The minute I closed my eyes, after everyone was settled, and the Matriarch had said her greetings, I asked myself, "Why don't I sit in silence three times a day?" Gosh, it is so lovely to pray, or meditate.
The reason I don't is that it is not my agenda, or rather, it is not the agenda I frequently think is mine. I frankly don't think the agenda I imagine for myself, is in fact mine. It too often correlates culturally and otherwise to be imagined in any authorial sense. I have a set of presumptions, goals, and ambitions that I have adopted and call an agenda, sometimes. That's normal. And so is never stopping once to notice the sheer inertia of such an unconscious harness. "Prayers For Peace", despite it's early hour, is something of a slap in the face, given "my" agenda.
Not all prayer and meditation (one would hope) is lovely and effusive like a teenage evangelical, of course. "Dearest Creator" isn't likely to be the way I begin a dialogue. I doubt Mickey Mouse would say that to Walt Disney. (Some day your Prince of Peace will come, yeah?)
Prayer that is a thinly disguised apologetics for being someone so gullible that they are talking to poltergeists, tends to have the salient feature of simultaneously accomplishing nothing, and saying not much else. Usually a, "thanks," and "please give us some skin in this game." It's so freakishly common in the Christian saturated midwest, that you become completely accustomed to hearing the sing song nonsense. "Hey God, buddy, I earnestly talk to you about how you are great. By the way, I got this problem, or rather, my Brother Matthew does... Cans't you cast your generous blessings a little closer to Thy shadow?" It's no wonder prayer is regarded as one of the flimsiest aspects of the all consuming phenomenon of belief. It probably sounds patently false to say that, but it's not. When was the last time you heard someone speak as soberly in prayer, and as contritely to their Lord (Who, after all, they supposedly believe has intervened on their behalf, through a blood ritual on His kid) as you might hear almost any man speak in a court off law? You won't hear this, in Indiana, at least. Maybe in a Quaker, or certain Anabaptist backwaters (where belief plays a distant role to culture in the religious community.) American Christians are so busy fussing with the exposition of their proposition, their deal with the Lord, that they inadvertently become groveling idiots, before Him. A Judge has a booming, huge voice, but the Lord's is as advertised. And his answer, my friends, ain't blowin' in the wind.
So given all this drum and sturm (yes, Katherine, my opinion, just that...) it's nice to sit amongst committed Christians, and a Ba Hai (sic.) man, and just pray to something, for something, more like a workable field of hope, than Walt Disney. Sure, some of them amongst me might view the world as somewhat beside the point, next to the realm of their most proper intentions and perspectives. This view is philosophically challenging, and perhaps a bit magical in it's thinking given the struggle a human has in even accounting for the tiny slice of the world it can discern with our crude sensory apparatus. So we should turn our attention to some "no place" that amounts, at least Spiritually, to higher ground?
That's why I mentioned the agendas. A woman brought it up today, at "Prayers For Peace." She put it wonderfully, in a way I could not. And her bearing is so tender and unsentimental. These old cogers I pray with have been disappointed their entire lives by the world around them. Kinda spooky in that sense. But they all love life, and people.
We finished our two half hours, one in silence, and one where Quaker style you are free to lift your voice, if so inspired (Robert never manages not to notice the folks who are supremely inspired. This is the sort of low level mockery that gives friendship it's companero zing. It's probably screwed up, but a lot of fun. So there.) At the very end, the most inspired of all of us, in the Robert sense, and contender for crustiest man on Earth, John, was invited by Aase, our Matriarch (and contender for loveliest soul around) to say a final prayer, as we held hands. And John, without his usual paper rustling concordance of didactic commentary, whilst under the gun, invited us all to remember some of the prayers, and comments held out that morning by each of us. Then he did something genuinely lovely, and distant from the Walt Disney crap that SuperChristians employ to close their deals with the Lord. He took us on a tour of the prayers of people of the world, and sort of tolled a Global bell from Bloomington's seven in the morning, through Greenwich, England, and on around Eurasia and the Lesser Antilles for all I know. I can hardly remember so taken with that crusty cat's metaphor, was I.
So often I spy the Great Animator in the Sky, as an odd fellow indeed. Can't He see the fraudulence of His stupid series of covenants, with His Frankensteins? Whether He "watered" us in the deluge (and punished all but a handful of our pets, in the process) or He sent down wrath upon all the babies in the land save those who's parents had a taste for Gram Parsons minstrel suggestion to "paint another color on your front door." Or, He recognized righteousness in that pimp: Lot... the Good Lord can be relied upon for making some pretty cosmic "White Man's Treaties." And our choices, are always, it seems, right back at the factory store. Guess who's behind the counter?
[...and now for my "prayerful" interlude]
But the thing that gets me more than anything are the voices of the people throughout History, but especially right this second. Voices that plead with our CEO to merely allow for subsistence, or perhaps the health of their kid, or husband or wife. Or ninety year old friend. I actually take that back, for Robert has had a good life with the fingerprints of God all over him. It's difficult to accomplish that, but not exactly impossible, in this well watered world of Christiandom. But what does God make of the voices you know are whispering in desperate appraisals? So often I imagine the sobs of the world, echoing into the atmosphere, and out to metaphysical realms, and wonder: my God, if You did exist, and I don't think You do; but if You did exist, what do You make of these cries? Are they merely like birdsong, or the cicada on a hot late summer eve to you? A sort of atmospherics in Sol's neck of the woods? Are they comprised snippets of unintelligible Babble, given your displeasure with what the words had accomplished, given that Tower, and all? Or, Lord, do you hear words? Words, lingual, of the tongue that your fine fingers formed not so long ago, really. My tiny little spot on the timeline, bodily at least, is significant to me, and may, should you truly be as flexible as claimed, even be significant to You. But, certainly what proceeds glacially to me, or in the flash of a light, is seen by You in a somewhat different frame of reference. Call it relativity. So, in a sense, You carved the form of the tongues of these anguished souls who wish for Your help, something like yesterday. And know the animating power of Your intentions have sprung some Billion soul filled fruits across the lands, and while cruelly fertile, their bodies, their lives are not. They sometimes stop, and ask for help, do they not? They sometimes know the shortness and meanness of their existence is veritably the meaning of their lives, don't You know? Well, don't You? I sometimes wonder.
It goes without saying that should you follow enough Priests, before long, you will find merely a man wearing a collar lent him, by mistake. I haven't much problem with calling even these dipshits men of the cloth. But nobody is a man of God.
Can you imagine what a man of God would hear? Might he not hear the voices of the billions of wasted souls? Might not the fundamentals of his human sentiment conjuring systems be dented beyond repair, were he to sense what the Good Lord can as a matter of course? You better believe it. True Believers (not Christians, who deal, rather, than believe, in belief) who attempt a resuscitation of the world can only go until their cartilage wears thin, and then you'll notice, the gasps between their statements of faith, make for a far less convincing argument. Their hangover eyes have never teared up in Bliss. Not really. They are dark, hallowed intimations of their skull sockets. Corporeal signposts to the wishes of the big hearted: tear these eyes from my soul, and leave the holes to stand for all to see. The world is but a cavern, as the sockets that remain should amply remind an interested party.
That is something like what a prayer from me sounds like. Just a little reminder to myself and Big Brother, that things, whatever Walt Disney might prefer, aren't all that great for some sizable percentages. And guess what, it matters. As does the universes silence on the matter. It matters. So, before I coddle my most precious baubles and friends and family, perhaps I might bow my head and wonder why so crooked a man as me, can stand, and stand himself, from any standpoint of belief.
Though I did see a vision while John was praying extemporaneously, sort of Time Machining the good 'ole gospel ship. And that vision was something of a respite from the gaping implacable billion who are the bottom sixth on God's Honey-Do list. For, I saw briefly, that despite their circumstances, and their pain, that they speak to the Lord. They pray. I forget that more often than not. And praying in the hands of the least among us is valorizing to my conception of them: they are perhaps victims, even perhaps to an implacable God. But they pray.
So thanks Honorable Crustiest Guy, John, for the Prayer!
And apologies to Maya Angelou, for the title of this post. I couldn't resist.
(Her book, not my favorite, A Song Flung Up To Heaven.)