Why do they call it ‘Fasting’ when time seems to go so slowly?

ImageHey there Superfriends and Blogofans,

I figure I deprived you all of your guilty pleasure blog during Lent, so I at least owe you an explanation for how it went.

The short answer is that it went well.  No TV, Facebook, or blog was quite healthy for me.  We stopped having family dinners around the boob tube.  My wife and I noticed an increased frequency of much-needed heart-to-heart talks.  I was also able to reconnect with one of my dearest friends via email.  We live less than half an hour away from one another and see each other at least once a week, but we never seem to have time to talk.

One unexpected bit fun is that I made leaps forward in my music that I’d been trying to accomplish for years.  Back in college, I was really into the whole bleeding-heart Christian folksinger thing.  But by the time I graduated, I was really sick of two things:

  1. “Christian” music.
  2. Four chords, three verses, chorus, and bridge.

I was turned on to Michael Hedges and U2.  I had this idea in my head of a sound that combined fingerstyle acoustic guitar with chillout electronica.  Over the years, I haven’t had the means to make this happen.  A year or so ago, I started learning about synths and drum machines when I purchased an amazing software package called Reason 6.  A little later on, I also invested in a Yamaha USB interface for my guitar.  But I couldn’t get the interface to work right… until now.

Without the distraction of social media, I was able to put a lot of time and effort into it.  I can remember the moment when the breakthrough happened.  It was about 4:45 on a Thursday afternoon.  The interface was finally operational (thanks to the correct software drivers, which took forever to find) and I loaded a kind of funky, Latin electronic riff I had started working on with my brother-in-law last year.  The track had everything but a melody.  When I started improvising over the top with my acoustic, it was like watching a solar eclipse.  I never knew that something coming out of my hands could sound so good!

So that, Superfriends and Blogofans, is what made my Lenten exercise worthwhile.

However, since this season is supposed to be “spiritual” (whatever that means), I should probably say a few penitential words.

I caught myself (and was caught) cheating on the fast on more than one occasion.  If anything, this exercise showed me just how addicted I am to this never-ending stream of digital information that pulses through my eyes to my brain.  Even now, having been off the fast for over a week, I can still feel the dopamine hit I get every time I log on.  I’m not kidding, it feels like I’m getting high.  When I was off-line for extended periods of time, I got that anxious feeling like the room didn’t have enough air in it.

It’s well-known among those who fast that fasting never feels spiritual.  You just feel like crap the whole time.  What fasting does is highlight your inner struggles by taking away the addictive crutches you use to anesthetize yourself against the stress of living.  It makes you face reality in all of its shitty splendor.

That never feels good, but if you stick with it, you gain a tremendous amount of insight and self-knowledge.  You are so much more aware of what it is that you need to work on in your life.  In the end, it’s a fruitful exercise, but it sure is no fun.

So yup, I’ve apparently got stuff to work on.

Thanks for sharing the journey with me!

“Tis’ grace hath brought me safe thus far and grace shall lead me home.”

2 thoughts on “Why do they call it ‘Fasting’ when time seems to go so slowly?

  1. As someone who really screwed of his fasting this year and in doing so I fear also caused my wife to stumble with hers, I really appreciate this post! Indeed I felt like “crap” for much of Lent. Appropriate perhaps for a penitential season. I was reminded of my daily need for grace to sustain me and lead me home.

  2. Hi Barrett,

    I wouldn’t exactly call it a Lenten fast, but I did just spend 3 months on a somewhat remote island in the North Atlantic (St. Pierre-et-Miquelon, fantastic and fascinating place) without a computer. I had to learn how to deal with often about 2 hours of internet access a week. Me, someone who has more times than he can count spent upwards of 8 hours a day on a computer or a video game console. So what happens is you learn how to prioritize and value your computer time very quickly. You go from wasting as much time as you can – checking every single facebook update every few minutes – to focusing on the things that you really want or need to do, even if you have time for that. After a while, I suddenly started making an attempt to correspond with people way more than I had done with effectively unlimited access. I spent a lot more time reading, and since I was in school, studying. Aside from the one project that needed a lot of research – or things that needed to be typed, it was definitely good for my grades. But more relevantly, now that I’m back, my perspective on the internet has completely changed. After a couple days with my new, super-mobile laptop, I’ve been gorging on the internet, craving what I missed. And after just a few of those days, I’m already tired of it. I’ve had my fill. I want to do more meaningful things with my time – like actually write that blog entry I was considering doing, or that letter I’ve been putting off for months, or you know, things that don’t involve computers. I can’t say I fasted for anything approaching religious reasons, or even really on purpose but man has this experience been an eye-opener. So I definitely dig this piece.

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