2 Prayers for The World

2 Prayers for The World

The last time I prayed had been 7 years ago.

I was standing, kneeling actually, on the roof of my college dorm room. I was slightly drunk. There had been a party I had gone to, where I am sure many a college frat boy had hooked up with a college girl. At the time, I was not interested in sleeping with any girl, for obvious reasons. It was only months before that I had realized that I was gay.

So that night, after that party, I stumbled onto the roof, and looked to the starry sky. The wind was cold on my cheek. At the time, no one knew who I really was but me, and because of my isolation, I thought I was going to be rejected by the world.

If I, the 25-year-old me, was to go back to that boy who had just turned 18, I would have told him to wait. To hold on. That it would get better for him. I would have told my 18-year-old self that in a year he would receive the love and acceptance of various friends including his sister, and within four years he would have the love and acceptance of his entire immediate family. I would have told him that if he waited, in 7 years he would have had the love and acceptance of his entire extended family as well.

I would have told him that he was going to fall in love more than once.

I would have told my younger self that, after he graduated from college, he would have traveled to Tokyo and Kyoto, and that there he would encounter a culture and a country he would immediately fall in love with. Where ancient beauty and light-speed modernity met in a clash of blinding light and floating incense, car honks and the sonorous prayers of Buddhist monks. By The Duck Lake in Kyoto, he would have looked into his friends eyes and saw in this friend the same fear he had only years ago. The fear of being different from everyone else in society.

But at 18, at the top of my college dorm room, I had no idea all of that would happen. I just knew that I was gay, and that it wasn’t crazy to think that people might hate me for it. So I did what anyone would have done in a time when the world they knew and the person they thought they were had drastically changed. I prayed.

You see, at that moment I had to two choices: either reject this new truth that had surfaced, or embrace the fact that my life was no longer going to be the same–that I would have to withstand challenges that not many people had to face, and that I would have to go through a process that was not only unfair, but exhausting:  the process of reintroducing myself to the world. Between these two choices, denial and acceptance, I chose the latter.

This position was jarring to say the least, and I’m sure there should be countless of volumes of essays on the subject, so that straight people (and gay people in the future) can understand just what it’s like to have your whole world toppled upside down. Not because of an external decision that was made, but because a new awareness, that had been repressed for so long, had surfaced. One could say that there is certain insanity to it at first. A slight disorientation. Like you’ve been thrown off a moving bus, and now you’re in a place that no longer looks like home, and you don’t know if the people are as nice as they were where you used to live.

It was scary, and in that moment, on the rooftop of my dorm room, in the middle of the night, as the music of the row houses swung with a heavy bass, and the drunk students shouted and laughed down the hallways, and streets, and the fluorescent lights on the roof flickered, I looked to the sky.

Until then I had been a very strong, devoted catholic. But at that moment all that I had believed in was pulled out from under me, and the solid ground I had stood on for so long had evaporated into a cool air. Because if my religion hated gay men {I thought at the time} then I certainly could not be catholic. But my faith had been very intertwined to my identity up until my moment, and so I had only learned to deal with such an intense situation by praying about it.

So, it was with great irony–not really knowing whether He was on “my side” or not–that I prayed to God, and asked him why? Why would he make me what others hated so much? I asked above all else for his help. I pleaded for his assistance. But in that moment, none came. And I was convinced that none would ever come. I heard no voice. I saw no signs.

I lost my faith in God that day.

For years, I flew to the other end of the spectrum. I became what Richard Dawkins would call a “Militant Atheist.” I attacked religion, like it was a virus. I looked down on those who prayed. I rolled my eyes behind their back. I felt this sense of superiority (that I later found distasteful) in denouncing their beliefs as frivolous. Today, I realize how ironic this transition was. I left religion so that I would not be a part of an organization that I believed was stigmatizing and looking down on people who were different, and here I was doing the exact same thing! But this time it was for the “other side.”

It was not long before my atheism dissolved, and became agnosticism, then buddhism, then spirituality, and now I have arrived at a place that I am just going to call: simply being. Which might seem cryptic to people who might think that in writing this post I am taking a stance on religion or on no religion. I am not doing either. I know that there are many religious people who love and accept the gay community, just as there are many atheists who don’t look down on people who are spiritual, and only respectfully disagree. I have great respect for those who are spiritual and those who are not spiritual. I wish no ill will to anyone. I am only sharing my personal experience and I am simply stating my truth, which is this:

That in all my transitions from Catholicism, to atheism, to agnosticism, to buddhism, to spirituality, there was one thing that I left, that I have returned to with a deeper force, and that is prayer.

Prayer was a tool I used last year to get me through the first draft of my novel. When all tools failed me, I had simply to see my string of words like the beads on a rosary, and as my finger touched upon each word, I breathed a life into them, hoping someday, somewhere, my words would mean something, and not just fall through the cracks.

I believe that when we look at prayer outside of both a religious and non-religous context, we can see it more clearly for what it is. It is not a plea. It is not a cry. Not exactly. It is a request.

And that is why prayer isn’t a waste of time, nor is it a sign of weakness, or a “fuzzy thing” that people use as a crutch. (By the way, when did crutches get a bad name? People with broken legs would tell you they are very useful.)

A prayer is powerful. Because when the worst of tragedies hit, and we do not know what to do because the situation seems so out of our control, we know that even in this state of powerlessness we can still make a request.

We can ask for something. We can make our statement heard. We can tell the “what” that is out there–whether it is god or the unknown–what we feel and what we want.

This action, though seemingly innocent and ineffectual, is in fact very powerful.

Even if we cannot act on our will, by praying, we can assert it, and this brings peace to us and the world around us, no matter the chaos. This is prayer, and it is a tool for life and for writing.

It should not be underestimated.

Last year, I started to pray once more after 7 years of having not asserted my will. And these past two weeks, I prayed again.

My friend and his family are safe in Japan, but I know not all families were so fortunate.

For that we do not despair. We pray.

much love,

Ollin

2 Prayers for The World

 

  • Asserting Your Will

Begin by asking god, jesus, buddha, the universe, the source, or whatever you believe in what it is that you need:

“God give me strength, give me confidence, give me love, give me compassion, give me clarity…”

Or, if you do not believe in god, just speak to the vast unknown and assert your will:

“Give me strength, give me confidence, give me love, give me compassion, give me clarity…”

Secondly, repeat what you need, but then replace “me” with the members of your family:

“God give my mother strength, give my father love, give my sister compassion, give my brother clarity…”

Or remove god from the above statement if you are an atheist, and simply assert the statement to the unknown.

Thirdly repeat what you need, but then replace “me” with your country:

“God give this country strength, give this country love, give this country compassion, give this country clarity…”

For atheists, remove god, and simply assert this statement to the unknown.

Finally, repeat what you need, but then replace “me” with the world:

“God give the world strength, give the world love, give the world compassion, give the world clarity…”

For atheists, remove god, and simply assert these statements to the unknown.

“Give the world strength, give the world love, give the world compassion, give the world clarity…”

At last, realize that what you need is what the world needs. In asserting your will, you assert the will of the world.

 

  • Asking for The Support You Need

Begin by asking god, jesus, buddha, the universe, the source whatever you believe in, what support you need:

“God give me financial support, give me emotional support, give me physical support, give me psychological support…”

If you are an atheist or agnostic, replace the above “God” with the unknown.

Repeat this prayer for yourself, then for your family, then for your country, and finally, for the world.

At last, realize that the support that you need is the support that the world needs. When you ask for support for yourself, you are asking for support for the world.

What tools do you suggest for dealing with global tragedies that might make you feel powerless or unable to offer help?

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Categories: Writer's Journal