I am damn thirsty.
I typically drink gallons of water during the day--at least one, probably around two or three. I can't tell you how many times today I've thought, "I'm thirsty. Where's my water bottle? Oh wait--"
So I'm almost there. Less than three hours to go. This afternoon Jena and I drove to the foothills to go for a walk. I just wanted to stay active because otherwise I'd sit around an moan about how empty and dried up I feel. Luckily for Jena, I have mostly done this complaining in my head throughout the day.
The good news is that the headaches weren't too bad today. I had one before lunch, but it faded. Can you imagine the pain of all those Turks who are addicted to black tea and cigarettes. Ugh. I have it easy compared to them.
I will say that the one thing that disturbs me about this fasting business is the lack of water. It's just not healthy. As someone who always wants to by optimally hydrated, I almost always monitor the color of my urine to ensure that it is somewhere between straw-colored and clear throughout the day. If it's not, then it's time to down some water. Today to my dismay, during my three visits to the restroom, it irks me to see my urine becoming yellower and yellower.
I've always thought that Gandhi's style of fasting seemed more appealing, the way he was allowed lemon water. (I think that was the case. I saw the Ben Kingsley Gandhi movie so long ago.)
While Jena and I were on our walk this afternoon, I found myself thinking about how fasting for the sake of exercising one's willpower is a particularly empty endeavor. From there, I began to wonder why people around me are actually doing it. I'll try to provide some information here.
Hurriyet Daily News, a Turkish news company, states, "Fasting, held from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, is one of the Five Pillars (fundamental religious duties) of Islam. It is a time of self-examination and increased religious devotion. Ramadan is also a time of increased religious observance and socializing, with families sharing rich meals after sunset, followed by gatherings with friends or neighbors" (http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/muslims-holy-month-of-ramadan-to-start-tomorrow.aspx?pageID=238&nID=84087&NewsCatID=393).
What I find interesting about Ramazan is the balance between reverence for one's religion and the sort of exploitation of the month that occurs during the night. I think it's fair to say that Christmas has been overwhelmed by the exploitation of the celebration, but Ramadan seems to be more of a balanced religious holiday. (If you're curious about the night time exploitation I'm referring to, check out the pictures in the news article.)
In a sense, the highly sacred time, the daytime, is downplayed to an extent. Sure you are expected to fast during the day, but at a workplace like ours, you don't need to get yourself there until 10:00 AM. At work, there's almost nothing to do, and based on our observations when driving through town today the people who are doing the most amount of work are the grocery store clerks as they sell groceries for those who are preparing for the iftar (the breaking of the fast meal) tonight.
We only have to work until 3:00 PM, and by piecing together some information from students and coworkers, often the evening hours are passed by sleeping. All things considered, the potential number of waking hours of fasting becomes rather short.
That said, I'm sure there are some people who have grueling experiences. Not everyone is so lucky to have a five hour workday. But things do seem to slow down in society--fewer people are out, fewer customers--so conceivably there's less work to be done.
But then the iftar occurs. If I remember correctly it's proceeded by a few long prayers blared out from the minarets. (One might take issue with my use of "blared," but damn, it really is blared. It's loud, of course, but beyond that they use these bullhorn speakers to amplify the calls to prayer. And the bullhorns destroy the sound quality. It's like hearing a song sung through a paper-towel tube. Possibly in the future when Turkey has emerged from its developing country stage, better sound systems will be installed.)
So the iftar itself is the big family and friend feast that occur every night for a month. I'm sure it's a blast, and from what I have seen, no expense is spared for the meals. Additionally, everyone's finally free to light up those cigarettes and down those cups of tea. Without any real knowledge of statistics, it seems like a fair amount of people party until 2:00 AM when it's time to say your last prayer, eat your last meal, and go to sleep. However, some people go to sleep at their usual times and simply get up in the middle of the night for the prayer and meal.
My point in describing all this is that I think it's important to equivocate the religious sanctity of a holiday when it seems to be evolving into another creature entirely. And that creature is not necessarily bad. Again, think of Christmas. Has it become a ridiculously materialistic holiday nearly devoid of any shred of religion? Yes. Yet, it is still a time to come together as a family and to act in a generous manner through the gesture of gifts.
So when I look at the article explaining the religious importance of Ramazan, I hear myself saying, "Give me a break. Look at what the month really is--a time to sleep in, build up an appetite, and party all night long." However, those thoughts need to be checked by the positive aspects that the religious-side of the month can offer people (spiritually and psychologically) and the positive aspects that the party-side of the month can offer (in terms of familial and relational bonding).
There are probably a number of good reasons to celebrate Ramazan, just as I believe that Christmas is still worth my time. And I don't know why I'm speaking of the religious side of Christmas as if it has significance to me. It doesn't really. But it does serve as the foundation of the holiday, and that foundation has slipped away. Holiday evolution, I suppose. I wonder if you can trace religious holidays over time and see them evolve through specific stages until they reach some sort of end to their existence. That would be an interesting article to read.
In any case, I've killed about an hour writing this. This fasting does take will power. If I were interested in connecting the fasting to spirituality, I can see how I might be more inclined to remember a deity throughout the day every time my stomach grumbles. But as it stands, I just think, "Alan, this is crazy and miserable, but you can do it." At 8:05 I'll see if the rewards justify the task. PARTY!!! No, really, I'm probably going to drink some water and have a beer on an empty stomach. Then I'll eat some dinner and go to bed at a reasonable time.