Friday, November 6, 2009

Questions anyone?

OK, I'm tired of coming up with new topics every day. I think you need to start pulling your own weight. Most of my favorite columnists and bloggers do it, so why not me? They go through their mail and spend a session or two doing nothing but answering questions from their audience.

So, any questions (he says, as he looks around)? Anyone? Ah, you there, in the back.

“How do you keep track of the 95 Allah'u'Abhas that we are supposed to say every day?”

Excellent question. I'm glad you asked.

I use my fingers.

Seriously, I do.

Count the bones in your little finger. There are three in the pinkie itself, with one last bone through the hand, making four. All four of your fingers have these four bones. Your thumb, however, only has two bones plus the one in the hand, making three. Four times four fingers, plus the three in your thumb makes a total of nineteen bones. I use my other hand to count off each bone, using a finger to touch each joint in my hand. With my right index finger, I count down the bones in my pinkie, “one, two, three four”, then move up counting the bones in my ring finger, “five, six, seven, eight”, and so on through nineteen. Then I use the next finger on my right hand and do it again, and so forth until I have counted 19 five times, or 95. Of course, I don't actually count the numbers, as I know there are 95. Instead I say, “Allah'u'Abha!” And there it is, 95 Allah'u'Abhas, without ever fearing I'll lose count.

This only works if you have ten fingers, and aren't missing any joints. If not, or you are, you're on your own.

Next question? You, the lady in the brown dress.

“How do you fast for 19 days?”

Whoa, that's a good question. It might be too long to go into here, but I'll try.

First of all, I don't fast for 19 days. That would imply not eating or drinking anything for 19 days in a row, which admittedly might get rid of all the “weak Baha'is”, but then noone would be left to teach the Faith. Alright, that was a lame joke, but seriously, we don't fast for 19 days. We fast for 12 hours a day for 19 days.

In fact, I think we need to be very cautious about how we talk about the Fast with people. There was one man who became a Baha'i during the Fast. He was an isolated believer, living a few hours away from the nearest other Baha'i. When he came into the city to enrol, the friends at the Baha'i Centre were so excited, and one of them thought it important to explain the Fast to him. They talked about how we don't eat, drink, or smoke, from sunrise to sunset.

“Well, OK,” he thought, “I guess I can do that.”

At the end of the evening, this gentleman went home to embark upon his new life as a good Baha'i.

The next time he was able to get into the city it was already October, after the harvest. Someone asked him how it was being a new Baha'i so far from anyone else.

"Oh, it's great. The first few months were really tough, but now I'm getting the hang of it.”

“Tough? What do you mean?”

“Well, it was difficult getting up so early and then not being able to eat lunch at first, but now I feel like I have so much time during the day. I'm loving it. Although, not drinking water for so long is still a bit difficult for me, and sometimes I fail.”

“What are you talking about?” The veteran Baha'i was getting a bit concerned here, but I'm sure you already see where this is going. Please stop getting ahead of me.

“Fasting, of course.”

Nobody ever explained to him that we only fast from the 2nd to the 20th of March. He thought it was year round. He later said, “Every fast since then has been so easy.”

Now where was I? Oh yeah, how do I fast. Well, that's another story.

Like most of us, I used to get up just before sunrise and gorge myself on protein and carbohydrates. I would snarf down a few ostrich sausages (low in fat, high in protein) and a bowl of cereal, slurp a glass of juice and then guzzle a litre of water as the sun was getting ready to rise. Afterwards, I'd say a few prayers and catch a few more winks before getting up for work.

As you probably know, I'd be exahausted all day and starving by noon. I won't even mention the near-delerium by sunset.

My wife, who usually has dibs on the family brain-cell, said there had to be a better way. “This cannot be what Baha'u'llah intended,” were her exact words, if memory serves. And she set off to find a healthier way of fasting that would probably help us to understand the intention of this Law a little more clearly.

What she discovered has changed our lives.

When doing a twelve-hour fast, many health specialists and dieticians recommend beginning the day with a fresh fruit juice in the morning, followed by a small meal 20 mintues later. They then recommend breaking your fast at the end with a freshly squeezed vegetable juice, followed 20 minutes later by another small meal.

This is what we do now.

When we squeeze the fruit juice for the morning meal, I use the pulp that is left over to make muffins. They only take a minute to prepare and then 20 minutes to bake. Voila! Fresh healthy muffins 20 minutes after we drink the juice.

Come noon, I use my lunch break to read from the Writings. Here I take the counsel of the woman who taught me the Faith and pick a different Text each year to read at that time. What a great use of the time. One year it was the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf. I don't think I ever got so much out of that Text as I did that year.

In the evening, if I'm thinking about it, I make the fresh vegetable juice and again use the pulp to make the meal. Most days, though, it doesn't occur to any of us that the sun has gone down until about an hour or two after it has. (Alright, that's only happened a few times, but it DID happen, and more than once.)

And how, you may ask, has this changed our lives? Not only is the Fast so much more rewarding, but this has become the way in which we now eat most days. Fresh juice in the morning, followed by a dozen healthy home-made muffins, and a good healthy juice in the evening finshed off with a healthy meal. This has cut our grocery bills by about 40% and improved our health tremendously.

What more can you ask for?

The drawback? Most mornings we have a dozen new muffins, and we can only eat so many. Anybody want some muffins?

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