HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Prayers are very reassuring and can calm us. Actually, they can touch our very core. That’s one thing I learned as a child. There was nothing like the classic children’s prayer from the 18th century which started with:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep:
May God guard me through the night
And wake me with the morning light.
This made me feel safe at night from the shadows and demons that could be lurking in my room.
Prayers are powerful incantations, potions made up of words that work their magic on us. We grew up memorizing prayers, and they were very helpful. I grew up in a family that still prayed the rosary almost daily. But as one grows up saying prayers over and over again, they seem to lose their power. We get bored with them. They become routine and lose the very purpose why they were made in the first place, and that is to make the moment in which they are recited holy. Take the prayer before meals. How many of us actually mean what we say when we say grace?
I do not discount that maybe it’s because I am of little faith, and that is why I reached a point where many prayers had lost their appeal to me. At certain points in our lives, some of them do make a comeback. Sometimes, we stop saying them for years, before we pick them up again with the same belief and fervor in their power that we used to have.
In my own journey, as I got deeper in my quest for the divine, I slowly ventured into expressing my own prayers by using my own words as they reflected my experiences and insights.
One of the things I knew to be a clear indication that I was becoming my own person was when I found myself making up my own prayers. I actually have rewritten a few standard prayers to make them more real to me. I felt it was a present-tense, coming-from-now attempt at dialoguing with God in a creative way using my own insights and yearnings, instead of repeating the pre-made prayers I had grown up with. It’s pretty much about being more spontaneous with God than using someone else’s script.
Here’s a prayer Danny, Boboy and I always recite while gathered with our producers, management, technical crew and musicians before an APO show:
God, we thank you for the last show we did. We also thank you for bringing us together and giving us the opportunity to do what we do best.
We ask you to make this show the best show this audience has seen so far in their entire lives — until they watch us again.
Give us good sound, lights, great technicals, voices, spiels, intuition, charm, humor, memory, presence of mind and make this the best show and audience we can possibly have.
Whenever we asked for it in the past, it has always been given. We thank you in advance for tonight’s show and we offer everything back to you, Great Source of All Being.
The very act of praying puts us on holy ground and impresses upon us the very purpose of why we are in this specific place and time. In practical terms, we are brought to concentrate and internalize the power we have to entertain.
One of my favorite holy verses is the Beatitudes. I love the Beatitudes, and am still moved by this sermon from the Gospel of Matthew to this day. As beautiful as the Beatitudes are, I thought I could do my own take on it that would spoke to people who live in the more current world with all its obsessions, addictions and vexations.
Here are my “Modern-Day Beatitudes,” which I am lifting from my book from a few years back entitled Between Blinks. I have even added a few things since then.
Blessed are the strange, the weird, the people we laugh at, those who do not fit our mold, especially the socially wretched and despised. By their presence in our lives, their mission is to expand our reality — on our part, reluctantly and on theirs, so painfully — by forcing us to look at them in the hope that we see God in them.
Blessed are the depressed and the addicted for they are called upon to demonstrate the healing miracles of God through their own awakening and liberation.
Blessed are the broken, those who fail, those who fall below our expectations for they are asked to show the rest of us that not being perfect is part of the human condition — that accepting our imperfection is the first step in our realization of the divine perfection of all that is, as is.
Blessed are the nameless, the faceless the dispossessed — the refugees, the homeless and the poor, for they point us to the way to compassion. By their sheer numbers, they tell us that, ultimately, the experience of compassion is inescapable.
Blessed are the cruel, the calloused and uncaring, for on some deep unconscious level, they choose to delay their own liberation so that others, strangely enough, may be “enlightened” by their example.
Blessed are those who constantly arouse us to anger, who bring out the worst in us, for they force us out of the denial that we harbor within — that we are hooked on them, that they resonate with something hidden inside us, and to break free, we must let go of our misguided moral superiority.
Blessed are those who cause us to suffer repeatedly by their mistakes, for they are our tutors who spend valuable time so that, in their failures, we may learn our lessons well.
Blessed are those who do not seem to have a life, and especially those who do not have a choice — those who are physically debilitated, paralyzed or in a coma and cannot move, for they bring us a message that is lost in this age of frenzy — that to be worthy of God’s love, we need not strive to do or achieve anything, but simply be.
Blessed are all of us, for whatever condition we find ourselves in, we can choose to remember our true nature, our original blessing, our timeless grace — anytime, any place, and always — and be happy in our Oneness.
While Jesus may have been the author of the Beatitudes, I am sure He won’t mind my ruminations on it. As the greatest Creator, He will surely appreciate our adopting and using His creations. I liken it to the way a jazz musician improvises on a classic song. It is a way of giving tribute and honor and, in the process, we make the prayers our own.
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