Prayer is Left

Prayer is Left November 23, 2020

Melancholy (1891) by Edvard Munch. Public Domain.

I find myself in an uneasy situation. I don’t love either Donald Trump or Joe Biden. With asthma and Crohn’s Disease, I see no reason to risk my health by going out more than occasionally, and even then only briefly; at the same time, I feel little anger at those chafing under whatever patchwork of lockdowns and restrictions we have had and will have again soon enough. This seems a deeply human response to me. Still, my family is small and not close—why go anywhere for Thanksgiving? Why do people care so much about having a turkey dinner within six feet of others anyway? Why not hop on Zoom (as much as I dislike Zoom)?

Some of my friends are so absorbed in their respective media spheres (whether Trumpian dark money sycophants or business-as-usual Biden cheerers) that it has become hard to speak (this is especially, though not exclusively, true in the former case). How can one not be depressed? Where can one turn? People say our country is polarized, but it’s more than that. We live in times of great historical import; fault lines now exposed and patterns of thought now awoken will be with us for a generation or more. We Millennials already had ’08—now this. Collective trauma isn’t the half of it, not because “Trump was so bad” or “our norms were obliterated,” but because we have seen ugly, disfiguring sides of one another. What do I say to friends who seem excited, even stimulated, by the opportunity to scold, people who think the term “deep state” means nothing (when really the concept is pretty uncontroversial)? How do I reach friends who turn to a media sphere as moneyed and influential as its mainstream counterpart, pretending that it is “alternative” or somehow not beholden to its agenda’d backers? What about the Great Reset? To be online is to witness cruelty, anger, deceit, a kind of universal sadism infecting the lot of Americans—not that masochism is far off either.

And that’s not even to get into personal problems: healthcare, work, the whole array of pain and suffering that seems to define life even during the best of times.

It’s lonely. Perhaps I am being whiney or ungrateful in committing these words to digital paper. Perhaps. But I am being honest with myself and, in my way, showcasing my own instinct for judgment, for wroth and impertinence. Lord knows I am imperfect and in no position to hurl insults and stew in rage.

That’s where prayer comes in—it’s all I’ve got. The pandemic has, paradoxically, become a time of fruitful silence and loneliness. The endless array of days that are not days, months that are not months, this year that is not a year—this can be tamed only in prayer, in the desperate cry of the humbled heart for mercy, charity, and all the gifts of God’s grace. In brokenness, we discover a small spark, a moment of darkness and stillness-something, something to slow the onward march of time, something to reconnect oneself to other human beings—out there, alienated, unhappy.

I take a moment each day and hope for hope, pray that some day I might overcome the fissures growing now, may be able to love in spite of myself and in spite of the difficulties cropping up all over life. That’s what I’ve got—and it’s enough.

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