I fasted for over 25 hours. That means I didn’t eat anything during that time. As for drinking, including water, it was more like 30 hours, because I forgot to drink anything with my last meal. It was easy…I didn’t get a headache, and except for about ten minutes mid-evening, I didn’t even feel the slightest hungry. And that’s probably indicative of why I lost more than 20 pounds over this past summer.
My immediate concern, I know, should be “hm, maybe I’m generally not eating enough if I can go a full day without eating and not feel hungry.” What should also scare me is that before I got sick, I’d also stopped eating, with much the same thoughts as I often have now, that perhaps there’s some secret way of living in which one doesn’t need to eat, drink, or sleep, and perhaps I’m on the verge of discovering it! I did discover it, and that’s why I believe wishes really do come true…and really come with lessons attached.
If I had to spell out my philosophies on life, I’d do so through a bunch of threadbare parables from my own life. Anything worth discussion has no “point”–points are generally “thought-terminating clichés,” as expressed by Robert Jay Lifton, “the most far-reaching and complex of human problems are compressed into brief, highly reductive, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorized and easily expressed. These become the start and finish of any ideological analysis.”
There are a few “points” I think I’ve found that confound that notion, for instance, I do try to begin each day with a meditation on a single phrase, the same phrase I’ve meditated on daily since early childhood, and daily I strive to find its meaning anew, to find what petty contrivances I’ve allowed to overpower me. For a brief moment, I come to terms with what’s important in life. And just as quickly, I lose it and fall back into idiocy.
But the concept that, if anything is my great consolation for life, I think I best spelled out in a letter I wrote to Lucy, Apr 27, 2009, “i just experienced the greatest failure of my life–and my consolation is that i did everything right, that i wouldn’t change a single thing. life seems to me to consist firstly of a baseline, and then a wave of highs and lows that will always be equal to one another, so that our capacity for pleasure and joy is equal to our capacity for pain and suffering–that we pay for everything, in some way, if only because we would collapse without the balance. but despite the enourmity of the pain, i think the closer we stay to the baseline, the more immense the gaping darkness rests between oneself and the paragon of life.”
At Yom Kippur 2006, I spent the entire day going through the motions, grew hungry and wandered out to a deli for a sandwich. My philosophy at the time was “I am my own god. I determine my own fate,” but I spent the day there to support my father. I ate that sandwich not because I was terribly hungry, but as an illustration of my philosophy. That’s not reckoning–that’s actually what I was thinking at the time. This was immediately followed up by a great big “fuck you” from the universe, which rendered me sick and expecting to die of it for nearly a year, an extended mock-execution with which I still haven’t fully come to terms.
What I lost was my faith in other people. What I gained was a relationship with god. When asked if I “believe” in god, I can answer “no…I don’t need to believe; i’ve experienced god.” It’s something I can feel, it’s something that compels me in a million little ways, it’s something I believe everyone should be aware of in themselves–by whatever name one wants to call it–it’s that “feeling in your gut” that guides you to circle the correct answer on your school exams. For me, it’s an intensely physical experience, it’s the least subtle thing in the world, it’s the reason I pursue music, it’s the reason I do or don’t do a great many things, it’s the reason behind my aesthetic approach to as much as possible. Behind it is the knowledge that if I follow the urge, I will live; if I deny it, I will suffer, and I will die a horrible death. This isn’t supposition: I’ve tested it, I’ve tested it a thousand times.
And what am I most afraid of? I’m most afraid, beyond all else, that god might abandon me, that I might fuck up, act contrary, one too many times, and then find myself without those urges anymore, without direction, without reward, and without punishment.
The following Yom Kippur I returned, much more frail than I’d been the year before. Determined to prove that I was worthy of being alive. Nauseated, my head aching and heavy, dizzy, unable to stand without propping myself up, as we reached the 24-hour mark, I remember the lights seemed to dim, and they all began floating like fireflies, and in my eyes I could see stars, and during the final repetition of the confessional, every word stabbed me and I understood them, and I cried, I understood how I was guilty for things I’d done, for things I’d not done, for things I’d never do, guilty, guilty, guilty, so I cried, and I floated into the air as the lights descended and the stars consumed the whole world.
It is best illustrated to me as in Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa
…but today, that was not my experience. I could not fully connect with the words. I saw no stars. The world did not slow its course. No hunger, no fatigue, no pain…just this fear that I’ve been abandoned.
Because lately, to tell you the truth, I’ve felt blunted. Nothing strikes me with any particular strength, not joy, not sadness, not love, not hate, not ecstasy, not agony–nothing but a dense, unending autumn. It’s what I’m afraid most people feel all the time, in their constant search for novelty and amusement, and I don’t want to feel this way. I’m terrified to lose that depth of feeling on which I thrive, I’m terrified I’ve lost all passion, all capacity to love, terrified most of all that this is but a prelude.
For a moment, I know precisely what I must focus on, what it is I want to grow, and I can only hope that this bluntness I feel is a vehicle to reach this focus, a vehicle shielding me from all that’s colorful and otherwise enticing in life.
To Lucy, Apr 30, 2009:
“Love is a complicated subject for me. . . . I don’t like the smell or taste of fish–I enjoy good sushi, and sometimes a good tuna steak, but otherwise it all nauseates me. I went to this Vietnamese restaurant and ordered what I always do, and the sauce they bring out with it is delicious, a little sweet, a little fruity and peppery, and this time the waiter realized I had only ordered vegetarian foods, and he asked if I wanted the peanut sauce instead. I said I wanted the normal sauce. ‘So…the fishsauce?’ I insisted on the normal sauce. So he brought out the fish sauce. And it was the normal sauce. And I tasted it, and now I tasted the fish in it. The sauce I loved so well, it was only in my imagination now, and nothing will bring it back, because I know that I was mistaken in my tastes. I don’t know if I wish I’d never had it now, because now I miss it. And love?”