Life in the Fast Lane Can Be an Education

I missed my coffee and was glad when the 19-day Baha'i fast ended Sunday, March 21. The fast had actually ended the night before at sundown when we had the big Naw-Ruz (New Year) potluck party at the Lincoln Center with loads of food and excellent music by Chris Bacon and dancing by the Denver Baha'i Youth Workshop.

But the fast is similar to the Islamic Ramadan where you're not allowed to eat between sunrise and sunset (which gets noticeably later each day) so Sunday was the first day I got to sleep in and then sip coffee as I read the morning paper. I know some people find it difficult to relax while reading about fires, famines, and politics, but I often ignore those stories. We buy Italian Roast coffee from the Cupboard. I'd been taking the drink for granted but Sunday, I realized just how smokily aromatic and rich-tasting it is. Weekends without coffee or water or food were a bit painful and focused my awareness on what was missing, and why. But the first day with coffee made me realize just how much I'd been taking the wonders I had for granted.

A week ago, the Coloradoan ran a story about Bearclaw, a 6 ½ foot tall, 330 lb. bailiff in Virginia City, NV who dresses in black and wears two .44 Magnums and a necklace made of claws from a 455 lb. bear he killed with an ax at age fifteen while working in the woods. He claimed he was born "in the wrong century."

Perhaps he was. I've often fantasized about being a pioneer or a mountain man or even a knight in shining armor. But I don't think I'd enjoy the day-to-day life of cooking over an open fire, eating the same venison stew for breakfast, lunch and dinner instead of fresh fruits and vegetables, and lugging water from a hand-dug well or an ice-cold mountain stream or a mosquito-ridden English bog.

Indoor plumbing is a wonderful time-saver. It allows us to spend energy in other areas such as philosophy or mathematics or watching Gilligan's Island and daydreaming of the supposedly idyllic life of the past. During most of recorded history (and all of prehistory), just having an outhouse was considered a luxury.

The Baha'i Faith says we are living in the Biblical Age of Revelations. For the people who take the Bible literally and wanted thunderclaps, a disembodied voice from on high commanding all to obey, and 144,000 angels or fire and brimstone descending from the skies, I don't know what to say except "metaphor." Of course that isn't satisfactory to someone who believes the theory of evolution is wrong because it contradicts the Bible, but who doesn't think the two contradictory stories of creation in Genesis prove anything at all.

When I think about telling an ancestor 100 years or 6,000 years ago their descendants would be living in a warm house with glass windows and electric lights and have supermarkets jam-packed with an immense variety of delicious foods and be able to work at interesting, safe jobs instead of digging roots and killing animals and carrying a gun or sword or club to protect themselves from other humans, they would think that was heaven on earth. We have access to all the world's knowledge in libraries. We are getting access to every living human being through the world wide web. Reading the paper can make it seem as if things are horrible. Massacres in Somalia and Serbia. Bizarre murders. Common shootings. Tragic accidents. But drinking my coffee after a 19-day abstinence made me realize just how good life is for us Westerners.

I hope to remember throughout the new year to appreciate just how lucky I am, to be thankful for what I do have, and to remember exactly how delicious this coffee is.