The lights twinkling away on our balcony are a reminder, as if I really needed one, that we have entered the final phase of this month of fasting. And in relation to the days left I realise just how right the length of the fast is. Long enough to be a genuine test - we've only nine days left but 'only' nine days is plenty of time - yet not so long as to be impossible to wrap one's head around.
In relation to the time spent fasting I can't help but think of an interview with a young lady who was involved in the Youth Olympic Games held here earlier in the month. She had nobly and generously fasted for a day in a show of solidarity with the fasting Muslim competitors and spoke rather touchingly of her experience on camera. What she emphasised was that, whilst she was now returning to business as usual, the actual fast was going to continue a lot longer. She translated this into the amount of a Muslim's life that was spent fasting in a manner that almost awe-struck.
She seemed to me both right and wrong. What she, understandably, failed to realise was that in fasting for a day for the first time she had done, in physical terms, the hardest part. It's difficult to comprehend the degree of adjustment that sets in after that experience. The body seems to learn things about itself of itself. (An interesting point for TOKers to toy with.) The fast becomes almost (though never completely) routine after a time, in simple physical terms. In that sense her admiration was somewhat misplaced. Yet it is the sheer doggedness of those fasting day after day that does impress, if one allows it to, even regarding oneself. (Balancing this is the inevitable sense of failure regarding those aspects of the fast that are not strictly physical. Never mind: the striving is all.)
Perhaps I should add here that I'm talking only of the obligatory fast. There are lots of opportunities to fast on other occasions. And those who take them fill me with a sense of grateful awe.