Sunday, January 27, 2013

Prashanti/St. Francis Prayer

From the liner notes of Passages a collaboration between Philip Glass and Ravi Shankar:

Prashanti (Peacefulness) An extended orchestral work in two parts:
  • Musical depiction of joyful people living in harmony. Slowly, greed, envy, hatred and violence creep into their contented lives.
  • 'Out of this chaos a voice sings out in Vedic prayer:

    'Hey Nat(h), hama para kripa kijiye.
    Door kara andhakar, gyan ka aloka dijiye,
    hinsa dwesh lobha bamese chhin lijiye,
    manamey prem shanti bhar dijiye.'

    Oh, Lord. Be benevolent to us.
    Drive the darkness away. Shed upon us the light of wisdom.
    Take the jealousy, envy, greed and anger from us,
    and fill our hearts with love and peace.

... and a feeling of spiritual awakening, peace and tranquillity descends upon people's minds.

So, I'm in a project where all my coworkers are originally from India, both North and South India. They are like two different countries, really, but there is a commonality to these all very different people, and that is ...

What is that commonality? They all have their children lined up to go to "TJ" (Thomas Jefferson High School), they all have their children's futures lined up for them: they are going to be doctors or lawyers or engineers, and they all are holding down two or three careers, buying gold, buying land in India, buying stocks, everything.

The whole American dream: work hard and be successful, and make sure your children do better than you.

They are living this, and worrying about this, every day of their lives.

Just like we are, right? We want to make sure we keep our jobs, and we worry about our children, and make sure our future is covered the best we can, right?

But there's a difference that I see between the Eastern mind and the Western one.

In everything they do, all of them, there's this sense of immanence. They go to the temple, they celebrate Diwali, even if they don't know precisely what they're celebrating, they honor their parents.

You may think you do this: you honor your parents, you go to church, you celebrate Christmas and Easter...

But there is a difference.

And that difference is, somewhere along the way, we of the Western mind felt that God was over there, and we had to work hard and to succeed, but by our own merits. "God in the workplace," is a 'nice idea' but it's fundamentally an alien concept to the Western mind. "Separation of Church and State" (and business) isn't written in the Constitution, but it's been an abiding idea in the Western mind for centuries ... in fact: basically from the Enlightenment and the Protestant Reformation, to point fingers, and then, to point a finger back: from the time Adam bit the apple offered by Eve.

Sadly, Jesus Christ came to us, and died for our sins, and left us the legacy of the Trinity. That's not the sad part. The sad part is this. We took this. We accepted it, and we ran out to the streets and died in the circuses, and held the cross high, proclaiming the Good News.

And then we tried to wrap our heads around what it meant. What is God, that He is One Being in Three Persons. So, after we converted everybody to this new Faith, we tried to understand, to be better. That's good. And we spent one thousand years, just simply absorbing the fact that God is our Father.

Any other religion, you don't find that. God isn't a Father. God is a Creator, and separate from His creation. But our faith says differently: that God became Man, and in so becoming, sanctified us, giving mankind a nobility and divinity by co-participation.

Who can imagine that? Nobody, that's who. Not the Greeks (as some people claim that Christianity came from), not anybody. So we sat down to think about what it all means, and people call this the 'Dark Ages,' but it wasn't 'dark' at all, and in that thinking we so ingrained in ourselves the certainty of God and His Fatherhood, that you can't even be an atheist without first acknowledging God's supremacy and active paternity. The semantics don't exist in the Western thought to express anything other than that. I mean, listen to all the arguments from the atheists, and the very mode of discourse requires them to acknowledge what they profess (note the word) to disbelieve (so they believe in something even if that something is nothing and they have to have faith in their 'disbelief').

But God ... must be so, so disappointed. We took one thousand years to grasp this and create our entire language around this, from the heathen Latin to all the languages that have Latin roots, and we worked this into our very being, this understanding.

And then came the 'Enlightenment' and then came the Industrial Revolution and we used this understanding to turn a person into ... not a machine, but just a cog turning the great wheel of progress, and progress toward what? More progress. We created science, originally, to understand and to revere the things divinity gave us, and then we forgot what we were looking at, and simply revered that we could look. "I have Science! What need have I of God?"

The Great Divorce.

And now, in some countries, it's a crime to say the word "God" in a public place. What you do privately is your matter, but if you impose your beliefs on anybody else, you'll have to answer to the State.

Religion is no longer the opiate of the masses, because the Mass is now outlawed, or, worse: a private matter having nothing to do with the State or the Corporation.

But to the Eastern mind, every movement, every action, every thought is underscored by immanence. God is there. And when God is mentioned, it's not a question, it's not a marvel or an oddity. God is God, and they have no understanding of what God is: they don't box Him (even into gender).

But for them, God underscores everything they do, even to the point of every breath.

Even to the point of this. One of my coworkers is an atheist. He doesn't believe in God. He doesn't care. God can exist or not exist. It's not his problem. But unlike the Western atheist who struggles with God, every step of the way in his 'disbelief.' This man knows: this is it. He is it. He takes a smoke, he does his job, he raises and loves his daughter, but he is entirely beyond the question of good and evil: he knows that he is it, and everything he does depends on him, and him alone.

His daughter came home from school one day and said, "Daddy, God did all this." And he said, "No, honey, Daddy did all this."

And he got scolded when he told us this story. "Don't force your beliefs on your daughter!"

(Did you see that? An atheist has to believe)

And he answered. "Hey, the schools are forcing their beliefs on her!" (Montessori, of course) "She can believe what she wants to believe, but I'm telling her that Daddy did that, because I did."

Because, for him, he did. He lifted his hand to build his deck or install the TV or whatever, and, for him, since there is no God, he is the ultimate authority on what is or what isn't there. He doesn't struggle with anything, as the Western atheists do: he has the absolute certainty of his convictions that this is it and he acts and speaks accordingly, from their firmness of his convictions.

And so what?

And this is the so what: his coworkers do, too, even in their belief. They may be Sikh or (orthodox) Hindu or 'just an Indian' but they have a steady conviction, a peacefulness that all is going as it should be going, and that they do their part, that much, and no more, and the rest gets done. And they are the hardest working people I know, and there is nothing that troubles them, because why? Because whether they believe or don't believe, or what they believe, it is all going as it should.

I think we've abandoned that in the West. I think we traded in God for Science or for Success and we forgot what we traded Him in for, and now, it doesn't even matter anymore. All we have is this hurry, worry and nausea, and it's making everybody sick, but that doesn't matter, because nobody matters anymore, it's Progress, the machine, or Policy that matters more than the person.

And if you don't believe that, go pull your kid from school in Sweden. It's just starting, people. Sickness is replacing Hope, and we are marching, lockstep, toward our own self-destruction: lambs to the slaughter, and we've done this, willingly, to ourselves, and we do it, every morning we hit the alarm, moan, shower and rush off to work.

Not 'work,' but 'Work.' ... our only reason to exist now is to serve the Corporate State.

That's the Bad News.

We traded in the Good News, and we traded it in for Nothing.

The Worse News is that we are imbued with the Good News.

We knew we had it. We know we gave it away. We did this to ourselves.

Like I said: God sees us spend a thousand years to try to understand the Mystery, and our understanding is what we have right now. We are living our dystopian future ... today.

Don't believe me? Go to work on Monday and count all the smiling, happy people in your corporate office.

There is one ray of Hope.

And that is God.

There is nothing we can do, and nothing we can look forward to, if there were no God.

But God is God. "I am," He said.

He 'am.' And right here, and right now. The only reason we despair is because we turn away from God, and that is an active measure on our part. We have to do well in school, or at work, or take the kids to soccer practice, and in all this 'do'ing we actively turn from God, and say: "Not now, LORD."

And we do it now, so much so out of habit, that we're not even aware we're doing it: it's like breathing, us turning away from God, but it is an active choice, just like breathing is.

And just like breathing, we can choose to turn toward God, even as we do whatever we do wherever we do it. We can still take the kids to soccer practice, and be aware, at every stoplight, that God is here and that God is good. We can be at school and be listening to the professor and learning, and know that God is in us as we learn. We can dedicate ourselves to our work, and do well, just as we always do already anyway, ... and, but now: know that God is in us and around us and through us as we do what we do at our places of work as we be a 'little Christ' to our coworkers.

But how do we do that?

I look to my Eastern friends. They do what I do. But they don't worry. Even as they worry, they don't worry.

Worry comes from fear, and faith and fear are opposed: you have one or the other.

If God is present in what you are doing as you go about your day ...

Is God present? Yes. Are you aware of that?

If you are, then you have no worries. You do what you do, and what happens happens.

It's that simple.

How do you 'make' yourself aware of God's presence?

Pray. It's 'ora et labora.'

You work your prayer into your work, and then work becomes easy. Why? Because work itself is very easy for a person, you, capable of doing the work. All the 'work' of work is all the worry you roll into it. When you replace that worry, that fear, with faith, work became so easy! and a joy! and you become a person that your coworkers want to hang with, because now you're cool and nice and friendly and happy, even in those moments when you're serious or angry or scolding. God fills everything: you, your coworkers, your boss, your employees, your work, so it all just gets done.

And when that happens, you're not a cog in the Big Machine. No: you're co-participating in the Divine Plan, and that's a very different thing.

We've killed ourselves. We've killed our Hope, and we've traded in our souls for Despair.

But we can save ourselves, by letting God save us.

And it all starts with you. And it starts when you start to pray, again, finally, and listen for what God is saying to you.

Do you know what God is saying to you?

"Well done, my good and faithful servant. Behold my child, in whom I am well-pleased. I will be your God and you will be My people."

We have a God who loves us, a Father who loves His children.

A bird falls from the sky, and God knows. He knows you and He loves you.

When you pray, you become aware of this. Again. And when you let Love in, you become grateful.

Imagine being grateful, as you work.

You can change this bleak world, lost in despair.

And all you have to do is let God back into your heart.

... Look at St. Francis' prayer. You notice something, comparing it to the Prashanti? The prayer for peace? It's the same prayer. East, West: it doesn't matter. We need God, and when we let God in, we are filled with His Peace.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Post-inauguration prayer

Dear LORD,

Thank You for today, and for the warmth You provide in this cold weather, both from the heaters that keep us physically warm to the Love of friendship You show forth in Your created things. Thank You for filling my belly with the help from my brother Mike and please do fill my heart with Your Divine Love and open my heart so that I may accept it. Help me to be productive during the day so that I may labor diligently and help me to pray so my labors may be in accordance with Your Will.

Ora et Labora.

LORD, we have a new President. Please guide and protect him so that he may see rightly and do right.

Please be with my wife and daughters also as they are in the Philippines. Help my wife in her decision to know what is best for the family in whether to extend her stay there or to return home here. Please grant me bravery, courage, compassion and lovingkindness.

I ask all these through Jesus Christ, our LORD, Amen.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A New Year's Prayer

Dear LORD,

It's my first entry for Your year 2013. I went there to the Philippines, and by Your Grace, came back again. I'm thinner now, thank You LORD, but I'm not a better person in the New Year, and I regret being an offense to You in my weakness.

I have written quite a bit, again: I thank You, and I also thank You that my writing touches people's hearts and has opened up a conversation between me and my wife. Thank You for this adjustment time, this time where I've been allowed to ease back into my life in the States and relax and watch Once and FÅmål and see people try and fail and break their heart failing, but realize failing isn't failing when you do what you can with and for the one you love.

Tomorrow is another day, LORD, help me be a better man tomorrow than what I was today. Help me to grow closer to you, help me to reach out to my family and to the ones I love instead of withdrawing from them, help me to be productive and to avoid sloth.

I ask all these things through Jesus Christ, our LORD.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Prosperous New Year to All!

Cheers from the familia!

A bit of windsurfing to start my year :-)