Currently, I am reading the book Brave New World from Aldous Huxley. The book, written between the first and second world war, describes a utopian world-order based on optimizing well-being. Quite the opposite of fasting…
It is a world where there is no more aging or sickness. Children are conditioned at a young age through sleep-hypnosis to find satisfaction only in the job they are predestined to do. Babies are no longer born, but bread in-vitro in ‘hatcheries’. And whenever anybody still manages to feel bad, society encourages them to ‘go on a holiday’ by taking a tablet of a drug causing you to pass out in a pleasant hallucination for a single day, without any negative side effects.
However, some individuals in this world are not conditioned as well as others, and start asking themselves the question: is being in a state of perfect well-being really what life is all about?
And I think we can answer this question fairly easily. When reading this first paragraph, did you feel a rapturous joy and deep longing to live in this hypothetical society? Or did this description make you feel slightly uneasy, like something is terribly wrong on some deeper level? My guess is that you choose the second option, just like me.
But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sinAldous Huxley, Brave New World
It is interesting how, as a society, the western world has been slowly moving toward the world described in Huxley’s book. Yet, somehow, all of these developments cause us to slowly lose something very fundamental. We are not teaching each other the value of fasting.
When I talk about fasting, I’m not just talking about food. We can abstain from engaging with thoughts, from holding other people responsible for our emotions or abstain from getting distracted. And every time we have given in to our impulses anyway, we can simply start again.
To fast really means to abstain from giving into your impulses. Not because you are not able to give into your impulses, but because you choose to not give into your impulses.
You yourself can become bigger and brighter than you could ever imagine, if you just learn how to hold your ground when you stare your own discomfort dead in the eyes. When you learn to see these nagging, obnoxious impulses as some part of yourself that is not strong enough (yet!) to carry this discomfort without help.
Only then will you be able to approach your own impulses, your own unwanted desires, with a gentle half smile. With a quiet confidence, that needs no affirmation from anybody. Strength is to have the courage to face your own shadow.
This is what a disciplined practice of fasting will bring you. Identify the desires you mindlessly find yourself giving into, and just try to fast from them for a few days. Once you get comfortable with the insistent feeling of your own desires, without satisfying them. Then you will experience real freedom.
Anyone can hide. Facing up to things, working through them, that’s what makes you strongSarah Dessen
Whenever you feel a lack of motivation to take good care of yourself. Whenever your life is slowly steering into the path of giving into your every desire. Think about that Soma-driven, infantile society of Brave New World, and the revulsion you feel against that world. Give yourself the respect you deserve and say ‘no’ to your impulses once in a while. Stay strong.
Nice article Jeroen,
It goes into basically willpower as the supreme resource for controlling your own impulses. In the process of which, you make yourself and those around you benefit. However, research has shown that willpower is a finite resource. For instance having low blood sugar can negatively impact it. Furthermore, it is likely that there are individual differences in the amount of willpower. How, in your opinion, could individuals be more likely to control themselves even in such circumstances?
I don’t think the title of your article matches the content lol. Just kidding, mainly because I had some doubts after reading the article.
Can you be more specific about the content of your article? After reading it, I still have some doubts. Hope you can help me.