Spiritual Freedom
Beyond Our Appetites

Lynne M. Baab

In the Bible, Ms. Baag tells us, there are seventy-five references to fasting, often coupled with mourning --- sackcloth and ashes --- or "repentance," where we give up something and acknowledge our sins. She also advises that fasting may be a means for divine guidance, or as a lesson we can use for others, as in Mother telling us "That's all right. You children go ahead and eat. I'll just wait here until you're done."

Baab tells us that it is possible for us to thus avoid our daily dose of TV, going here or there in the car, shopping, or watching the daily news, reading novels, playing with the computer, doing e-mail. Fasting can be genre-specific: A vacation from "chips" or "sugar" or butter-nut creme-baked honey-flavored vanilla-rich fudge oh yum. It could even be a day driving around without the car radio tuned to Big Dog Daddy, Icky Thump or The Pimples.

Fasting, she advises, gives us time to "pray more." She tells the story of a friend who has invented a new form of child-abuse: he sits bolt upright at the table as his children are munching on salami-and-cheese pizzas, downing malted double chocolate milkshakes. He does nothing more than sip water, praying all the while. Saints preserve us.

Ms. Baab has thus a rather expansive if not disconcerting view of what it means to fast. Where you or I may want to take a day or two off from our meals of fatback chicken pie or an evening of fried popcorn and beer, she is willing to ban everything possible that makes our lives bearable.

It could be playing the piano, or wearing makeup, or singing. She tells us of friends of hers who "turbocharge" their prayers by fasting. A fast can also involve taking time off from something she calls a "praise band."

There are a mountain of options. We can do a "Juice Fast" where we stay away from all solid food. There is an "Eastern Orthodox Fast" --- what our friends call "VEE-gan" --- avoiding "meat, fish, dairy, eggs, oil and alcohol." There too is a Daniel Fast ("eating only vegetables") and a Fast Fast --- no fast food at all. Baab does not suggest that we try a Howard Fast, nor FAST: the Farpoint Asteroid Search Team ... the asteroid search team located at Farpoint Observatory.

Where Ms. Baab turns shy is in the area of The Big Fast, the one that some may find the most onerous of them all. It gets but three paragraphs two-thirds of the way through the book, and is mostly given over to that big priss, Apostle Paul.

As some of us may recall from our early Bible training, in 1 Corinthians Paul railed against lust: "It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you," he thundered to the flock. Unlike Jesus, Paul was always getting het up about matters of the flesh (Jesus had better sense; he thought that boosting love was more important than banning lust.)

According to Baab, Corinthians specifically states that couples can "refrain from sexual intimacy" "for a set time, to devote yourself to prayer." Some of our previous noodlings, the author offers,

    may have been healthy and life-giving, like sexual intimacy in marriage, but now for some reason they have grabbed ahold of us.

§     §     §

Near the beginning of Fasting, Ms. Baab opined that we might want to give up "journaling," a word not to be found in my sixteen volume OED. Now she wants us to be wary of things that can "grab ahold" of us, a transitive phrase also missing from my favorite dictionary. Perhaps it is time for all of us to embark on a fast from reading, if not writing, bad grammar.

--- Mary Fischer, MA

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