"Give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum strong enough, and single-handed I can move the world." - Archimedes Martin Jensen makes commentaries on real issues, or at least interesting essays. Banality filter is on.


The Answer to His Question

I sent my brother some harmless note
which released from him a flurry of non-sequitor:
Religious screeds,
umpteenth tellings of embarassing moments of my history,
and ultimately a libertarian manifesto
in support of universal handgun ownership.

Do I remember the day?
And would I be interested in meeting
at the firing range?

That night I dreamed a cabin, a table, a rifle.
Smooth in my knowing hands.
The well-crafted tool;
precise machine of oiled walnut and blued steel.
I lifted it to my shoulder and,
just to feel the action, squeezed.

The bullet shattered a window, splashing
its obscuring reflection into shards
on the floor and teeth
in the frame.
What had been hidden was my wife
standing on the limb of a tree
beyond the dusty glass.
She now looking down;
the bullet embedded in the tree.


They Say Prayer Is Good

Marty: In response to your post of 1/15/02:

I'm not a religious guy. You know me, Marty, and will chuckle at the
understatement. However, I have had some experience with quasi-prayer. Since
I prescribe to no form of god whatsoever, this means that I'm an atheist
(since we all must be something, and human nature abhors negative space).
So how come I pray?

Well, let's not call it prayer then. I have a mantra. It's typed neatly in
Windows Notepad, and there's a shortcut to it on my desktop. They say you
should never share your mantra, so I won't. While I do not have a god, I do
believe in They. In fact, I wonder if most people believe more in They than
they believe in gods. And, just as with God, They is losing followers
lately. They has become dispersed across a much wider Body of They. They is
losing its singularity. I blame the Internet.

While some people look to go for answers, I tend to try Google first. When I
hear that They say something, I check it out. Often I find no definitive
authority on Their subject, and wind up suspecting that They made it up.
And what better place for revisionist reality than the Internet?

Let's look at the phenomenon of the Affirmation. As I understand it, the
idea is to keep repeating wishful thinking out loud until it comes to be
reality, until it gets absorbed into the Collective Hunch. Afficionadi of
the Affirmation insist that the Universe is listening. Oddly, I subscribe to
this concept wholeheartedly. I'd like to cite a half dozen thinkers in
philosophy and physics to show my letters, but if you are as skeptical as I
am, you'd want to check them out, but wouldn't bother, and would wind up
presuming that I made them up. Let's just say that the likes of Fritjof
Capra, Michele Foucault and many others in such diverse fields as
philosophy, mathematics, physics and brain science are toying with the idea
of an interconnected Universe that IS listening, after a fashion.

So I have a mantra. And I have some suggestions about using one that may be
helpful. I suppose you can also modify these ideas to work with prayer, but
I wouldn't know much about that:

1. Make a mantra like you would a poem. Pack it densely with gossamer.
2. A mantra doesn't have to be a nonsense syllable you can chant in order to
get those Cords of the Universe vibrating on your behalf. I like English.
3. It should say what you are in essence. Plato had the idea that every
object in the world has an essence, the ''idea of the thing.'' This is where
you get to extract the idea of you.
4. Don't put appeals in your mantra. This isn't the place where you ask the
Universe to make your dick bigger. (See Google on "prayer.") This is the
place where you say what IS.
5. Leave it alone. Write it then live with it. I've had the same unedited
mantra for three years now.
4. Keep your mantra at hand so it will catch your eye once in awhile. I hide
copies of mine in my top dresser drawer, under stacks of papers, and put a
shortcut to it on my desktop. Once in a while I email it to myself. I love
surprises and I have the uncanny suspicion that the Universe does, too.
5. Don't overdo it. It's an essence, not a logo. I know an ersatz Buddhist
that had his monosyllabic-style mantra embroidered on his towels. Secrecy
seems to be important in matters of the spirit (unless you're a
Fundamentalist, I guess).

The Internet presents some interesting possibilities for viral affirmation.
One can imagine a device that cranks out random emails containing encrypted
text (for secrecy, like the idea of the Roman Catholic Church and the
Elizabethans that you must speak to ghosts in Latin) in the bizarre hope
that it will get absorbed somehow in the Cords of Cyberspace. Spriritual
spam. The closest thing, I guess, is the weblog, and it is far less

Therefore, hidden in this message is my ecrypted mantra, first translated
into Latin, then encrypted within the message text. If the Universe is
listening, and if it has Internet access, then I have been affirmed. They
say it never hurts to try.

Please feel free to post this reply. Like They say, it couldn't hurt.



The Power of Imperfect Prayer

Early in my personal spiritual quest I began to encounter people and books who offered what I have come to describe as a "prayer prescription." The prayer prescription takes one of three forms: "Pray for X minutes a day and you will see miraculous results;" "Pray using this Y-Step Technique;" "When you pray, say thus-and-such, don't say so-and-so." The common elements of these admonishments are a foundation in discipline, order and rules.

Needless to say, I have been a complete failure in the use of such techniques. It's not that there is anything wrong with them. It's just that they do not suit my personality type. I am creative, introspective, spontaneous and I have a short attention span.

So I have given up any further attempts to pray by prescription; my march to Jerusalem has been called off. Along my meandering path thus far, however, I have plucked a few flowers that I'd like to share with you. These prayer tips are descriptive, not prescriptive. No warranty, expressed or implied, including merchantibility or fitness for a particular use.

I guess the basic idea is to not wait for the right conditions or a major change in personality traits -- pray where you're planted. And don't worry so much if you don't "hold it" long enough, or you get the steps out of order, or you don't stick the dismount. God is not so far away.


So I'm in this discussion group, and everbody's talking about "voice" and what it is and what it isn't and whether there has to be an ear to catch the sound and where voice comes from and what it means and whether it means anything. And pretty soon they're turning it into equations like "voice = tone + inflection" or "voice = inspiration + attitude" and okay, so that's not really what they said, but they really were making equations, and I make fun of them a little, then just sort of toss in, "Voice is what, when you hear it, you recognize it.."

But see, that is it. Voice is so fundamental to our nature that we recognize it as a natural expression of ourselves. Not in the trivial words-on-page or breath-in-throat sense, but that pure outflowing of creation that pours from us like a perennial spring. There is no way to quench voice -- the only thing powerful enough to quiet us completely is our own fear. Even in the most ominous extremity, we can speak silently and hear ourselves, if we will.

So I leave off and don't tease or prod for awhile, then the equation generator turns to passion and we're getting "passion = love + rage" and "passion = curiosity - inhibitions" or some such things and some guy actually comes on and says that we have passion because in the end we know that all is lost. We are passionate because we die.

And I'm thinking, this guy must be great at a party, and I'm thinking, this guy has it all backwards because, you see, the thing that pops the cork on passion is life and the fullest appreciation of it which includes that giant swan dive into eternity which we are making all the time whether we open our eyes or not and which is doomed not to failure but to success, in spite of our tiny protestations of uncertainty in a universe devoid of doubt and working so inexorably toward our overcoming. Yeah.

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