the circular runner

praying for prayer?

In humor, life, observations, writers & books, writing on June 19, 2012 at 6:43 am

I have a few obsessions–at least I do when blogging.  My career as a witer (or lack thereof), my sense of speeding through life and the counter-need to slow down, and…goddamn it…I don’t have any other obsessions.  Jesus, I can’t even come up with three.  Three is so writerly, and I can’t come up with a third…

I’m not very obsessive, I’ll admit it.  I’d probably be better off in my career if I were.  (OK, I hit on obsession #1–check.) 

And as for obsession #2, I’ve been thinking about God today.  Well, I started thinking about God because I was listening to this somewhat ancient podcast of Fresh Air.  It was about a scholar spending time with some evangelicals who believe they have personal relationships with God.  By relationships, I’m mean hanging out with the Almighty, having a cup of coffee, taking things out.

At one level, I get a little weirded out by the sound of these people. But there is another part of me that doesn’t really think there’s anything weird at all about believing that God is all around you.  I studied Religion, not theology (there’s a difference) in college and went on to grad school, as well.  There are very few Religious Studies majors in the world who choose that major strictly out of some intellectual need.  We all have issues with God or religion or both, or at least a fascination.  I would fit in the latter.

I’m a believing Agnostic or an Agnostic believer.  I tried to explain my beliefs once already on this blog, if interested, please see this.   If you are still here, I commend you: good choice.  Let’s live in the present.

So, as I was saying, today, I was listening to Terry Gross and this scholar talk about people who have relationships with the divine, and I started thinking about my own relationship to God.  I realized right off that I don’t really like that term, relationship.  I’m old school, I guess.  I like imagining that there’s something mysterious and wondrous about this entity we call God/Yahweh/Allah etc.  It’s not something I want to imagine having a relationship with the way I have a relationship with some dude at work.  That’s how the people being discussed today see God–He’s like their buddy.  Where’s the majesty in that?

And this leads me to my point: why don’t I pray anymore?  I used to pray every night–mainly petitions.  There was a point that it was almost like a superstition, maybe even a superstitious obsession, which I could add to my poor list of obsessions if only I were still obsessed with prayer the way I used to be. Back then, I needed to pray for everyone near and dear to me or I feared  something would happen to them. I guess that’s the downside to not seeing God as buddy.  Buddies don’t smite your second cousins in Uruguay if you fail to ask for his protection. There’s something childlike in believing that God would smite your family if you piss him off, but even so, I wonder if it’s not a bad sign that I don’t make the time to talk with God at night as I used to.

It’s not guilt, mind you.  I think it does have something to do with being too much in the world.  Look, there’s a reason why as a writer of fiction, I gravitate to the surreal/magical.  I think there’s truth in that stuff.  I don’t know if I can get myself to capture some of that magic, but I think that’s my goal as a writer, and maybe, just maybe, it’s my goal as a person, a spiritual person, too.  I once told a friend of mine in grad school just about the time I decided that I wanted to write and not be a scholar of religion, that I saw writing as a spiritual exercise.  She thought I was daft at the time.  But I do.  I have to explain how next time.

For now, I’m curious.  do any of you see God/the Force/some spiritual force in your writing? Do you speak with the Almighty even writing the most Earthbound family drama?

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  1. I was raised Catholic, filled with the wonder and guilt that goes with faith in the unseen. And I’m amazed at how often that pops up in my writing, unintended. Seems as though (as others have said) we are hard-wired to believe in something beyond ourselves, and when one is writing literary fiction, those beliefs have to be explored. I share your disdain for the cult of the individual, that modern attempt to combine religion and corporate marketing. I guess all those catechism lessons still have me thinking that we should come to God, not the other way around.

    • you know, i wasn’t really raised in the Church. my mom was, in South America, and when I was very young, we read the Bible at the table before dinner. I guess that’s pretty religious now that I think of it. But we stopped going to mass early in my life, and my mother never pushed me toward getting confirmed. I chose that for myself much later. So I’m not sure where I got the more old fashioned language for God-experiences.

      I’m also not sure I’d agree that I have a disdain for the people I mention. Partly because I’m not sure that it’s a cult of personality that they are propagating. It might be, but I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. Their relationship to God, it seems to me, is a just a more modern version of St. Francis going around and feeling God in the wind. They just put an even more folksy spin on the experience. But if you think about it, St. Francis’ contemporaries probably didn’t appreciate his ways, either. Things change. Even how we think about God.

  2. I can’t wait to see what you have to say about writing=spiritual exercise. That’s what it is for me, as well as psychological. Like seeing a shrink or a priest. I like Joe’s last sentence up there, too, although the g word makes me nervous for reasons too complicated to explain here. Gabe, you always amaze me with your thoughtfulness.

  3. well, Anna, in truth, i’m amazed that i published this post and missed so many typos (which i have since fixed, btw). it was late. the witching hour. perfect time to ponder, even if i did so with words left out.

    thanks for the compliment, though. i am full of many things–thoughts being just one of those things.

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