Friday, March 02, 2007

Master Cleanse: Day 1, 6PM: In Which Our Hero Calls Bullshit

When I was looking at thesis ideas I approached Reg Kwok, one of my professors, about studying Feng Shui & how it relates to European and American concepts of sacredness in architecture. He's an expert in the field, but he nixed the idea out of hand and told me that there were no academic writings on Feng Shui in English. In Chinese, plenty - but none in English.

Now, if you go to the bookstore you'll find shelf after shelf of books on "Feng Shui." There's the appearance of a wealth of information, but a complete lack of anything rigorous.

I'm having a similar problem with fasting. I tried to look up articles on the science of fasting. I found tons on Ayurvedic "fasting" - but none translated from any authoritative text. They were, for the most part, by Californians and Germans who had spent a summer with a guru & came home to cash in on the experience.

And I want to know, because I want to follow this fast through, but Master Cleanse is bullshit. Or rather, all it's silly rules are. It's starting to strike me as just another form of eating disorder. This is not good for a person's body.

The best I found was a series of articles on Orthodox fasting. Fasting is essential practice for the Orthodox, as it is for Muslims, early Catholics, Hindi, Buddhists, etc. It has a valid history. A lot of articles are direct translations, and there is precious little on the cleasning powers of cayenne - nor a single story about marbles swallowed in childhood miraculously being excreted in adulthood. Rather, we get this:

Gluttony makes a man gloomy and fearful, but fasting makes him joyful and courageous.
And, as gluttony calls forth greater and greater gluttony, so fasting stimulates greater and greater endurance.
When a man realizes the grace that comes through fasting, he desires to fast more and more.
And the graces that come through fasting are countless....

~Saint Nikolai of Zicha~
They also warn about legalism, or becoming pharasaical (and what a lovely word that is! I just learned it, and I'm keeping it) - i.e. becoming concerned with orthodoxy and forgetting the purpose behind the fast. One becomes concerned with trivial details of the law, which then naturally leads towards judgment of those less pure.

Another series outlines the purposes of the Orthodox fast: to learn discipline (to gain control of those things that are indeed within our control but that we so often allow to control us), and to learn moderation and simplicity.

The author of the last also offers this caveat: But if fasting itself starts to control us -- if we spend countless hours reading every ingredient label and the like -- then we can become just as controlled by our fasting and, in the process, miss the whole point of fasting in the first place.

So the purpose of a fast is not deprivation, sacrifice, or pain. Master Cleanse seems to be as neurotic as any trend in our society - and it seems to feed into the very neuroses it claims to heal. So I'm off the program ... but I'll continue a fast. I do think it is a potential path to knowledge. I'll keep it simple & traditional - basically what I saw in Muslim and Orthodox countries: no solid foods during the day, and no meat, oils, dairy, or alcohol at night.

The sun is down, so I'm off to make me a nice veggie soup. Yum.

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