In between my musings, I find time to play a little guitar.
In between my musings, I find time to play a little guitar.
It is really the universal prayer. Utterly beautiful in its simplicity, it is almost Zen like in its spareness and conciseness.
Only ten lines, and yet it covers everything that needs to be said.
There is no schmoozing, no fake piousness, no need to say “How great thou art.”
No need, of course, to blare it into every neighborhood.
No need to let anyone know you’re praying. (But of course if you have more sinister intentions in your heart, it’s always useful to proclaim your piousness to the world first before you carry out those intentions.)
And the beauty is, you can say it anywhere you like, whenever you feel like saying it.
Here’s a little analysis of this most elegant of prayers.
First it acknowledges the Creator. (If you don’t believe in a Creator, you can skip this part. I don’t believe that the Creator will be hurt if you do not acknowledge His existence. [It is my belief that He is not burdened with any human vanity.])
And it acknowledges that all things in the Universe ultimately rest in his Hands.
Then it addresses our physical needs, something as mundane as putting food on the table, and it does this in one line!
The next part touches on our spiritual needs—cleanse our hearts of all toxicity, against ourselves and against others. (How do we achieve this? Through forgiveness.)
Then it ends simply by asking that we be kept from harm and evil.
(Evil here refers to anything that will downshift our reality.)
Who can argue with the sentiments expressed in these few lines?
(Well, maybe those whose idea of prayer is that it should be done a fixed number of times a day and facing a certain geographical direction.)
For the rest of us, it says everything that needs to be said.
Continuing from the previous post, here’s another hint from the Gospel of Thomas:
“These infants being suckled are like those who enter the kingdom.”
This passage recalls another saying from one of the Establishment gospels.
“Unless you become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Ancient writings fascinate me.
I see them as repositories of wisdom, ancient knowledge from a distant past.
Imagine getting into the minds of people who lived two, three, or even five thousand years ago by reading their writings or teachings.
The problem is that of making sense of them.
At first glance, many of them can easily pass for wishful fantasies, folklore, fairy tales, primitive attempts to explain the world around them.
There is one particular ancient story, however, that has had me perplexed for a while.
A paradise on earth where there’s no pain, no sadness and then through some unfortunate twist of fate and thanks to the machinations of one intruder into this paradise, the fall and forced exit from the paradise.
And then a redeemer who had to undergo unimaginable pain and suffering so that you and I and the rest of mankind can regain that paradise.
Who came up with that convoluted story? (My guess is some power committee operating in secrecy back in the day.)
The other day, quite out of the blue, the answer came to me.
Yes, of course.
It makes perfect sense.
It’s not just a fanciful story but a powerful way to explain the human condition and how we can bring ourselves back to the Garden.
I won’t go into the details but I’ll give a hint.
To get at the answer, you’ll have to read the Gospel of Thomas.
Once you get the central theme of that gospel, which is that the Kingdom of Heaven is here and now (and not the hereafter), the rest of the pieces will fall into place.
“I just had a dream,” she told him.
“You remember that land the government gave us across river? Your father was lucky, he got a piece of land with a small rolling hill.
“I dreamed we built a little house, a wooden house on that small rolling hill. And I planted vegetables on the land.”
“Wouldn’t it be nice to live in that wooden house? Your father and I, we dreamed of building a wooden house on that hill.”
“Mother,” he said, “I’ll build that house for you. Wait till I come back.”
“Wouldn’t it be nice to live in that house?” she continued. “Plant some vegetables in the garden?”
“Yes, it would be very nice,” he said.
“That piece of land, your father was so lucky to get it. But you know, the land clerk, he cheated us. He said because we had a hill on the land, he would give use half an acre less. Such a jealous person.”
“But it’s just a dream. A beautiful dream,” she said. “It’s okay to dream, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it’s okay to dream,” he told her.
She went on. She talked about the house and the land and the vegetables and he listened.
That was one of the last times he spoke to her on the phone.
Imagine you have a problem, a seemingly intractable problem.
Imagine that you know the answer is not far away, and each day, day after day, you wake up with the feeling that you’re going to find it today.
The days go by, the years go by, but still you are no closer to the answer as the day you started.
Imagine this goes on for thirty years.
And then one day, without warning, it comes to you, the answer that you’ve been waiting for.
It comes quite unexpectedly, in fact you have given up on it, maybe fifteen or so years ago.
After all, thirty years is a long time to wait, an insanely long time. (And those who know of your search have even told you so openly.)
But what is life but a search for answers.
And you think, if someone have told you at the outset that it is going to take thirty years, you would probably have said, f-orget it, but then again, you might not.
Because you’re irresistibly drawn to intractable problems, the more elusive the better.
Because you know the more intractable the problem, the sweeter the day of liberation.
Growing up in Borneo, my favorite time of day was evening. That was when the hot afternoon sun would finally set, giving way to cool breezes and warm nights.
And in the distance, the quiet sounds of evening prayers wafting through the air.
Back in the day, I used to love the sound of those prayers. They spoke to me of a gentle race and a kind and mystical religion.
How the times have changed.
These days, on my occasional trips back to that idyllic place, the prayers no longer waft through the air but blare out from loudspeakers at every corner, as if demanding that you stop whatever you’re doing and listen or else.
And telling you how holy they are. (Much holier than you because unlike you, they pray more times a day.)
And the funny thing is, the louder the prayers get, the more bloody the evening news seem to become.
Is there a connection, I wonder?
These days, when I hear those prayers (you don’t have much choice, they make sure you hear them) they only speak to me of death and destruction.
How the times have changed.
I just came across this quote from the great American watercolorist, Philip Jamison:
“A painting without spirit is like flat beer!”
Almost as insightful as that other quote from that great American literary giant, Anthony Bourdain, which went something like this.
“The food was good but it seemed to lack something and we couldn’t figure out what it was until my friend said, ‘The chef cooks like he’s never been properly fked in his life.'”
Something to ponder upon on cold winter nights.
I had a discussion with someone a while back about reality.
The person said, “Reality doesn’t exist. It’s different for everyone. How do you know what my reality is?”
He’s got a point.
Everyone’s reality is different.
But at the end of the day, if you go into a bank and hand the teller a $10 note and tell the teller that it’s a $100 note because that’s your reality, he might have a hard time believing you.
The simple truth is, reality does exist.
There is an absolute reality out there.
It’s just that we interpret it differently, according to our personal experiences and biases. But just because we have different takes on it doesn’t make it less real.
A $10 note is a $10 note is a $10 note.
Nothing anyone can say will ever change that fact.
The house was a simple house with wooden sidings and a carport in front.
He waited outside on the road for some time, for someone—it’s not clear for whom.
He thought he heard people in the house so he started his motorbike and went into the driveway towards the carport.
At first, he parked the bike facing in, but he realized he might have to leave in a hurry in which case he would not have time to back out, so he reversed the bike and parked it facing out into the driveway.
Looking into the yard, he saw his old neighbor, Mrs. Trevino. She was on her knees digging something in the ground.
He called out to her, “Mrs. Trevino, how are you?”
He could hear people talking in the house. On listening closer, it was his mother and sister. So they are already here, he thought.
It was at that time that he woke up.
Just a dream, although he could still hear his mother’s voice coming from the house, full of life and sounding so happy.
She had passed on two months before.
He wondered what house that was. And what was it about the cement at 3 dollars? The last time he bought them at the store in Rejang Park, they had cost only 1 ringgit a bag.
And what were they for? Could it be for some installation of some heater unit?
It wasn’t his old home on Herndon, but it looked so familiar.