Probably like most people in America, I have never gone without food for more than a few hours. I might skip a meal from time to time, but never all my meals.
It’s important to note that fasting is by choice. I chose to go hungry. For a day. For many people, this is not a choice and it goes on and on. I chose a day that I didn’t have to exert myself physically. I ran some errands, attended some meetings. The only real difference is that I didn’t have to take the time to eat. Other people can’t choose a convenient time to go hungry. And I have to say that one day wasn’t too bad. I wasn’t that hungry. I felt a little weak and my thoughts sometimes slipped away into the ether, but I was fine.
When I got up this morning and went about my normal day, it started to hit. I still wasn’t hungry, but I bumped into things. Taking down the hanging plants to put under the sprinkler was a struggle. I couldn’t fit the hose in the sprinkler and couldn’t figure out why. I almost fell over turning on the water. It’s hard to imagine going another day without food. Even now that I have eaten — a big bowl of cereal with fresh organic strawberries; not a small bowl of rice — I still don’t feel right. I feel unusually full, but not recovered.
Kirk Varnedoe talks in Pictures of Nothing about how an image with fewer formal qualities amplifies the qualities it does have. Fasting would seem to be the same way. The strawberries this morning tasted really good. The soy milk had a little extra vanilla. It feels like I’m more conscious of how I feel today and what the fast means to me than I was while it was happening.
I’d like to try it again, but just spend the day praying and drawing, locked in my studio. I had a great experience drawing while fasting yesterday. I started trying to draw emptiness and my mind emptied out and there was nothing but the motion of my arm and the feel of the crayon on the paper. I’d like to be present to that moment all day instead of just having that emptiness pervade my normal routine. Apparently even a fast can be taken for granted.