There are a lot of people in my house right now – several people home from college who either grew up here or are spending the summer, Buster and his large, noisy, pals. But today everyone is out and will be for a while, so I’m going to use the time for a bit of intensive housecleaning of the both literal and metaphorical sort, because I have a lot to think about, and lately it seems like none of us really get to think. Something is always blaring at us and we seem to be living in incessant states of reaction.
Is it our nature to be reactionary beings? Perhaps to an extent, but there is a difference between reacting and responding. A reaction is often knee-jerk, a response generally a little thoughtful. I need to think.
Someone wrote to me the other day remarking that I was giving up the immigration debate for my hormones, and expressing what I think was a bit of frustration with me. I am sorry. I’m not “abandoning” a cause but realizing that I really need to take care of the interior hearth and the exterior home, if I am to be any good to anyone about anything. And anyway, I am more and more convinced that there is an enormous illusion at work here, meant to keep us barking at each other, not listening either to each other or to our better angels, and to prevent us from tending to our souls.
If you leave off the radio/stereo/television/phone, housework is contemplative work; it allows you to think about things, argue in your head and give your gut a good hearing. I need that.
Of course, I am not thinking of anything particularly wise, edifying, charitable or insightful just now. Driving this morning I saw the usual really bad, inattentive sort of driving one sees in a day, and spent my time behind the wheel muttering, “come on, ye bastid, drive like you mean it! Which lane do you want, sweetie, do you know? Why are you driving like you’re in a coma?”
No, I didn’t say this stuff to my fellow drivers, just spent the morning muttering, muttering, muttering, when perhaps a few, “Lord, helps us all drive well and safely” would have been better. Muttering is superseding instinctive prayer these days, because I am quite the menopausal, weepy, almost incoherent beetch. This is not good.
I’m also thinking it’s nice that Paul Potts won the thing over in Britain, but I wonder how his ego will fare once the hype drops off, as it inevitably will – I hope he can remain balanced. Part of his success is due to his gift, of course, but it’s also due to the fact that his story, manner and initial performance worked as an emotional depth sounder. We – who wander through most of our day numb – had the thrilled reaction. Gooseflesh was raised, tears were shed, everyone had a chance to “feel” something, and people responded to that gift by hoping he’d win…but now that he has, some will soon wonder why they don’t feel that same charge they’d felt and they’ll move on to whatever the next thing is that can stir them. Others will find in Potts an excuse to let themselves weep and emote, long after others have stopped, because feeling something is better than feeling nothing, and crying brings a nice release.
…at a St. Mark’s interfaith class, another Muslim leader taught a chanted prayer and led a meditation on opening one’s heart. The chanting appealed to the singer in Redding; the meditation spoke to her heart. She began saying the prayer daily.
She still doesn’t know why that meant she had to become a Muslim. All she knows is “when God gives you an invitation, you don’t turn it down.”
In March 2006, she said her shahada — the profession of faith — testifying that there is only one God and that Mohammed is his messenger. She became a Muslim.
She found the discipline of praying five times a day — one of the five pillars of Islam that all Muslims are supposed to follow — gave her the deep sense of connection with God that she yearned for.
It came from “knowing at all times I’m in between prayers.” She likens it to being in love, constantly looking forward to having “all these dates with God. … Living a life where you’re remembering God intentionally, consciously, just changes everything.”
Given her background, it is interesting that Ms. Redding could not perceive the idea of “surrendering to God” within Christianity, and I cannot imagine that she is unaware that chanting, surrender and praying five times a day (or more) is not exclusive to Islam, and surely did not begin with Islam. Chanting prayers multiple times a day is not even exclusive to the Abramic religions. Buddhists do it and have done it for a loooooong time.
Jews were chanting prayers 5 times a day ‘way before Mohammed ever met Gabriel, and Christians were doing it before the birth of Islam, as well. Hermits and Monastics have been “sanctifying the day” through set prayer times practically since Christianity’s inception. St. Benedict’s monks and nuns were at it ’round 500 AD, rising even in the middle of the night to chant, read scripture and pray for those who will not pray for themselves. This monastic tradition of praying the Liturgy of the Hours is ongoing, and in fact thriving right now, particularly among lay people (of all Christian traditions) possibly because the world is so loud.
So, you know…she wants to be a Muslim, more power to her – we all find our own ways to God, in the end – but the Christian churches might want to sit up and take notice of this piece, and consider whether watering down the tenets of Christianity to “suit the times” is not in fact resulting in sharp swings toward fundamentalism by people who are looking for more than the liturgy of “whatever makes you happy is enough to be your god;” who are looking for a real relationship with a Living God who actually dares to make a few demands on us.
As I’ve scolded before, we’re supposed to live the faith throughout the ages, not live the ages throughout the faith.
See, I told you. I’m not fit for human company, lately. I’m going to go shut up, now, and give the kitchen floor a good scrubbing.