Come, let us pray
Words are powerful. They are a currency of power, like money or law or hierarchy or psychology. They can be used benignly or with mischief, to heal or to control. And the meanings of words can be arbitrary, shared and disputed. I almost would like to see a new language emerge that keeps meanings fixed, in a capsule, pure and unchangeable. But that wouldn’t do either, for the problem does not lie within language.
I don’t think words are meant to be taken literally. At the most simple level, words only point to other sets of words for definition. And higher up in complexity is metaphor and analogy and humour and subtext and sarcasm and passive aggression, etcetera. There can be a chasm between what I say and how it is received. I guess that's a constant. Words’ meanings change over time, which is bizarre and fascinating. Like, until the late fifteenth century the word girl meant a child of either sex. Boys were occasionally called knave girl and girls were known as gay girls. And up until last century, boys were more often dressed in pink and girls in blue. Why and how does that change?
The word prayer occurred to me as a site of contention (probably only within me, I am willing to concede). It is so loaded with meaning. Meaning ascribed by an institution, driven to maintain power and control. Not necessarily through the word prayer of course, but through a whole canon of words and meanings and concepts and decrees. And they are accepted and adopted by the many. The language of texts (the bible and philosophical treatises for example) have been interpreted and disseminated by powerful institutions and people since the beginning of social organisation. It’s compelling.
I pray. All day, everyday. We all do, I believe. Even the most religious atheist. But I (as others do too) understand prayer to mean something a little different to the conventional. And it is through others, in fact, that I have come to understand things this way, others’ prayers sent out into the ether and received by me, that which resonated deeply with me. The Oxford English dictionary defines prayer as ‘a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or another deity’. I suspect we are always connected to and communing with God or deity or universal energy or Shiva and Shakti or Karma or science or rationality or whatever manifestation of existence one chooses to believe. And I don't think it needs to be solemn or directed anywhere in particular. I suspect we are always connected to all and everything. Every thought I think, every feeling I feel, every action I take, the way I see, the way I move or don’t, the words I say or don’t, my intentions, my dance, my diet, my smile, they are all prayer. It’s not if I pray or not, but how I choose to pray. Or how I don’t choose, as I am not necessarily conscious of my prayers most of the time. Although I do try and practice being more and more conscious. Because my prayers shape my existence and experience of life. And inadvertently, indirectly and directly, others’ lives too — inanimate and animate, sentient and non. I don’t necessarily understand the laws and rules, the science, if you will, of this system, but I have experience enough and trust in my intuition enough to know it on some deeper level.
So, I send this prayer out into the ether because I think it is a good prayer and better than its absence or alternative. Come, let us pray...