Habits Are Interruptible

I was walking through the CSU oval on my lunch break when I saw Seymour Sharpe coming the other direction. We both stopped. "Hey Mike," he said, "I haven't seen you down at Avo's lately."

"I've been fasting," I said, "so I walk and think about what to write now."

"You trying to lose weight on one of those fad diets?" he asked. "It doesn't work. You'll gain it all back in no time."

I shook my head. "No. I'm doing a Bahá'í religious fast. Nineteen days of no sustenance between sunrise and sundown, sort of like the Islamic Ramadan.

"I didn't figure you for someone into meaningless rituals," said Seymour.

I shrugged. "Any ritual only has whatever meaning you assign it. Christian communion, Bar Mitzvahs, even debutante balls are rites imbued only with as much meaning as the participants provide. Many spiritual traditions have a fasting component of some sort: Christian Lent, the Australian aboriginal walkabout, Native American spirit quests, a lot of circumstantial evidence that depriving the body can free the soul."

"I suppose," said Seymour, "that fasting in modern America would help you empathize with the hungry and poor."

"Not at all," I answered. "I know I have food available after sundown. Voluntary fasting isn't parallel in any way to involuntary starvation."

"I guess not," he said then asked, "So have you found any meaning at all?"

"I'm not sure," I said. "At dinnertime I'm more aware of what foods I truly wish to consume, and during the day I realize my tendency to eat unmindfully. Most interesting is that the weakness I feel in the afternoons is strangely invigorating, as if I can force physical action with no bodily reserves. But the only real discovery I've made is my addiction to coffee. I had headaches for a week until the withdrawal symptoms disappeared."

"I wouldn't want to go without," said Seymour, "but calling it an addiction seems strong."

"Depends on your perspective," I said. "Like Joni Mitchell sang, 'You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.' When our UPS messed up at work last week and killed the phones and computer network, I realized how addicted I was to communications technology."

"I thought UPS meant Uninterruptible Power Supply," said Seymour.

"That's the acronym," I said. "Ours is supposed to provide power just long enough for an orderly shutdown of the network servers. But one of the circuits coming out of the UPS fried and took out the phone room and the routers. It was really weird because usually when the power goes, we all groan as our PCs die in the darkness, but this time everything appeared normal. The fluorescent lights still glowed, our personal computers stayed on, but we couldn't access the network to run any applications and we couldn't call anyone. It was eerie picking up a dead phone. One of the guys had to go out to his car cell phone to call an electrician."

"So what'd you do?" asked Seymour.

"I tried cleaning my desk but every paper I picked up required calling someone or getting onto the network. I ended up reading until the phones came back." I laughed. "We sacrificed the power to a bank of lights on the south side of the building to get our phones back. We'd rather talk than see."

"Sounds tragic." Seymour glanced at his watch. "If I want coffee, I'd better go. See you at Avo's when you're done your religious fast." He strode off.

I turned and strolled on, meditating about a truly uninterruptible source of power for humanity.