Non Eating: Angus Barbieri, 382 Day Fast

Although not eating as an aid to not collecting stamps has a long tradition in Tibet, the practice is still considered radical among Western non-collectors. Yet in the mid-1960s, the Scotsman, Angus Barbieri, pushed not eating, to the limit to subdue his fascination with stamps.

Barbieri, before and after not collecting stamps for over a year.

One argument that has never gone away centers on whether abstinence or indulgence in the pleasure of the flesh aids best in the breaking of the urge to collect.

In his early period of non-collecting, Hamish ‘Hamish’ Smyth (1940 to 2020) of Berlin, placed himself in voluntary imprisonment where he lived in a dark and baron cell to avoid postage stamps.

Smyth would later switch to an aggressive style of non-collecting, one that involved actively seeking out stamp clubs to ignore them, so it’s fair to say Smyth sat on both sides of the abstinence/indulgence fence across the full span for his non-collecting career. During the mid-1960s, he went through an experimental phase in his non-collecting activities, and for a while, he both practiced and recommended, Tibetan-Fasting-for Non-Stamp-Collecting.

Angus Barbieri of Scotland was in limited communication with Smyth at this time, likely via telegrams, as they would have avoided writing letters, for obvious reasons.

Barbieri had an acute Stamp Collecting habit, which he'd grappled with since childhood. For years he attempted to distract himself from collecting by indulging in pasta, pastries, and sugary drinks.

It subdued his collecting to a minor extent, but he was unable to go even a month without and finding himself at a stamp fair in Glasgow, Edinburgh or further afield.

“Even when I wasn’t actively collecting, I would go to my mailbox daily, even on Sundays when they didn’t deliver, desperately hoping to find a fresh envelope with an exciting new stamp,” Barbieri would say years later.

When ill, we typically lose our appetite. There are sound medical reasons for this which I won’t go into here, but fasting has proven health benefits that the ancients knew of before science. The Buddha, Jesus, and the Profit Muhammad all advocated fasting, and none of them are known to have collected stamps.

Likely encouraged by Smyth, Barbieri decided to try suppressing his collecting habit via an extended fast. Barbieri felt he didn’t possess the stamina to quit collecting stamps forever, so he set himself the goal of not collecting for one year. Thus he resolved to give up consuming all foodstuffs for this period.

A scottish banquet where Barbieri not only ate nothing, but also failed to attend.

The twenty-seven-year-old Barbieri ended his fast in July of 1966, having gone 382 days without so much as a lettuce leaf. Throughout this period, he reduced his weight from over 200kgs down to 80, and he never collected a single stamp.

“My hunger was so acute, I simply forgot about stamp collecting altogether,” he said.

He also claimed to have forgotten the tased of food before he consumed his first breakfast in over a year, "I thoroughly enjoyed my egg and I feel very full,” he said.

Although he ate occasionally, Barbieri never collected again. His original one-year non-collecting goal extended for the remainder of his life. He never relapsed into his old stamp-habit.

He was elected Vice President of Scottish NSC Club, on account of enthusiastically remaining absent from all of their meetings.

He became well regarded internationally for not only not collecting stamps, but also for not eating.

What few people know, however, is that Angus was an excellent cook.

He kept on cooking thought his year of not eating, saying, “It’s not the omelet that matters, but the breaking of the eggs."

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