink, I think the only folk to do that are the Muslims. The difficulty of the Ramadan fast varies according to the country and time of year as it takes place from sunrise to sunset and is compounded in hot countries by the need to abstain from drink. You are nil by mouth: some more zealous Muslims, so I’ve read, even refrain from swallowing saliva. As for me, I find fasting extraordinarily difficult. It’s not only the gnawing hunger that gets me, it’s a deep-seated fear which I can’t quite put my finger on: a fear of fainting, perhaps, or more probably a fear of death. Anyway, since I’ve failed to lose much of the weight I put on at Christmas and am now borderline overweight, I am going to try OH’s watermelon fast. This consists of eating watermelon. Fast. (Just kidding; if you’re trying to lose weight you should eat as slowly as possible.)
Oh, and the sofa should be being picked up today. I’ll keep you posted on that as well…
Meanwhile just for a laugh, here’s a clip from the actual Fast Show: