Sunday, February 10, 2008

Does prayer really work? "No."

(Sorry that I couldn't get this photo of the church in Yelapa Mexico to face right side up)

When I was a tousle-headed toddler back in 1943, my father went off to war and my mother, sister and I lived in an old two-story home on Charles Street in Point Loma, near the San Diego/Coronado naval base. And while their men were away in the Pacific, the war-widowed women of Charles Street banded together and formed support groups and babysitting exchanges and went to church together -- and I learned how to pray.

"Jane is very serious about her Sunday school," my mother wrote in my baby book. "She loves going to church!" And now, over 60 years later, I'm still praying my heart out. But do my prayers work? Not so you'd notice.

"Maybe you are praying for the wrong thing, Jane," said a friend. Yeah, maybe I should start praying for a new car or a new microwave. But there is only one thing I want in this world. And I have prayed for it daily since as long as I can remember.

"Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me."

Here's my daily prayer shopping list: "May all beings be blessed with peace, love, joy, equanimity, abundance, treasure, enlightenment, health, flowers, trees, fresh air, sunshine, happiness, beauty, silence, simplicity, grace, compassion, hope, wisdom, courage, calm, clarity, creativity, adventure, truth and good work in this lifetime -- even me."

I've prayed this prayer in English, Spanish, Latin, Arabic, Chinese and even Setswana. But have my prayers been answered? "No."

Is there peace in the DRC, Darfur or Kenya? Is there fresh air in Houston? Is there abundance in Afghanistan, where almost one-fourth of the population has died unnecessarily since 2001? Is there happiness in the Great Mall of America? Do we have wisdom in Iraq, compassion in Gaza, hope in our homeless shelters, equanimity in the minds of the millions of first-world people with roofs over their heads and food on their tables who still must take anti-depressants because they are so miserable in their own souls if they don't? Or does enlightenment guide Congress, the White House, our local city councils and the Supreme Court? "No."

I have to admit that there is lots of sunshine on the polar ice caps these days. But is that really in answer to prayer?

My knees are worn out from praying for a better world. I want to see people get along. All this war and greed and hostility and anger and lack of trust is tearing me apart. But are my prayers working? "No."

PS: "Jane, do you think that our troops should withdraw from Iraq?" someone asked me yesterday.

"I wouldn't use the word 'should' here if I were you," I answered. "The only word we can use here is 'must'. America must withdraw our troops from Iraq." Why? "Because we simply cannot AFFORD Iraq any more. And we cannot afford to interfere in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Gaza, the West Bank, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria or Iran any more either. We just can't. We simply do not have the money." Wishes are NOT horses here. We MUST withdraw.

Here's an analogy. Suppose that a man with a very low income wanted to buy his wife a five-karat diamond solitaire pendant on Valentines Day. Well perhaps he "should" buy it. But can he AFFORD to buy it? No.

Suppose America wants to keep funding hostilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan, etc. for the next 100 years. "Wanting" to keep these operations going isn't good enough when, financially, we don't have a prayer.

But then maybe my prayers for peace ARE being answered after all -- because, ultimately, no one can afford war.

PPS: Regarding my upcoming embed in Iraq, I still haven't gotten any word back from the three congressional representatives in Washington who are working on my behalf or from my appeal to the Pentagon about whether my embed will be reinstated even despite my progressive views and my hopes (and prayers!) that the neo-cons who support wholesale genocide in the Middle East for fun and profit will end up in jail where they belong. Or if the Pentagon will reimburse me for my wasted plane ticket because CentCom changed its mind after I bought it. Or whether Desperate Housewives will be back on the air again any time soon....

PPPS: Some reporter friends of mine and I are thinking about starting a blog describing what it is like to be on the campaign trail and we are looking for a good name for the blog. So far, I'm thinking of going with, "More of the Same: Notes from Outside of the Campaign Trail Bus". What do you think?

PPPPS: I'm back to listing my father's antique Japanese Samurai sword on eBay again. I need to pay for my trip to (hopefully) embed in Iraq on February 12 through March 5, my trip to North Korea in April and my trip to Burma in December.