Emerson said, “If you go expressly to look at the moon it becomes tinsel.” He preached self-reliance—the importance of being with yourself in nature—but he also lived with his mother, who cooked for him and cleaned his muddy boots.
The new moon at the start of May this year signaled the beginning of Ramazan, which the rest of the world calls Ramadan, which I call Ramadan when I speak with my friends, but which I grew up calling Ramazan because that’s how we say it in Farsi. In Farsi there are four different letters that all make the same z sound and maybe we figured if we didn’t use them enough they’d disappear.
This year, for the first time in my life, I have fasted for all of Ramazan. The Quran says during Ramazan you’re supposed to “eat and drink until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread of night.” And then fast until sunset—no food, no drink. The black thread/white thread part fascinates me, eating in the predawn morning until it’s light enough outside to tell the white thread from the black.
Nowadays there’s an app called Muslim Pro (a hilarious name) where you enter your location and it tells you exactly what time to stop eating. But I like to imagine a time when someone was sitting outside eating bread and cheese alone in the dark, checking and rechecking their two threads. They’d eat a bit more, yawn a bit, and then, suddenly, rubbing their eyes, they’d catch a gleam of light against the white thread and shout “Stop! Stop!” to their family inside.
That’s probably not how it ever worked.