Fasting as a virtue, a tool, and a philosophy

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By: William Bowen: Staff Writer

Fasting was, and still is, a central part of many belief systems throughout history, though it is not practiced or preached often here in America.

What is fasting? The most basic definition of fasting is the cessation of an act for some time and the renewal of said act later on. A typical example would be intermittent fasting, where you have an “eating window” where you will only eat food in that short time and will not eat again until tomorrow.

In Christian values (on which our nation was founded), fasting is a virtue and is said to be a powerful tool in your everyday life. Several times in scripture, people fasted to help them in prayer, combat, and struggle. Jesus even said that some demons could only be cast out through “prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

Saint Thomas Aquinas said fasting kills lust and helps us focus on essential things like prayer and repenting of our sins.

Secondly, we have recourse to fasting so that the mind may arise more freely to the contemplation of heavenly things: hence it is related of Daniel (Daniel 10) that he received a revelation from God after fasting for three weeks. – Saint Thomas Aquinas

While people typically do fasting with food, the sheer amount of distractions thrust on us by the world has grown so much that we must start by ridding ourselves of other things first—especially things such as social media and technology.

Things such as these are causing infinite distraction. Social media and technology have robbed us of the delicacy of silence.

Being “alone with your thoughts” is essentially a thing of the past. Now, your brain is flooded with what others think of you. Whether it’s someone liking (or not liking) your most recent Instagram post, a comment making fun of you, or even just the quiet “ping” of your phone when you get a message, you cannot truly be alone—making it infinitely harder to think your own thoughts and focus on any particular task.

It used to be that once you were done at work or school, you could escape all the chaos of life, go home and be at peace. Now you are completely robbed of any sense of privacy in your own home; you are no longer allowed to be separated from the public sphere. You and I are now enslaved to technology.

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. – 1 Corinthians 6:12

Maybe you get sick of all the stress from your phone, so you put it away and turn on the TV. Now you will be assaulted by news images where you will hear of all the horrific new attacks, shootings, stabbings, car crashes, and natural disasters.

Being constantly bombarded with all this brings you great stress even though it does not affect you. If you were not aware of these things, you would be able to live a happy life more easily. All it gives us is more information, and information in and of itself is not a good or bad thing. It just exists.

What about food? Our culture has done the opposite of delaying gratification. Instead, it quickens it. Fast-food and instant access to any kind of entertainment has poisoned us. Our country has the highest obesity rate in the world, with people just over 38 percent of people older than 15 being classified as obese. This is because we are no longer a culture of self-restraint and self-discipline. Now we gorge ourselves on fast food and Tik Tok videos.

Both society and religion have required less and less of us over time. The people on top who have decided to require less of people is more “fair” and “equitable” have either failed to consider the consequences, do not care, or are doing it so that we are weak and dependent on them.

Every human is entitled to be free. If you’re addicted to food, social media, and pornography, you are not free at all. You’re just a slave. Freedom is not being allowed to do whatever you want when you want, whether it harms you or not. Freedom is being free from the slavery of yourself and your sins. Get a grip and take control!

By doing something as simple as putting down your phone, turning off the TV, and eating less food, you will realize that you now have more mental clarity, you have time to exercise, and spend time in nature. Now you have the time and energy to do your homework or finish that project for work. Just because our entire society revolves around Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram doesn’t mean it is impossible to minimize their use.

I think some of the best ways to begin fasting are eating just one meal a day (I only eat lunch and a snack) and deleting social media apps (or at least turning off your notifications).

What’s been my experience with fasting? The nights of scrolling through YouTube shorts for hours have stopped, my sleep quality was better, my attention span skyrocketed, and I have far more mental clarity. I used to only be able to read for a few minutes before checking my phone or looking at my email. Now it’s easy to devote hours to almost anything.

Every person ought to fast in one way or another. Whether it’s food, technology, or even music, we will all profit from having a little more self-control every day.

Photo via wikapedia.com

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