The Words of the Moffitt Family
Standing on Permian basin geology, amid an ocean of mesquite trees growing out of the sand, the wind carries to me and swirls around me, all the voices. Some we know each other; some only know me. A few are total strangers who happened to hear the phone ringing as they passed by, and intuiting a common base, dropped in on the prayer.
I'd like to thank my producer and director and a legion of toothless dirt-farmers for making me possible. I'd like to thank those terrific wardrobe and makeup folks, the caterers who kept our bellies full of plants and animals. I'd like to thank my eyelids for making sleep possible, and thank my sex organ for… that other thing. Thanks also to Australopithecus, for showing us how to walk upright, and to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and the Nile. Muchas gracias to Mount Ararat for the handicapped parking. A special shout-out to the one who hung all those sparkly things up there. Stars I guess.
I ask the Zen Buddhist to hit me with his stick. The sting empties my mind, sharpens my focus.
Before focus comes, there intrudes a thought from left field. There is no value to a semicolon in writing; its use only demonstrates that you went to college. Well okay… it joins closely-related clauses and maybe this creates intimacy in a narrative, comforting the reader. Sigh. Is there no hope for me? This time I don't even have to ask. A smack from the zen master's stick aligns my focus and resolve once again. I take action.
I tap my knife on the water glass. The tink, tink, tink it makes cuts through the noisy chatter in the room and brings everyone to stillness. "Alright, listen up. I'm only gonna say this once. All you insincere utterances of rote prayer, all rules of grammar, especially you correctly-used semicolons and sentences that must have verbs, all you dry and soulless statements get your smug, worthless butts out of my prayer right now. Right this Christ-birthing minute."
I want my prayers to be chewy. I want to be fully aware of my spiritual teeth sinking slowly downward, feeling the resistance of each oatmeal flake, the brown sugar, the flour, the raisins, into the bare knuckles of God until tears stream. My God is an anthropomorphic being, a parent, a father-mother. No disinterested watchmaker creator, thank you. No supernatural bar magnet, please, around whose physical laws the universe revolves. I want a God who howls with laughter, who knows what it means to break wind, and who cries bitterly over injustice. As do we who are created in his image.
I ask the bodhisattva for another smack of the stick. Strike me, my friend, that I may concentrate as I have never done before. I'd like to listen now. In silence for awhile. Chewy, visceral silence.
He obliges me and silence comes. I hear no noise, not even the insects that had been chirping outside the window seconds before. I "hear" only the quiet that sits inside quiet. I am in a vacuum, and yet I can breathe. And I am warm. The floor and the walls billow softly inward. I am inside a heart that is also a womb.
Inside the heart-womb with me, which is as large as the world, I see a raven take a single pebble from a field strewn with thousands of them, fly to an adjoining field, drop it and return for another. And then another, another, another. I watch and I understand what it means to be patient, dedicated, unceasing.
I see a man and woman making a baby, a daughter, who grows before my eyes and is taken by a son. This new couple makes more babies, infusing into them all the love they received from their own parents. All around them there are wars and inventions, political intrigues, one-upmanship and so much speechifying -- but all this is muted in the background. All that matters is people making and loving babies. I watch and I understand the parent-child relationship is the true axis of the universe.
I am an escaping prisoner of war running past the edge of a village in a foreign land. A child spots me on the path and screams in alarm. I can quickly kill the child and get to the border and freedom. Or I can spare this innocent life and be recaptured. I watch and I understand about terrible choices.
A beautiful tree spreads its branches overhead. It is tall and stately and the limbs reach out in a wide canopy starting only a couple of feet above me. How perfect it is. How green and how cooling the shade. I stand underneath with a torch, reaching up to brush the leaves. The limbs recoil in silent pain and horror. How amusing. Again and again I touch the lower branches with fire. How fascinating to watch the leaves shrivel and burn, and I have no idea that this is my own tree of life and that I am callously crippling it with every pass of my torch. Finally, I shove the fire deep into the leaves, and the entire tree tries to arch upward in a desperate and futile attempt to avoid the flame. At that very same instant, my alarm clock rings loudly and I wake up screaming. I scream for a full minute as I understand the tragic consequences of what I have done to myself.
All this happens inside the heart-womb. Maybe it only takes a second. My subsequent birth comes with no counting, no urgings to push. The only sound is a voice soft, insistent and chewy. "I love you." Ebenezer Scrooge, after his long winter's night, felt joy this intense on Christmas day.
Leaving the heart-womb and out into the foyer of prayer once again, I want to offer a final thank you to history and dumb luck for the fact that I can turn on the water tap in my home anytime I want, and get a glass of clean, good-tasting water that won't kill me with dysentery. Furthermore, goodnight and sweet dreams, Louis Pasteur. Because of you I can get fresh-squeezed orange juice in the far northern states in the dead of winter. But with my awareness of these blessings, you have handed my conscience a list of the names of every man, woman and child on the earth who does not have these things.
I cannot lift my head before heaven. Scrooge bought an operation for Tiny Tim, but I have done nothing. Another tap of the stick if you don't mind, Bodhi. A good one this time. I need to go deeper.