irishrose: In this case wouldn't it be combining the political and physical? Denying one's self food is a physical act, after all. Or am I mistaken?Not having ever recognized what the hell a spirit is, I might be speaking out of turn. Can you feed a spirit food?
I think youre right that the physical and the political are certainly combined in such an act, bringing politics into the most basic of every day deeds- and out of the theoretical realm of ideas and principles. Rather, it is embodying one's principles and ideals in everyday deeds. Perhaps this is a clue to what is meant by spirituality? As far as the folk participating in this fast, I suppose what they mean by spirituality is hardly monolithic or uniform: and is surely shaped by the religious traditions to which they belong. What seems to be consistent amidst their diversity is a commitment to addressing a grievous wrong, confronting gross injustice, and challenging destructive patterns of behavior in non-violent ways. Tied to this seems to be a hope that others will be motivated by their fasting to change their behaviors, wake up to the impending disaster soon to engulf us all, radically redirect public policy, and lend their bodies to a non-violent solution that will turn the tide of biospheric catastrophe. I think the need to define what spirituality means is replaced by a desire to roll up one's sleeves, step away from the trough, and engage a civilization on the brink of disaster.
irishrose: The irrationality might come from the individual's debilitating impotence during such movements. (i.e. I can't control the powers-that-be, but I can control what I put into my body, and I will let that be a statement.)
I think this misses the point of what it means to step out of a system of manic consumption: it is not only about controlling what goes into one's body (which I think is no small victory) but disengaging from a abusive relationship that involves the ingesting of poisons and propaganda- dangerous foods and debilitating messages. The true impotence involves status quo dietary habits with all of their linkages to fossil fuel economics and anti-democratic globalization. The fast involves a ceasing of eating and believing: two things that keep too many of us profoundly indifferent and embarrasingly obese in a world of starvation.
irishrose: The hunger strikes were also, arguably, effective in both the suffrage movement and during The Troubles in Ireland. In fact, as of the beginning of this year there were new hunger-strikers at Guatanamo being force fed, as I recall.
What is it that made these hunger strikes (in very diverse places and times) effective? Any idea how notions of spirituality or religious motivation played into these deeds?
MA: It's also been claimed that fasting can be applied as a method of decontaminating the body, training yourself to think independently of your belly, and sharpening your own sense of self-discipline -- not, I would think, inconsiderable benefits.
Dr. King, Cesar Chavez and Gandhi all saw fasting along very similar lines. They realized, or believed, that fasting was crucial to preparing for their respective non-violent acts of civil disobedience: that the "belly" represented much more than just appetite for food- it also represented the hunger to retaliate, seek vengeance, repay violence with violence, and simply reproduce the dominator modes of violent oppression they sought to change. Fasting was one way they brought their ideals into action, moving their bodies away from the prevalent models of warfare, and toward something fundamentally different, also requiring a much different form of self-discipline and self-control.
Indie: Spirit is a catchall term for the culmination of consciousness, sentience, emotional state, etc. I think there is little argument that fasting can produce an altered state, hence it can be a spiritual tool to that end.
Welcome aboard Indie. In the context of this thread, those who are fasting (I think) recognize spirituality as the culmination of social justice, interpersonal healing, and ecological sanity. Granted, that each will come to their own unique conclusions, it seems the common ground when spirituality is concerned is a healing of bodies and reverence for the earth. Does this line up with your thinking?
Indie: This brings to mind the terms "soul food" and "food of love". I'm not being flippant, food can profoundly affect us, our moods, thoughts and feelings. So in a way... yeah, I think we can feed our spirituality (however each of us may choose to define it - if we do) with our choices in food and cooking.
I agree. Good food made with care and attention, even with love, is more than just a bundle of nutrients: it is a staple for a certain kind of lifestyle and network of relationships. Shared meals have been crucial locations for beginning, strengthening, mending, and mobilizing relationships. Likewise, rules for who sits at the table and who gets the best slice of the meat have also been fundamental in defining hierarchy and social justice. I think the Christian Eucharist has been deeply misunderstood when relegated to metaphysical hocus pocus that magically produces the body and blood f Christ. I think there is something much more down to earth and politically pragmatic when it is seen as a radical challenge to systems of table politics regarding who is welcome and who is kept out.
Likewise, I think the notions of the Jewish Sabbath or Muslim Ramadan are much more than simply enforcing ancient legislation on moral behaviors...they provide ample opportunity to step out of the dominant economic systems and live differently: a difference, I think, in relation to current climate change dangers, that can make very positive differences.
RiverCoil: There seems to be a growing fringe environmentalists movement focused on calling for things that are if not impossible then at least incompatible with current market issues, human nature, and rational plausibility. While these three things are great things to strive towards, I think it is premature to call for such drastic measures initially. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, right? So lets be realistic and call for realistic measures.
It seems every movement requires those who push the margins of what is realistic, and those who hold the borders of realism in tact. I suppose every movement requires a little of both.
There is something about your position that reminds me of Dr. King's Letter from the Birmingham Jail where he responds to his critics, and fellow Christians, who represent the White clergy in the South. They admonished him for moving too quickly, expecting too much, disregarding the nature of politics and social demands in the south, and frankly disupting the state of affairs in ways that would only hurt his cause. They asked him to wait a little longer, be patient, too pull in the reins, and to not agitate the blacks or anger the whites: integration was a noble, even Christian cause, but there is only so far one should go.
King explains in the letter how the movement took painstaking steps to remain moderate, considerate, and always seeking a way out of active civil disobedience...and being met with not only political indifference, but outright malice and deceit along the way. There was no way to wait any longer. The time for radical action was imminent. King then lists all those pioneers of the human spirit who could wait no longer: the Prophets, Jesus, Paul, Luther, Thomas Jefferson...men who would no longer be patient with the status quo and who sought ideals that were profoundly shattering to the social and political structures of their day.
And, did I mention that King fasted regularly, and that the Civil Rights movement utilized fasting as a key component to their non-violent civil disobedience?