At a lecture given by a world-renowned and very high-brow artist, a friend asked in the Q&A afterwards "It’s been great hearing about your work, could you outline some of your failings." The guy was floored. But his answer gave more insight into his work than 3 hours of talks about his great work ever could. Failure is far more interesting than success. And far more important too. A corrective to the spun-sugar culture that inflates importance.
So in the spirit of deflation, here’s the first in what could be a huge series on failings: fasting.
I think fasting is great. It’s healthy, it brings focus, it shows appetites who’s boss and our Muslim cousins have a great rhythm of it. I’ve done it on and off for a while. Mostly off recently, truth be told.
My first attempt was a wonderful failure. I’d eaten a healthy dinner the night before in preparation, and had a late-night snack too. Woke up, had a glass or two of water, and brushed my teeth vigorously, careful not to swallow, lest an nourishment might slip down. Richard Foster, author of the wonderful Celebration of Discipline, warned of bad breath during fasts, so I really scrubbed hard.
Off I went on my bike, feeling holy as hell. Did a morning’s work at the church I was employed by. Which meant making a bunch of stuff up to make it look like I was worth employing. Made my excuses over lunch – very carefully. Mustn’t let the right know what the left was doing, etc. And, feeling totally ravenous, cycled home.
I’d already made the spiritual sacrifice not to see my girlfriend of the time… and decided I would cap a day of leaping whole rows forward in the Kingdom by getting a bus (I thought I’d drop off the bike if I’d tried to cycle it) back up to church for a prayer meeting.
The Number 28 runs up the North End Road in Fulham. I’ve no idea what it’s like now, but it was terribly unreliable then. So I waited at the bus stop. And waited. And all I could think about was burgers. My whole brain just zoned in on this 4-pack of quarter-pounders in the freezer and sliced cheese and ketchup and a loaf of white bread. I think I actually drooled onto the pavement.
I prayed for deliverance, for a bus to come, or some sign.
But then thought ‘sod it’, turned and went home and, choffing raw bread by the handful while I made them, ate probably the best burgers I have ever tasted. Someone asked me the next day why I hadn’t been at the meeting. I lied. What a great day 😉