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I enjoy being hungry — a statement that I can only make in my place of complete and total food security. I do not mean to say that I starve myself, or am an advocate for any form of anorexia. I simply approach the little pings of hunger that awaken my stomach daily as reminders of being pure in my asceticism and in a type of anti-consumerism. This is what I feel when I fast.
Being hungry is different from the state of hunger, a crushing state in which food is neither a part of one’s present nor near future. A state befallen on far, far to many people in our world, country and even our own Boulder County. But being hungry, as someone who does not view the state of hunger as a foreseeable possibility, can be a necessary reminder of the possibilities of life.
My affinity for those little flicking pings in my stomach began in the most unusual of places: a situation where the proper intake of food became a safety requirement, yet the weight of our food (or lack of it) was equally as important.
Backpacking through the Indian Himalayas I found that my body, and yes, your body, can function beyond our mental desires for caloric intake. I desired food. I heard my brain asking for its typical 3 p.m. snack of tortillas, yogurt or whatever my mother would usually stock in the fridge. But my little plastic tub of snacks only replied with a handful of nuts and completely unsatisfying banana chips that were a strange white color. Yet, my leg chimed in to this intra-body conversation with a steady rhythm of continued movement.
A completely understandable human desire did not represent a necessity at the time. My need was replaced with want. Of course, I had to eat. Eating is a necessity. And I did. I had protein-rich dals, delectable oatmeal and, when passing through villages, very fresh and yellow bananas. I had the food that could power me and my sanity through hail storms, up mountain passes and even the brain power to navigate in a forgone language.
These so-thought-of “needs,” like that of my 3 p.m. snack, became clear wants. Returning from the high mountains, I had a need for new pants became a want for fitting into a new trend, and a stupid one. My need for a new phone case became a want for a case that I knew would provide my phone with less protection, a want driven by some well-crafted ad with a super cool song. My needs slowly became wants. Wants that, just like with my refrigerator in the Himalayas, were unnecessary.
These newly realized needs-turned-desires were more than just stupid things that only hurt my bank account. They hurt us all. They hurt our earth, they hurt our society and they will be a piece of the suicidal blade that could end us all. ‘They” is not an abstract other, an enemy, but instead, it is us. The mass consumerist desires inside us all, inside me and inside you.
The non-stop cycle of buy, use, trash, buy has inflated our pollution in every step of the process. The sweatshops in Bangladesh where your jeans were made, the cargo ship that carried them to the United States and all of the packaging that ended up in the same oceans those cargo ships sailed through, all contribute in a negative way. Awareness has brought some slow change. But this is a system without fixing. A system so profitable for a few and detrimental for everyone else — a system that can only be changed through lack of participation.
Fasting was my small attempt at waving the anti-consumerist flag, and I totally encourage people who feel comfortable to try and do at least a small fast per day. Not as any way of countering a false body image, but as a practice of mental asceticism. Whether it is food, clothes or anything else that is clogging up your life and bank account, take a fast.
Contact CU Independent Opinion Writer Jackson Barnett at Jackson.Barnett@colorado.edu.