Day of Atonement

Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement has ended with the setting sun (which actually appeared out there for a moment this evening). Most people know this holiday as the time when their Jewish friends fast or disappear altogether. As someone who is not religious or all that observant, I have fasted only a fraction of the 33 times this holiday has come around, and then primarily for “tribal” and identity reasons. Fasting is only a part of the holiday, the primary focus being the reflection upon and owning up to the good and bad from the past year, letting go, and resolving to do better for the next year. For the most holy day of a major religion, this is remarkably reasonable and realistic, and something worth doing.

However, this year it is the idea of “fasting” itself that perhaps suggests my atonement for the next year. I didn't really think about fasting per se when I ate nothing except a small bowl of cereal Sunday morning, before going out on a major hike in the Santa Cruz mountains in the afternoon.

The hike was a wonderful experience, physically, aesthetically and socially. I left ready to enjoy and quiet, restful and reflective evening. However, on the drive back I started to feel quite nauseous, and then noticed my limbs shaking, and soon found myself in tremendous pain, unable to drive or do anything except complain about my situation. Fortunately, my friend was able to drive the rest of the way, and also recognize the symptoms of extreme low blood sugar among other issues – and eventually I made it home safe but quite ashamed and embarrassed. Needless to say, I did not fast between sundown yesterday and today – indeed, I have found myself eating even more than usual and feeling merely sated.

If such breaking of fast is met with scorn by the more orthodox, I really don't care, because it has been an opportunity to explore the deeper concepts of holiday. This experience in retrospect seems like a serious wake-up call, a “Katrina moment” if I may wax popular-media for a moment. I have considered myself healthy, and indeed in increasingly better shape in mind and body over the past couple of years, but there is clearly a lot of work to be, and indeed I've probably slipped a bit in recent months.

Thus, it seems a renewed focus on body and mind are in order for this new year 5657. I expect such a focus to not only allow me to get in better shape and enjoy improved health, but to spill over into the other areas of life in which I usually spend my energy, such as music and creativity, work, and my relationships with the people and animals important in my life.

I think it is quite fitting that Luna is here sitting on my chest and purring as I type this piece.