Someone recently said prayer is a form of thought, but there’s a special X factor that makes prayer different from all other forms of thought. That factor is humility. Recognizing how much else there is besides ourselves. Showing respect for the grandeur of existence. The vastness of life, and space, and every sensation we feel, from orgasms on hotel room beds to holding a newborn. It’s understanding that we really don’t know what it all means. It’s knowing that we really don’t know.
When I was a little girl, I would lay down under the night sky when I was especially sad or scared about something. Even the other night, walking back from my car, I looked up at the moon and it gave me sense of peace. I remember then that there are other galaxies. Planets rotating around the Sun. There is so much besides just me and my problems – which seem tinier and tinier in this mindset. I feel then, and it’s the truth, that I am just water and bones moving through a universe bound together by electricity. I realize now that this is a form of prayer.
We work so hard – all the time – to figure out who we are in the world, and what’s going to make us “happy.” We spend a lot of (most of?) our time “figuring things out” and searching for a sense of security. Even though we’re hard-wired to do this, this is like trying to iron the ripples out of a river.
When we’re constantly worried about the future, beating ourselves up or replaying scenes from the past, we are reducing the magic and beauty of the world.
I heard someone say once, ironically I think it was David Foster Wallace, that there’s a reason that when people kill themselves, they often shoot themselves in the head. They want to kill the terrible master. Quiet the voices that tell them they’re not doing enough. That they’re not enough. That it’s all hopeless.
When we look back on our lives, this will be our regret. Well, it will be mine. It’s already mine. Getting so wrapped in my world, that I forget entirely about the world out there. That I have been so wrapped up in a better tomorrow, that I missed the opportunity to enjoy today.
The world is not perfect, and we can’t totally deny our nature. In True Detective, Rust Cohle said there is only one story in the history of mankind, and it’s light versus dark. I feel this. I feel like that’s the story of both my inner and outer worlds. Because while roots of hundreds of years old redwoods reach deep into the earth, there’s also the young man who flew to San Francisco from New Jersey specifically to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. There’s the mother whose daughter I met once, who will never be able to care for herself. She has a short life expectancy and she will never be able to tell her mother, “I love you.” But there are also aurora borealis streaking across Alaskan skies. There are the water lilies in Monet’s backyard.
We’re never going to be completely in control. And maybe this sounds stupid, Negative Nancy-ish even, but we’re really not that important. There’s a peace in knowing that. There’s peace in the recognition of the fact that you’re one person in over six billion, and as much as you’re wrapped up in your s*&%, someone else is just as wrapped up in theirs. The order and sureness you crave? You’ll probably always crave it, forever, if you don’t reign it in. If you don’t recognize that we’re programmed to feel this way. To overestimate threats and underestimate opportunities. We’re programmed to crave certainty, when the stasis of our lives is uncertainty.
Life is full of happiness and loneliness. Joy and suffering. But I am starting to understand that things average well. I am starting to learn to take myself a little less seriously and sort of look at myself from a bird’s eye perspective more often. And it’s really comforting.