Saturday, April 18, 2009

Of Fishhooks, prayers, and miracles

I read through too many tomes in the last 50 years trying to figure out the truth of God and existence--being condemed to doctrinal hell and convoluted mental gymnastics. Then--I don't know why--I then tried to write an analytic essay on the nature of prayer and miracles and the disappointment with unfulfilled answers.

But when I finished writing it, I realized the long-winded reflection didn't really shine forth Light. It was mostly pessimistic and more along the line of those tomes that doorstop my mind.

So instead, I am going to share my "fishhook" poem on the same topic. Hopefully there is more Light of God in the poetic vision. I think there is. Jesus never mentioned abstract theological creedal tomes; he spoke in images and parables, and told us to become as children.

Of Fishhooks, Prayers, and Miracles

My youngest daughter, Hope, learned-disabled early,
Struggling with the squiggles and the numeric symbols
Of unseen realities, of knowing, that set the stars
In motion and our minds in transition.

Her childish zest died while, as her father and provider,
I practiced disabling late, raised to belief's unreason —
In the rigid way of Huck's Miss Watson — stubborn
In righteous doctrine, ignoring the doctor's suggestion,
Not giving Hope medication, but believing in literal petition.

So I prayed time-round-the-three for my daughter's minded healing,
But just like gullible Finn and his never-gotten fishhooks,
Hope got none, and I— doubt, ill-gotten mishap, and bilge,
Eventually lessening into cynicism, the wounded death
Of an ash-filled, but empty-praying mouth.

Yet unlike Huck, to this day I keep reeling out petitions,
Focusing like the Widow (Huck's other guardian),
On heartened prayer, the learning of spiritual gifts;
But not even the gentle fish lures of patience
And boundless joy seem to ripple my faithless way;
I, too, become the orphan in the dying of trust.

No longer a fisher of persons in the doubtful churning,
Of the endless surging views of oceans seven
The world round, I struggle between faith
And reason, lost in cruel imbalance
Fearing the extremes — nihilistic negation
And fishy delusion — doubting all to hell's end.

Still rises the good news of caring medicine:
Briefly free of false hooks, we gave our dear Hope,
So dead to minded school, the late prescription
And she was upward raised, recovering early
A zest for learning — early for her, way late for me —

Except to say the real hook of it all is that
True knowing is not a gulping of the barbs of pious deceit,
Nor being gilled or gulled into the dying of truth,
But yearning and learning — like Descartes
Of old — finding in humble, reasoned
Faith the poetry and prose of a spiritual rebirth,
A Godly way of reasoned becoming.

In the Light,


(Previously published in The Centrifugal Eye)

1 comment:

Hystery said...

Dear Daniel,
I do so love your writing although it takes me such a long time to understand. I used to be better at understanding poems. Part of my brain has atrophied with "reason". I'm going to dive back into children's fiction which is my true love. Perhaps this will save me.

As for the efficacy of prayer: Prayer to us was work. It was one of those unsavory parts of my father's profession that couldn't be helped. Kind of like grading papers is to teaching. Someone would ask him to pray and his first, "Oh God," was a curse and not a prayer. Of course he didn't say the curse out loud but we knew he said it in his head and we said it with him. We were always embarrassed for those foolish enough to make the request. Dad maintained that if God were omniscient and omnipotent, then our prayers were ridiculous at best and arrogant at worst. "Dear Lord, although you know all things and are perfect in compassion, I ask this for myself in case you missed it..." To this day I frame prayer not as petition but as a means of disciplining myself toward cooperation with Divinity. Even so, my own arrogant refusal to listen closely and to relax into the turns makes me miserable. Too often I am in the way, stubbornly seeking gifts and solutions that do not belong to me. Arrogantly assuming I know the correct answer to my problems, I throw temper tantrums like a child who begs his mother for candy for dinner.