Friday, October 19, 2012

Prayer

I sometimes think my conception of prayer is more philosophically rigorous than the genuine Christian. 

I find my faith in God is, like so many things we learn as children, not a belief I can shake. Like my, I should admit, incurable hopeless romance. Something I doubt I'll ever be able to banish. In fact, it's rather like those optical illusions where two lines are the same length, but because o
f context they appear radically different. Now I can sit and stare at those lines, measure them, and rationally appreciate they are, in fact, the exact same length. As I stare at them, I realize, yes, this is true, and the mirage vanishes, and they really are identical. For a moment. But I look away a second, and when I come back, they're just as different as the beginning.

That's my belief in God. If I think on epistemology, if I weigh the evidence cooly, I realize there probably is no God. Certainly none I could hope to know. But I think of something else, my mind gets distracted, life happens, and the belief resurfaces behind everything. Background radiation.

So my point is, at moments, I pray. I could say this is just a way of covering my bases, and it couldn't hurt, but it's nothing so calculated. It's that residual childhood imbibing, the sense that someone is looking on, caring, vigilant, loving. Maybe He is.

I clasp my hands, and my thoughts always go like this. I think of something I want. A relative, a friend, to be happy and well. A situation to turn out how I want it to. A love to be kindled and reflected.

But then I think what do I know? Who knows that this should turn out the way I want it, in the greater scheme? Perhaps, this momentary hurt is for the greater good. Perhaps if the Titanic never sank, maritime precautions would never have been enhanced, and the world would be that much poorer. Perhaps the Holocaust was the only fertile ground to breed the Aliyah Bet. Who knows the answers to these things? Certainly I can't begin to comprehend all the moving pieces. But God can. God must.

So it would be foolish to ask for a particular thing--He knows what should happen, what should be granted and what must be withheld. In surrender, I think, well then I'll simply ask God to do what He thinks is best.

And that prayer is on my lips, too.

But surely a good God would not withhold the right outcome simply because I failed to ask for it. If a loner lies in a hospital, comatose, will God really only grant him salvation, wellness, if he has someone to pray for him? Is God partial to the gregarious? I think not: that's not the God I believed in, and certainly no God I doubt now. A good God does good without being asked. He can't do anything else.

So the prayer dies on my lips. I'm bemused. I don't know what to ask for. The orison could only be redundant, and thus, pointless.

I don't know how to pray in the end. The only, only thing that suggests itself, is gratitude. Wanting nothing, only emoting. I think of the goods things in my life, the wonder. I think of when we got my childhood pair of golden retrievers. The first night we took them home, so small, so energetic, so unrestrained in their love for us. We named them Taffy and Butterscotch. When we picked them out, the favorite was Butterscotch because he had a white mark on his forehead. But Taffy followed me around, and I wanted him. Chaos in the family, until my parents announced we'd get them both.

Taffy died of cancer, and Butterscotch died of a broken heart. The last night he was alive I picked him up, so riddled with disease he couldn't walk, and brought him down to my bedroom. I held him, talked to him in words he couldn't understand, and in the morning said a goodbye that wasn't enough and couldn't have been enough and never saw him again.

When we brought them home the first night, after they'd exhausted themselves in licking our faces, Butterscotch fell asleep. His feet trembled, as he dreamed of chasing giant rabbits. I think of that.

I think of how a pretty girl's hand feels in mine, so frightfully fragile, like sapling greenwood. Like a secret never to be betrayed.

I think of laughing with friends.

I think of my mother's voice.

My hands are still clasped. "Thank you," is the only thing I say to God. "Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of it."

It's not a terrible outcome, to begin in a state of wanting something more, and to end up reflective, wanting nothing, grateful for all--all--that is.

So I fall asleep with a smile, vaguely knowing that if this is the last night, if some flair erupts from a sun that quite selflessly granted us so much, if some stray gamma rays sterilize this world and all its precarious civilization, then it was enough. Such is the legacy of a decade of Protestant worship.

It's enough.

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