Last night I posted my summary of Soelle’s argument on the impact of the “enlightenment” on prayer, religion, poetry, and our ability to describe our lived experiences through language that articulates mystery and leaves room for unanswered questions. The enlightenment era emphasized a logical, reasonable answer to every question. Now in our post-modern world we are returning to the notion that somethings will remain a mystery. We are once again taken by the language of the mystics and appreciate some wiggle room with the unknown. There are indeed questions we will never have the answer too this side of life. Why do some people die of suicide, for example, is one question I have been wrestling with. Why? Mother’s I know who have lost children to death by suicide spend the rest of their lives asking this question, “Did you not know I loved you more than life itself?” and “How could you leave me with this hole in my life and a pain so deep I will never be whole again?” Without language to articulate our deepest pain, our greatest sorrow, and the reality that life leaves us breathless and full of questions, we suffocate. Not every aspect of life has a logical, reasonable trajectory of cause and effect and an answer that is truth.
Prayer and poetry offer us language into the known that articulates our deepest questions. Prayer and poetry reveal the soul. Here we reveal a deeper truth than logic or reason can ever describe.
Jane Redmont on the blog that posts our “assignments” and reading material for the retreat/course on Dorothee Soelle, posted this:
Simone Weil described prayer as the highest state of attentiveness; to illustrate this immersion and concentration, she refers to solving a problem in mathematics that demands our undivided attention. A poem should demand and create no less attentiveness. There is a kind of speaking that places us into relation with the ground of the depth of being, and without this attentiveness we are capable neither of beauty nor of truth. Poetry that is also prayer does away with the prejudicial notion that prayer is something private, not to be made public. Real attentiveness, which Hölderlin calls “Innigkeit” (depth of intimacy) has no time for that sort of opinion. Everything inward seeks outwardness. When people pray together they give themselves permission again to desire, hope, or dream; they find again the lost language of sharing with one another what they feel. Poetry and prayer are attempts, so to speak, where the separation of public and private, outward and inward become unnecessary and cease to matter.
In response to the question posed to the group in the Soelle course/retreat, “Is prayer the highest state of attentiveness” I concur that it is so. Prayer in all it’s forms, silent or with words, written, spoken, thought, felt, as poetry or prose or the screams we exhale in our cars, expresses our highest state of attentiveness to our inner reality.
We do not always have a clear conscious awareness of this inner state. Sometimes it has a hold on us and all the world we see and know is framed by our inner state. The awareness is revealing itself to us and often in hind sight we see it clearly for what it was. Sometimes we can access that inner state perhaps through glimpses gleamed as we write or draw or meditate or talk. I process what is going on in my inner life by meditating, doing yoga, walking, talking, and writing. Sometimes I have an inkling that something is emerging within and I need to enable it to reveal itself to me. This process is creative. Each of us has our own creative process that brings forth that which exists in our higher state of attentiveness. Being attentive is always a logical act. It is a birth process wherein our inner most pieces of our selves, that place where God is speaking through us, where the WORD is alive and birthing with us, labors for breath and life.
Another poem by Mary Oliver to emphasize my point:
I HAPPENED TO BE STANDING
~ Mary Oliver
I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can’t really
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.
While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why. And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t pursuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t. That’s your business.
But I t hought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad