Jul 24, 2009

The New Prayers

Commuting can be fun. No, really - I'm not being sarcastic here. I've got a thirty or forty minute commute in my little vw beetle, and it's really kind of evolved into a good experience; one I almost look forward to at the start and end of my day. Some days I'll just enjoy the scenery in which the sheer quantity of traffic forces me to indugle; other days I'll test the impact resistance of the windows in my car by belting out...well, whatever playlist I deem best on my iPod (this week it's Dream Academy and Ai Otsuka), and if you ever happened to drive past me during one of those days, then I thank you for not staring or laughing.

Some days, though, I just want to talk. Occasionally, I'll scroll through the phonebook on my blackberry and figure out who I haven't talked with in a while - but if I get a couple voicemail answers, I just put the phone away. It's never pleasant to look forward to a good conversation, only to get shoved into a mailbox. I know it's nothing personal - or is it? - but it just doesn't wet my whistle, if you understand me.

Many years ago, I'd just send my words up/out/down/in to God. Just kind of a free-form prayer or something. Not a formal "Our Father Who Art In Heaven..." or something, just kind of a "checking in with Dad" conversation. If there were things on my mind, the process of mental ramblings would often hone the comprehension of my thoughts to a degree to where I could generally figure out the answers to my own questions. Back in those days, I'd just take this happy little response as some kind of confirmation to my faith - God answering me in the 'still small voice' in the flutterings of my heart.

I think that's the one single thing I miss about really believing in God. There was always something kind of comforting, like knowing the monsters can't get you when you pull the blanket over your head when you're five years old.On my way home yesterday, I found myself in that distantly familiar mindset. And I didn't know who or what to talk to. That was kind of annoying to me. But did I let that stop me? (Clearly, no, or this would be an even more depressingly pointless blog than I fear it could yet become.)

Most of what I found myself saying... well, that's a blog for a different day. But the thing that it impressed upon me overall was the idea of prayer itself. Prayer. I remember a line from "Shadowlands" - that movie about the life of C.S. Lewis, played by Sir Anthony "Hannibal Lecter" Hopkins. He was encouraged in a moment of grief and sorrow to pray to god for blessings or whatever, and his response has always stuck with me: "I do not pray to god to change his mind; I pray to god....to change ME."

There's a poignant and significant element to prayer about how we see ourselves in an imagined reflection of a Perfect Being. In those eyes, who would not feel small and insignificant? The greater and more omnipotent we conceive our god to be, how much more broken and worthless do we become? Appreciating this comparitive self-analyzing attribute of prayer has made me address a "chicken and egg" scenario for myself:Did I stop believing in God when I believed myself too "aware"? Or did realizing I had no belief in god gradually cause my ego to increase? The worst part of that question is knowing where the questions themselves have come from: fear.

Sometimes, faith - to me - looks like playing the lottery. Like, people play because they're afraid if they don't play, they'll never win - which, yes, is technically true. But, actually, it's very likely that they never will even if they do. What's the old joke about the lottery? "It's a tax for people who can't do math."

Well, what about faith? Is it really as bad as that?

I don't have an answer for what's REALLY out there; I've had hopes, I've had this feeling or that, but no single event that couldn't more easily been attributed to chance or coincidence. Well, okay, serendipity - a happy little convergence of random events which, when viewed from a certain angle might look like something else. But it's all figures in clouds. People don't KNOW. They believe, sure, but "know"? Not even the leaders of the various religions or churches know for certain. I can see it in their faces when they talk about it. It's an act, a performance. Even the leaders of my old religion - they didn't see the face of God him/herself, they didn't actually hear the Actual Voice of God with their own actual ears. They've even said so - but understandably, those quotes don't really make the headlines.

So, knowing this, it makes it a challenge to pray. Because then, you know, it's just me talking to myself. It just kind of slid into place yesterday, though, in the midst of my auto ramblings:That's why I blog.

Sure, I know there's maybe four or five people who read this - maybe one or two even get to the end! - but in between the punch lines, the political commentaries, or the imported webcomic strips and YouTube clips... there's the occasional blog like this that I write just to write it out.

I'd love to think God (or whatever) reads it. But honestly, even if not a single person ever sees one word of it....it feels good to just write it down.

It's a big world. A bigger universe. And maybe I'm just a butterfly in an open field in china - but maybe the collective breath of my fellow insects will gather itself up into a summer rain that sweeps across Nebraska. and perhaps those rains will nourish the crops there, sending a fresh batch of health to a needed village in the center of africa. And maybe one of those villagers will grow up strong and sound and go off to school to find a cure for everything. Then, with those longer lifespans, scientists will figure out a way to leave this planet and meet our neighbors across the vastness of space. And in that collective web of ideas and experience, we will push ourselves just a little closer in our evolutionary path towards a perfect being.And maybe, to the little butterflies like me, that being will each down their hands and be God.

Sure, it's a broken analogy, but if you've gotten this far, I wanted to at least give you something to laugh about.

Have a day. Blog. email. Send it out.

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