It’s about halfway through Ramadan and the Compact. Time always seems to fly by in the fall season, but is it just me or does this year feel especially anxious to run away?
After participating in the Compact for the past 3 years, I have become much more aware of what I consume during Ramadan and year round. I purchase fewer things, create less trash, set budgets for my spending, etc. But all of these things are tangible. What about things we consume that are not tangible, like information/media?
It sounds odd to call information consumable, until you put this kind of consumption into a familiar context. The news and entertainment industries label us as "media consumers." If we aren't perusing articles and videos on the internet, we are watching TV, listening to the radio or an iPod, texting/talking on the phone, or a host of other activities that are made possible by a communications medium. How are we not fatigued by this information overload?
Well, it seems we are fatigued. According to an article published in the NY Times, we are suffering from brain overload: the inability to experience the downtime necessary to create real and lasting memories, process information, learn, and come up with new ideas. Our brains are crammed and cluttered with stuff all day long, to the point that we've become addicted to this bombardment of information.
Yep, sounds about right.
So, I would like to step up my Ramadan Compact game. In addition to abstaining from food/drink/sex during daylight hours (regular Ramadan fast) and from buying anything unnecessary the entire month of Ramadan (the Ramadan Compact), I am going on a media fast.
I've set my own rules based upon my necessities and capabilities:
1. No social media during daylight hours. Including Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. Everything.
1. I can only spend one hour on the internet the entire day, maximum. (Exception: work-related research and communication)
Pretty simple. I won’t be restricting my allowance of non-internet media (radio, TV, magazines, everything besides the internet) since they are not what I have the biggest problem with. My problem is the internet. What started as a curious attraction to a medium that granted me the ability to converse and learn from people all around the world turned into an addiction to mind-numbing information pollution. But no problem is too big for us Compacters, right?
In all of these efforts to quiet down the voices of my body and mind so that my soul can sing towards Divinity, I am reminded of Rumi's poem/thoughts on fasting:
There's hidden sweetness in the stomach's emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox
is stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and belly are burning clean
with fasting, every moment a new song comes out of the fire.
The fog clears, and new energy makes you
run up the steps in front of you.
Be emptier and cry like reed instruments cry.
Emptier, write secrets with the reed pen.
When you're full of food and drink, Satan sits
where your spirit should, an ugly metal statue
in place of the Kaaba. When you fast,
good habits gather like friends who want to help.
Fasting is Solomon's ring. Don't give it
to some illusion and lose your power,
but even if you have, if you've lost all will and control,
they come back when you fast, like soldiers appearing
out of the ground, pennants flying above them.
A table descends to your tents,
Expect to see it, when you fast, this table
spread with other food, better than the broth of cabbages.
And with this beautiful reminder from our beloved poet and intellect of the importance of quiet, let the media fast begin.
(The beautiful photo above I stumbled across is a self-portrait of firemisha)