My Authentic Prayer
I was hiking through the mountains, again. A fresh layer of snow rested on the slopes while small flakes continued to drift down from grey clouds. The sight was nothing short of exquisite. The energy of the mountain seemed to lead me higher, faster, until I couldn’t help but run. The fresh snow created an acoustical stillness that allowed me to appreciate every sound and detail of my body. I could hear the whipping of the wind in my ears, the pounding of my heart in my chest, the compression of the snow beneath my boots, and the breathy heaving of my lungs. It was intoxicating. I kept running.
Continuing up the mountain I could feel the throbbing in my thighs. My breath deepened and the icy air pieced my throat. The cold in my chest quickly turned into a mild burning sensation, but I didn’t mind it. The discomfort was welcomed. The sensation of pain, pleasure, joy, and sorrow reminded me I was alive and wasn’t beyond feeling. I still had my humanity.
I kept running while the falling snow fell onto my hot cheeks. The flakes quickly melted and merged with the tears that escaped my eyes. I hadn’t noticed them until now.
I hadn’t seen another human in quite some time. Exhausted, I stopped to catch my breath. I rested on a rock that was protected by a large coniferous tree that had seen ages of time that dwarfed my existence. I respected the tree. Every breath I drew was provided by its emissions. I took off my glove and rested my bare hand on its raw bark as if to wordlessly thank the tree for sustaining my life.
Being so overwhelmed with gratitude I couldn’t fight the undeniable urge to pray. I’ve never been very good at it, but it has always been a part of my life. Formal words like thee, thou, and amen seemed too disingenuous for the moment. Even so, I indulged my longing to commune. I offered my authentic prayer under the tree in the snow:
God, we’ve been doing this some years now. I don’t know you, but I wanted to thank you. You don't talk to me anymore, but I know of no other way to express my gratitude for my existence than through the religious traditions of my ancestors. This is a beautiful world, and I have a beautiful life. So for whatever its worth, I am truly thankful.
You know, I was reading this week from Dallin H. Oaks and he said we don’t have ‘sufficient spiritual maturity to comprehend God.’ I happen to agree, which is why I maintain a healthy amount of skepticism of those who claim they know you. Too often people conflate good feelings with truth, and epistemology with arrogance. How could any of us possibly comprehend The Word? Not that we shouldn’t try, because trying seems essential.
I love being in the mountains. I feel connected, sane, and whole in the woods. Well, at least more so than I ever have sitting in a church pew or temple. I can’t think of a better place to contemplate your existence. I see you like I see electricity. The power, grandeur, and potential of electricity existed long before humans, long before the formation of this planet, but electricity wasn’t manifested to our limited understanding until we became capable of harnessing its power. Over time our understanding and definitions of electric force have changed along with our abilities and applications, but has electricity itself changed? Is harnessing your power the only way for you to manifest? The conclusion I keep coming back to is in order to know you is to become you. You don’t seem to manifest any other way, at least not to me.
Some say my desire to become you is a superstitious implantation of a religion that would exploit my sincerest desires for their own lustful desires for power. Others condemn me of hubris, and vying for authority that is never meant to be mine. Others criticize my aspirations as nothing more than a fool’s errand, while their counterparts preach a gospel of escapism and apathy. Others have simply given up.
Sometimes religion is helpful, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes technology is helpful, sometimes it isn’t. Technologies have a curious way of emphasizing our inner most desires and intentions. Although I’m convinced until we learn to harness the power of both religion and technology in the spirit of compassion and love we run the serious risk of losing our humanity, which paradoxically I see as one of our most divine attributes. Wouldn’t you agree?
Well, I should probably head back down the mountain now. You know where I am if you ever get the urge to manifest yourself. Don’t be a stranger.