Irreverent Mama

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"... all life on earth can be viewed as a competition among species for the solar energy captured by photosynthesis..." (The Omnivore's Dilemma).

The sentence caused a flicker of response, a spark something interesting begun in my mind. I set the book down to consider, to let that spark develop. Just think about that sentence for a minute. All life on earth derives from the sun. Amazing, that. A flash in my mind of solar particles streaming to earth, warming the soil, spurring to growth, and the whole rest of everything else on this tiny planet in a distant solar system in a backwater galaxy burgeoning out from that soil. It's mysical, it's miraculous. Just because we can explain certain bits of how it all fits together doesn't detract from the wonder of it all.


It's been a while since I've attempted to pray, but this seemed to call for it. For along with the wonder, the awe at the intricacy and inter-twinedness of it all, was gratitude. Maybe I'm just globally grateful to be the recipient of life, maybe I'm grateful to a specific entity -- yes, god -- but whatever it may be, it seemed appropriate to express that gratitude.

So I tried to form a prayer, and...

it didn't work.

The salutation... "Oh, lord"... seemed pompous and false. "Father God", which (being fatherless) I relished in my adolescence, didn't work, either. I shied away from both... with a surprisingly visceral revulsion. Wrong. They were just wrong.

Okay, so skip the salutation. On to the meat of it. I struggled to line up the words in the best order, to best express what I was feeling, and again, it didn't work. It was so damned artificial. Like I was composing a stiff and proper thank-you note. And it wasn't so much the tenor of the thing -- formal, casual, ponderous or light -- no matter how I tried it, whipping out phrases and tossing them away like discarded garments, none of them worked. The problem wasn't the tone of voice, the problem was the words themselves.

Not which words I was choosing, just words. Language, at all.

I love words. I think it's possibly humanity's highest achievement, language. There are few things I love more than the puzzle of trying to fit the words to express the meaning, playing with them, ordering them, picking and choosing to get just the right nuance, feeling, to connect my mind with yours. It's profoundly satisfying to me.

But in this instance, words were not bridging gaps. Words were taking the feeling and reducing it, channeling it, limiting it.

In fact, the more I struggled to package up my responses and mail them off to that great ear in the sky, the more the whole endeavour just became ... embarrassing. The words didn't fit. They were profoundly limiting, and, thereby, false.

Limiting not just of my feelings, but of where I was sending them. The expressions of God that I grew up with don't really fit my perception of him/her/it now. "Father" God doesn't do it. (Nor would "mother".) Those words make whole thing too concrete, too specific, too bounded in physical reality, in human experience. "Lord"? Good lord. I think not. I don't think that way any more. Once more, embarrassing.

Instead, I simply focussed on the feelings of wonderment, satisfaction, appreciation for this mystical, miraculous, marvellous world, in all its astonishing intricacy.

If there is (as I believe) a god out there, and if he/she/it notes and cares what the specks in creation think or do (I'm largely dubious), then surely he/she/it doesn't need words -- words of one particular language from one particular speck (me!) on one of uncountable millions of planets in the myriad of galaxies -- to grasp what I'm trying to convey.

So I focussed on the feeling and tried to keep words out of it -- harder to do than one might think -- and trusted that it was being received. And if not, if god doesn't listen to the burbling of the teeming masses, then certainly the exercise is good for me. Awe, gratitude, appreciation are all good for the soul. (Or, if you will, the psyche, or,if you wish to reduce it that far, simply something as prosaic as your mental health.)

I did, and, though I was stumbling and clumsy in my efforts, it, unlike my abortive attempts at formal prayers, felt right.

I think I need to learn to meditate.

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