Monday, March 7, 2011

Prayer

"The activity that we commonly call 'prayer' springs from just such a gesture, from the practice of directly addressing the animate surroundings. Prayer, in its most ancient and elemental sense, consists simply in speaking to things--to a maple grove, to a flock of crows, to the rising wind--rather than merely about things.  As such, prayer is an everyday practice common to oral, indigenous peoples the world over.  In the alphabetized West, however, we've shifted the other toward whom we direct such mindful speech away from the diverse beings that surround us to a single, all-powerful agency assumed to exist entirely beyond the evident world.  Still, the quality of respectful attention that such address entails--the steady suspension of discursive thought and the imaginative participation with one's chosen interlocutor--is much the same.  It is a practice that keeps one from straying too far from oneself in one's open honesty and integrity, a way of holding oneself in right relation to the other, whether that other is a God outside the world or the many-voiced world itself.

Nonetheless, the older, more primordial style of prayer sustains a very different stance toward the local terrain than that which resolutely directs itself toward a divinity beyond the world.  While the latter feels the sensuous landscape as a finite and restricted realm relative to its transcendent source, the first experiences the sensible world as the source of itself--as a kind of ongoing transcendence wherein each sensible thing is steadily bodying forth its own active creativity and sentience."

- David Abram, Becoming Animal

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