Many of the cleaning staff in my building at first-job are Somalian and I often take the time to speak to least the woman who comes by my area each day. Sometimes it is difficult to speak to her since, even though she’s lived in the US for at least the 5 years I’ve been working there, her English is still lacking, but she told me the other day how much she appreciated how I spoke to her (slow and clear) since it helped her improve upon her English. This of course made me beam from ear to ear.
In one of our daily chats, she shared with me her efforts for Ramadan. Previous to this conversation, I knew that the Muslim holiday involved fasting of some kind, but I was relatively ignorant of anything more. I still am, to some degree, but I was intrigued when she discussed how she had to fast throughout each day. And not just abstain from a certain food or certain type of food, but denying all food and all water from sun up til sun down, every day. I admired her devotion and shook my head since I doubt I’d ever have the resolve to do the same…at least not while I knew I could convert to a religion that didn’t require so much…
Like I said, however, I was still intrigued by the concept of the fast and wondered whether there was anything I could just give up, for even a month. Internet? Not a chance; when the power is out, I start to get the shakes. Reading? Probably, but why would I ever want to fast from reading? Writing? I’ve done this many times earlier in its more commonly known form called procrastination and I don’t think it wise to take that up again. So, from what shall I fast as I move into a new month?
As I looked over this month of July, I find myself sorely disappointed with the lack of progress on my novel and my spending habits, but resolving to do something every day, can work for a month or so, as I saw in June, but once the month is over, I can’t help by slack off whatever I was doing every day. In order to make a real change to myself as the result of some kind of fast or resolve, it has to be something that I would not want to go back to doing every day. While reducing my idleness would be an admirable fast, I’ve done this only to fail in the very next month when the pressure is gone. So, again, I’m left to wonder what shall I do with myself in the month of August.
August is usually a stressful month for me. In the countdown to aging another year, August is like the month of December for most folks bent on doing better with themselves. I look at this entire year from last September til now and take a critical eye at where I was this year versus last and as we end July, I can’t help my yearly ritual. The novel is written, but has yet to be reduced to a publishable form. I still have the same first-job, the same debt, the same weight, the same mild service in my church, etc….With this August, however, and since I’ve got fasting on the mind, rather than just sigh over my lack of progress in this adventure in adulthood, I’ve decided to strengthen my resolve and fast against things that have been destroying any hope of success that I’ve got: fast food and Minecraft.
As far as the fast food is concerned, I’m sure anyone can determine the issues there. It’s mostly bad for me, especially since I’m a vegetarian and can only resolve to order some French fries when I’m forced out to eat, but the monetary hit is what really bites the most. Is it possible to spend more than $1000 in a single month on just fast food meals? Previous to this month’s AMEX bill I would have said “Not a chance.” but now, I’m forced to change my tune. That said, I’ve “given up” fast food dozens of times in the past and, as I’ve before explained, once the month is over (if I even last that long), I’m right back to where I started, so the task here is not about just giving up fast food. To get to the heart of the issue, I’ve got to give up something better, which is my spending money like I actually had it. In order to do this, I have to actually place myself on a budget and thus a “money fast” which will require a fast food fast as well. I’ll have just $20 in cash that I can spend each week if I forget my lunch, etc., but that’s it. There’ll be no swiping my AMEX as if I’d forgot what that swipe meant and since no one can eat out every day with just $20, I’ll have to cook and plan meals each week which sounds simple, but when the mind and body are so accustomed to just going out to get food someone else had already prepared for me, the idea of it is very novel. The ultimate goal is to curb my spending and the way to get there is to almost entirely abstain from eating out.
Likewise, my fast from Minecraft, while very specific and sounding more traditional, has a separate goal.
Sandbox video games where the player can do anything and create anything he or she wishes to do have always been my downfall. The games in which I’ve wasted the most time include The Sims, Rock Band and Minecraft. Rock Band has no real goal other than to just get better and better at each instrument, so I can play just because I want to play and have a lot of fun doing it. The Sims 2 allows me to make any person I choose, dress them up, build them a house and play their lives for as many hours as I choose and even if I were to get tired of that, I can make mods for the game or other downloadables such as hairstyles or furniture. Minecraft plops the player into a space of land and it is up to the player to survive in this wilderness, finding food, fending off monsters, building houses or roller coasters or whatever one could wish to build. All three allow me to do whatever I want to do without any real goals in place and allowing me to play forever if I so chose, so the reason why Minecraft would be the chosen fasted game may not seem apparent at first.
Unlike The Sims or Rock Band, Minecraft takes virtually no effort from me to start and costs me nothing as well. With The Sims, despite having a brand new laptop, the game still takes about 10 minutes to load between the first EA Games screen until the moment I’m in a family’s house. The loading time allows me opportunity to focus on other things, sometimes things that may even pull me away from the game before I’ve had to time start playing. The Sims also requires loading in between different houses or even different places as my sims go on dates or on vacation, so it’s easy for me to get distracted from the game and even easier for me to not want to play because I only have a half-hour to do something and I don’t want to waste it on loading screens.
Rock Band is only a bit better since I mostly like to play the guitar and sing simultaneously. This requires turning on the Xbox and getting the TV to right input, bring out and plugging in the mic and mic stand, finding my guitar, letting the game load and finally deciding on a song or setlist to play. Since I love the game so much, this passes relatively quickly for me, but unlike The Sims where I am sitting for hours on end as I play pixelated characters and their stories, for Rock Band, I am standing and singing for the duration of my play and so again, unlike The Sims, I can’t physically play forever; eventually I’ll get exhausted and will have to pass out on the sofa. The good thing about this is that after a day of being sedentary, just standing (and dancing a little depending on the song) and singing gets in a little more activity in my day. Even with all this said, the setup time frame doesn’t allow me to play just whenever I feel like it and the desire to be lazy also drowns out my love for the game.
This brings us to Minecraft, whose loading times don’t give me enough time to bring my teacup to my mouth and can allow me sit sedentary, though creative, for almost days at a time. This easy access to such a fantastic waste of time has allowed my procrastination to be less of a task and more of an art form. To be honest, other than playing Minecraft and some power outages earlier this month, I’m not entirely sure what else I did in July 2012. This frightens me a bit since I’ve always had at least one or two obstacles in the way of my procrastination, but Minecraft gives me everything that The Sims or Rock Band can with nothing to impede upon my play.
A fast from Minecraft seems like a simple fast from something I really don’t need to be doing every single day of my life, but it’s really far more than that. Before Minecraft (hereafter known as BMC), if I had 30 minutes to kill, I would write or read or makes notes on a new project or even exercise or read webcomics or pack my meals for the day or do some laundry or anything else in the world. BMC I could take that time to do something slightly productive since it would take too long to set up anything that was relatively unproductive, but after Minecraft (which I won’t dignify with its own period), I can kill time more easily than should be allowed. In my fast from Minecraft, I’m essentially resolving to do all things I’ve neglected to do since I’ve been Minecrafting all summer long.
So, here I am. I’m going to fast for the month of August, taking away the simple things that will have the greatest impact on my life. I liken this fast to removing some obstacles that keep a few pebbles from rolling down a mountain. Once those pebbles start rolling, they’ll hit snow and then more snow and then become a snowball so big that my procrastination and wasteful spending will have to run like Indiana Jones being chased by the giant ball out of the temple.
Once again, to keep myself honest, I’ll check in using this blog (hopefully far shorter than I’ve rambled today) and remain accountable to myself since I really dislike interrupting a string of consecutive posts.