I know it sounds amusing, but it’s true. Like yesterday, I find myself continually returning to the existential questions of life – and eating does offer a kind of blithe Cartesian certainty to the world. Eating sustains our physical body, providing it with life. It also generates feedback that we are alive. We move our jaws to chew; movement is proof of life. We taste the flavours of whatever we are eating; any stimulus to the physical senses shows us that we are alive. We feel the food digesting deep in our stomach and intestines; sensation coming from the very core of our body. Again, proof that we are alive. Take away food and you take away one of the ego’s great crutches.
Filled with existential doubt, the ego is always looking for feedback to confirm its existence. That I really am alive. To fast alone, without the presence of other people to see, to talk to, to mutually confirm each other’s existence, is to knock away another of the ego’s great crutches.
I think of reports on prisoners held in solitary confinement. They say that in order to fend off a descent into insanity you must structure your time and organise your mind. As a form of resistance against your jailor, it makes perfect sense. As a means to preserve the ego in its status quo, it also makes perfect sense. But here and now, while fasting, I don’t want to structure my time. I don’t want to organise my mind. To do so feels like a cop-out away from the abyss of being.
Even writing this journal feels a little like cheating.
Yesterday evening I cheated for the first time by reading before bed: the first unessential distraction to being since arriving here. Perhaps not surprisingly, the novel felt superficial, almost a waste of time. But that’s exactly what distractions are… I also felt cold. It was hard to control my body temperature – something I’m very familiar with on previous water fasts. An extra blanket fixed everything.
Slept heavily last night, punctuated by brief moments of rousing in order to change position because my arm kept falling asleep. It’s either because the mattress is harder than last night (last night I slept in the kids’ room because the new sofa-bed smelled too strongly of artificial dyes) or it’s because of low blood pressure. Again, it took a while after waking to muster the strength to get out of bed. I also had quite a strong beating heart, similar to what can happen during a bout of flu. After a few minutes it went away. Since then, though, energy levels are fine – although any exertion beyond simple walking tends to have an immediate effect on my pulse, both in terms of its intensity and tempo. No other symptoms physically, except for a slightly moist nose in the morning. Did an enema after getting up. The thought of 21 days with leftover food rotting inside me was not pretty. Decided now was the best time, before the digestive system shuts down completely (I don’t want to disturb it from then on), and after any remaining food should have reached the large intestine. I don’t plan to do another.
Otherwise, I finished tidying up the house this morning. Any other jobs can wait. Started mowing the lawn in the afternoon – that couldn’t wait!