08 August 2011
There is no end to the interesting things, here in Malaysia. I don’t even get sick the same way. Like this morning, I woke up nauseas and had a light breakfast of an orange and some water. I couldn’t stomach the rice or meat offered on the table. Walking to the kitchen to the living room made me feel dizzy, so I sat down and drank more water. Then, the television was turned on and I watched some CNN for a few minutes before the need to be sick filled my gut and my head. Usually, after someone vomits, they feel a little better, if exhausted from the effort. This was not so in my case, so I lied down on the bed and layered on the two blankets. The temperature here is around 85 F at night and early in the morning, and I was frigid. I wiped cold sweat from my face and arms a few times before I fell asleep. I woke up around 10 in the morning and with 5 hours of sleep (breakfast was around 5) I had more energy. Since its fasting month, I’m feeling terribly guilty for drinking water, but I’m sick and I’m sure the prophet Mohammed would understand. So, with this new energy, I’ve straightened the beds and cleaned the bathroom before taking a shower because these are the things I used during and immediately after I was sick. Coming downstairs, I scared the bejeebies out of Bibi, the live-in maid and upon my pantomimed explanation she gave me some gel to rub on my tummy that smells like Vicks and Cinnamon. She is also feeling ill, poor thing. I’m doing all I can to help her, here, without letting any of my other responsibilities drop. That’s why it’s the whole bathroom and not just the toilet that was cleaned. I hope that’s enough for today, because I’ve got just enough energy to write this. The internet is down again- otherwise I would’ve caught up on the news, maybe see how things are going with the US debt crisis and the riots in… well… everywhere. England and Syria and Libya and Malaysia were the headlines.
I’ve been curious about the fasting month of August, which is Ramadan in the Islamic calendar, since I first learned of it’s presence in Islam. What I found out before I came was that the fasting is during the daylight hours and drinks count, and that was the extent of my curiosity. Now that I’m here, I’ve been doing what I always do when I want to know; asking questions and doing research. Before I could ask the deep question of ‘Why’, I had to ask ‘Where, How, and Who’. Ramadan takes place around August, beginning with the new moon of the month. The Islamic calendar is lunar, suggesting that some of the practices are tied to the pagan rituals that must have existed in the pre-Abrahamic Religion age. In Arabic countries where Islam flourishes, the rituals and practices are linked very closely with the situations in the weather and the growing and planting, wet and dry seasons. The timing makes sense when looked at practically and theologically at the same time. Muslims fast during this time because in the northern hemisphere around the equator, the rainy season has just come to a close, and everything is growing at a ferocious rate that will slow during the dry season. What better way to make sure that there’s enough food for the dry months than to not eat it all up during the last damp month? And what better way to measure when the dry deadline will come than by a lunar calendar, which had shorter and more comprehensible cycles that correlate to the presence of water? Fasting now makes sense, which is why some Muslims will say how it just feels right, socio-psychologically and theologically. It shows reverence and good communal planning skills to fast, now. All Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic religions have a time to plant, a time to reap, a time for war, a time for peace, and speak of things in a cyclical manner that dates back to before there were literal ‘dates’. A large part of this cycle correlates to the growing seasons and solstices that were the staple measure of time in pre-religious times, and fasting comes naturally to a society where food becomes scarce during a specific time. Christians have Lent, a time to abstain from meat, that dates back to when meat was to be saved, preserved and prized for later when it would be sacrificed. Judaism has times when one eats little, as the Israelites in their migration from Egypt had only manna, as well as other established times where there are partial fasts that are compulsory.
With this abstinence from that which keeps us alive and human, the accepted idea is that we might transcend our human wants and needs and become at a higher level of enlightenment. Once you remove the puppet’s strings, he can fly with the grace of God(s), as fasting is also practiced in polytheisms. Hinduism and Buddhism have their fasts and their various abstinences that are planned for certain times with the same transcendentalist goal. Islam just takes a different route to this enlightened place.
Islam has included in its teachings from the prophet, detailed exceptions to the rule, and defining who, exactly, is to fast and when. Children and pregnant and nursing mothers are excused. Those who are menstruating are also excused from the practice, as they are not clean and may not prostrate themselves before God, anyway. It’s a system that’s been in place to keep the questions to a minimum, and working off the needs of humanity (to reproduce, mainly), one can find the trends between these practices and pre-religion. This, by my experience and research, is really cool. Yay Pagans for establishing not only a system of time that matches the cyclical pattern of our years, but also a way to live with that situation in the universe instead of against it!
Today I'm writing Postcards, so if you want one and I don't have your adress, email me :)