Mardi Gras the feast before the fast


Fat Tuesday, or shrove Tuesday is the feast before the fast. And what is the feast we’ve got? The reality we have on our hands.

We are used at looking at past problems and the future prospects. What if reality in its entirety is so way beyond our comprehension that the only reality we have is that one moment in time that constitutes our life?

To be sure, there are ancestors and parents, including the cultural milieu that sustained us, that constitute our “before,” and there are progenies, or even just folks influenced and affected by our feelings, thoughts, and behavior, that will live “after,” but neither really comprise the wholeness that we are.

So the feast and fast dichotomy is not just an annual occurrence in the calendar. It is a dynamic embedded in life itself, similar to birth and death, of possibilities and limits. I have taken the 86 years of my intentional existence as my one moment in time, daily experienced at once as a feast and a fast. As poet Kazantzakis wrote: the moment we were born also began the first day of our dying. My reality encompasses both dynamic. It is my mind that separates them apart. My body keeps it together.

Those who had gone before us marked today as a great reminder that life is a feast. When I taught Oral English, I had my students practice their English by talking about themselves, the subject they did not need to read about to know. I asked them to talk about what was real, not the illusory “face” they dressed for public display. I follow in the same path.

In the Seven Year Itch of my writing years that commenced mid-year last year, I shall write of my experiences. Of the 68 years so far, the issue is not “where to begin” as it is “when to stop.” Speculations of what could have been, or what could be, are idle. What was done is done. Period. What will be is a matter of choice in the midst of the surprises and the unfathomable mystery that life invariably present. We live out of intuition more than strategic plans.

My life ends Dec. 15, 2031. We can discuss how I arrived at my statistical probability but that really is not the question, is it? The question of longevity preoccupies human beings since we contemplated and meditated on our existence. In our time, we still resist the call to take hold of our own destiny. We would rather leave it in the hands of others. Do I keep writing until 2031? I will observe a 10-year period of silence before that time. That’s absolute quietude. That leaves seven years of recording memories of feasts and fasts from now until then.

This week on Saipan, particularly with the drop-ins at the pala-pala in front of the JP Centre building last Monday, and on Wednesday and Friday, were/are occasions to review the feast and to be reminded of the fasts of life. The downcast and occasional rain from the low depression east kept wanderers few.

Feasts are times of abundance, where possibilities abound. Shrove Tuesday and the Mardi Gras may have deteriorated into regrettable rites of debauchery in some quarters but its religious beginnings were for receiving of the big “yes” on our life, along with the big “yes” response that we dared echo in kind!

I dilly-dallied in Dalian once, but that was a summer. It was fun drooling down three blocks of public market in front of the train station last Friday, but I skipped the street market to stay out of the cold. But abundance was evidently in the minds of the operators of all the stalls, and this Saturday, also at the duty-free shops of Dalian, Incheon, Osaka, and on board Asiana. The ads, at Saipan airport and Galleria included, are tailored to get everyone to buy at “sale” or “discounted” prices.

At the rate everyone uses their plastics, the economy of scale is healthy. Looking and smelling good evidently is in people’s agenda. There are porcelain dolls including those in the Galleria on Saipan, many redheads and blondes to boot, of all ages and all genders.

The feast before the fast in its religious garb was not in people’s minds at Duty-Free but I was clear that feasting was their choice in that transient moment when they were convinced they would be better off with a purchase, and that it was a bargain.

Both are illusory. As Rockefeller confessed, no one ever has enough, including money, and certainly goods. Owning the latest gadgets or fashionable attires does not a person make. There are no savings on discounts. We do not save; we spend.

No, mine was feasting on the shrimp, scallops, and salmon served on my flight with a cupful of rice topped with scrambled eggs, served by stewards who practiced their English boldly. The seafood still tasted well even after I mistakenly poured the salad dressing on it. I buttered the bread but skipped the nut-topped dessert. The red wine pushed everything down nicely. When I got out of the Saipan airport and the warm air slapped my face, my body cried out loud: I am home. That was my feast.

What was yours?

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

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