At this time last year, I was in the middle of a 36 hour fast in honor of Nikolai Vavilov and his team, who starved themselves to preserve a seed bank that went on to dominate Russian agriculture.* One reason I did that was to honor the team and their sacrifices, but another was to test and develop my own ability to do hard things when necessary. It was a great experiment, I did better than I thought I would but also the costs took longer to repay than I thought, and all of that knowledge was really valuable to me.

I went back and forth about doing the fast this year. The sense of continuity and retesting myself felt valuable and I’m sad about missing out on them. But I’m currently doing hard things and my capacity to deal with that kind of pain is a limiting reagent right now. Fasting for Vavilov Day would come at the expense of an actual project that matters to me. Delaying real work for a symbolic sacrifice would not only be stupid, it would be bad symbolism. I can’t honor a sacrifice for a cause by sacrificing a cause for symbolism.

So this year I’m not fasting. I do think I’ll want another fast at some point to see how my medical miracle affected things, but it will wait.

*My one sentence here is already simplified from the story as fully known in the West, read the blog post for more. I also suspect a lot of details haven’t made it into English. Last year I looked into hiring a Russian researcher to investigate and even found someone in mid-Fubrary, but they put it off one week for a root canal and then had some other excuse the next week so seems like they’re not going to come through.


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May I suggest donating to your local food pantry? Seems to be in the spirit of the day to sacrifice goods or capital so others can eat.