Dear Universe (Take 2):

Well isn’t that the way it is sometimes – you reach out to the universe &…nothing. Not even an answering machine. No chirpy message, “Hi there, this is God, sorry I’m not in at the moment but I’ll get back to you as soon as I’m able.” Nope, just the big unfathomable Void.

(But at least this time the blogcall went through, right? Take 1 was a test – it’s gratifying to know that some of you out there really read this stuff I post – thank you thank you. Ha, just kidding about the test: what happened is I was trying out the ‘QuickPress’ feature on WordPress, my blog website, & it was a little too quick…I hadn’t yet poured in any content but off it flew…aackk, where’s the undo key?? Too late – it was already making its way into that everyday void of the web.)

So, speaking of voids, I’ve been thinking about prayer. Technically I guess, prayer involves some variety of god toward whom one directs one’s thoughts or pleas (as in, please god, help me [get better][survive this pain][get the job][etc.]). Scientists have shown that various parts of our brains become active depending on the kind of prayer we’re engaged in – for example, if your method of prayer is ‘talking with god’, then the parts of your brain associated with language become more active…kind of like a free version of talk therapy. If, instead, your prayer methodology is visualizing being one with the universe, the parts of your brain associated with vision will become more active – your own cosmic version of YouTube.

I don’t pray. Or rather, I haven’t consciously prayed since I was a child.  NowIlaymedown tosleep praythelordmysoultokeep ifIdiebeforeIwake praythelordmysoultotake. “If I die before I wake”?! Whoa, that was some serious praying our Lutheran parents taught us. But it was the subsequent godbless part that I paid attention to as I grew older (& didn’t have to say my prayers out loud): godblessmommy&daddy&linda&nancy& sandy&john&skipper[the dog] eventually evolved to include girlfriends who were mad at me (pleasegod make Gloria like me again), boys I had crushes on (these innocents will go unnamed), objects I coveted (pleasegod I really want an electric blanket for Christmas…whoa, what?!), etc. Did I expect God to answer my prayers & fulfill my desires? Not really – as a general rule it seems those Lutherans had low expectations about God’s availability for their particular problems. Was it helpful for me as a child to have this daily bedtime ritual? You bet. Maybe I can figure out a way for my grandson to pray to the planets each night…hey, our ancestors already did that, didn’t they? Maybe a prayer to Black Holes? (hmmm, not sure about that…) Or maybe we can think about reinventing the term prayer to mean something other than human<->God communication?

As I moved into adolescence, it wasn’t the prayers that led me astray, it was just good old fashioned science (& we didn’t even know about bonobos & plate tectonics back then.) Also, I was increasingly disturbed by the apparent chasm between church & daily life. Uh, still disturbed about that aspect of religion – any religion – & although my prayers have turned into meditation (with the objective of emptying the mind, not engaging it), I don’t regret hanging up on God.

To this day though, I do regret refusing to take my mother to church when she lived nearby – not even once while she was alive did I relent (- she drove herself & a two friends there every Sunday until the day she died). At 83, she refused surgery for an unexpectedly severe heart attack & as she left us, she knew in her heart she was going to be with my father & with God.

I went to my mother’s church for the funeral. We all had her fully in our hearts. Maybe that’s what prayer is, after all.


edited 8/18/16

This entry was posted in Just an Everyday Life, Our Primate Nature and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Dear Universe (Take 2):

  1. Lisa says:

    Thanks Linda for this post. Having grown up in an ardently atheist family, the idea of prayer has always been foreign but intriguing to me. Though I’ve never formally prayed, I do make wishes on the first star if I’m out at dusk. (Is that the same as prayer?) While I don’t believe it will change anything, I superstitiously suspect that NOT doing so might have consequences.

  2. Donna Maurillo says:

    So, that’s why the page was blank when I clicked on it. I figured the Dear Universe post had slipped into the Big Black Hole and that it was a message in itself.

    Actually, I’ve read up on black holes, and they’re mind boggling. I mean it’s like getting too close to the drain. Once you hit the edge of that whirlpool, down you go, ending up… well… who knows where? Maybe in a parallel universe. Maybe you meet yourself but in a weird form.

  3. Sister Nancy says:

    Does it really matter what people call it… (Prayer, meditation, talking to god, contemplation, mindfulness, stilling ) or to whom it might be directed (or not) if it WORKS for the individual by somehow nurturing or nourishing the mind, body and/or soul?

  4. lindaabL says:

    Sometimes I wish prayer would work like it seemed to when I was growing up. I was raised to believe that I had God’s direct dial number and that for sure whatever I wanted would be answered…somehow. And when bad things happened to friends or acquaintances, they seemed to get some comfort from the idea that God was “up there” somewhere just waiting to answer and reassure them. When I finally realized that that was not really practical or possible, I did feel a sense of loss and sometimes still do. What is awkward is not knowing what to say to people who really want you to tell them you’re praying for them. I try “thinking of you” or “wishing you comfort” or whatever, but it probably isn’t very satisfying to the recipient! Good post, Linda!

  5. Suzanne says:

    This is interesting for me because in January my aunt sent me a hand-knitted prayer shawl with a note about seeking comfort from God. I haven’t really known what to make of it. But then I think maybe praying is sort of like meditation and sitting was good for me when I was doing it regularly. So maybe it was a sign that I should meditate again. I was heartened by the fact that she was alluding to my mental illness (you take acknowledgment where you can find it) and it was generous that she wanted to offer what has been the biggest comfort in her life during some truly difficult times.

    • liveoaklinda says:

      thanks suzanne – i try to meditate every day, although my definition of meditation is happily broad. do you at least love the colors of the shawl??

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