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Monday, September 28, 2009

Gimme! Thanks! Oops! Wow! I. Gimme! – CREDO LXXXVII

This brilliant reduction of the four kinds of prayer, we owe to Rabbi Marc Gellman of Temple Beth Torah on Long Island, NY, as reported in an article on prayer by Zev Chafets in the spectacular Jung edition of the New York Times Magazine (Sep 20, 2009) celebrating the publication of Jung’s Red Book. The formulation is so succinct that I thought it should reach a greater audience. Volumes of theology have been written on prayer in all faiths, but, when it comes right down to it, these four one-syllable words cover the matter perfectly and suggest that hopefully our Creator might have a sense of humor, as well as compassion. It surely is an example of “laughter in the void” – after all, laughter is restricted to humankind, as far as we know and the Wisdom of Hagia Sophia is full of delight.

Gimme! is probably the hands-down winner of the four and one of the most ancient. The earliest Sumerian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphics reveal that prayers of petition were common to all. Farmers prayed to the gods for rain, no locusts, and good harvests back then; lovers for loved ones; mothers for their babies. This reminds me of an incredible conscious experience of the collective unconscious that I once had. It was during the Vietnam War. My son, Timothy, who could have been safe from the draft as a student at Stanford University, was a pacifist who went to extraordinary legal efforts to enlist in the army as a Conscientious Objector and finally succeeded in being sent to Vietnam “in order to help rather than harm.” He came home on leave before his departure, and the final parting took place on the doorstep of our small development house. There he stood in his uniform saying goodbye, and I, his mother, knowing he would be unarmed, put my arms around him to hug him. As I did so, an extraordinary experience occurred: I was overwhelmed in that instant by knowing I was one with every mother throughout history – past, present, and future – sharing an archetypal experience known only to mothers sending a child of their womb and heart into danger unknown! Believe me, it left me shaken. We were to be blessed in that he served as a medic, volunteered in his free time in a Vietnamese hospital, and gravitated to such an interest in medicine that when he finally returned to Stanford, he completed his philosophy major and moved on to the lengthy procedures of medical school. Today he is a distinguished psychiatrist, working with veterans of subsequent wars and using his idealism in a bold new educational plan for the medical field.

But I digress! If we pray at all, chances are we are praying for something or someone. If you could visualize the collective “gimme prayers” of the world, they would form a global aura for sure. Perhaps the greatest one of all is - for Peace! Give just a moment to think about your personal history of gimme! prayers from childhood up … How were they answered, how have you altered their content?

In my The Beejum Book is a chapter titled “The Gimme Attack.” Teak , aka ao, was six and in Athens and wanted something so badly, she ruined peace altogether. My mother, bless her, handled it so well that eighty years later I remember the lesson!

Today, I would add that the function of the ego is to want and want. As we grow older and wiser, the nature of our needs becomes, hopefully, nobler. The Christian Lord’s Prayer covers all four of Rabbi Gellman’s definitions, and likewise the Buddhist prayer for the Noble Eight-Fold Path (in Credo LXXXVI). Years ago, I met a wonderful anti-guru Guru, Dadaji. I still remember his pronouncement: “There is only one true Guru! It is the Self [Divine Guest]! At that level you know everything, only you don’t know that! So we live in time and space and remember as we grow.” (Which is what Jung says.) And I had an attack of insight on the spot: Is that why rain comes down in drops and not in one great SPLAT? At that Dadaji cracked up and gave me a hug. “Eternity hides in the fact that it is always NOW, but time comes in minutes, hours and days, and years. The mind can stretch them out or encapsulate them in a memory of a time frame. It is a paradox.” This I remember figuring out in Rome when I was seven, but I missed the Now part!

A lifetime later, I wrote a poem called “Paradox”:


How wealthy I am
in such a lack

how rich
in the specific of poverty

I have everything this day
but you to share it with

and so it seems I have nothing –
yet, knowing such ever-brimming loss
places me beyond my peers of need,
it is like having all of never
into which to set a now.


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