When I saw Biden taking his oath on an old family Bible that looked like it hadn’t been opened for years I wondered whether it was on the words inside the Bible he swore an oath by or did he feel the old book was a good luck charm?
A few decades ago I wrote a play for a church in which I showed people during prayer time. I showed one man mouthing his prayers but looking out of the window at the traffic outside, another yawning while the others prayed but joining in on the last line, and a lady staring hard at a young man who was kneeling.
All this took place when they were reciting their prayers.
The play met with a lot of flak from the congregation who were not too happy I had portrayed them thus. I argued back asking them how many of them ever communicated with God when they mouthed the said prayer, and some wise people agreed with me whereas others looked around after that to see where I sat when they went for prayer.
So often ritual takes over the act of prayer or meditation doesn’t it?
I do believe that all rituals were started with good intentions, but slowly people forgot the content and remembered only the form.
A devout man who had a cat used to spend several minutes each day at prayer and meditation in his bedroom. He read a portion of scripture and a devotional book, followed by a period of silent meditation and prayer. As time went on his prayers became longer and more intense.
He came to cherish this quiet time in his bedroom, but his cat came to like it, too. She would cozy up to him, purr loudly, and rub her furry body against him. This interrupted the man’s prayer time, so he put a collar around the cat’s neck and tied her to the bedpost whenever he wanted to be undisturbed while at prayer. This didn’t seem to upset the cat, and it meant that the man could meditate without interruption.
Over the years, the daughter of this devout Christian had noted how much his devotional time had meant to him. When she began to establish some routines and patterns with her own family, she decided she should do as her father had done.
Dutifully she, too, tied her cat to the bedpost and then proceeded to her devotions. But time moved faster in her generation and she couldn’t spend as much time at prayer as did her father.
The day came when her son grew up and wanted to make sure that he preserved some of the family traditions which had meant so much to his mother and his grandfather. But the pace of life had quickened all the more and there simply was no time for such elaborate devotional proceedings. So he eliminated the time for meditation, scripture reading, and prayer. But in order to carry on religious tradition, each day while he was dressing he tied the family cat to the bedpost.
Thus the ritual became more important than the prayer and meditation that it was supposed to enhance.
Everyday I see people crowding religious places; involved in all the rituals, adept at mantras, experts with prayers: I wonder whether its cats tied to bedposts?
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