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12 T I K K U N W W W. T I K K U N . O R G M AY / J U N E 2 0 0 8 FLICKRCC/ALI K. T here is one strong form of Biblical prayer that has beenalmostcompletelyoverlookedbytheChristiantradition, maybe because it feels more like pre-prayer than what we usually think of as prayer. Let’s call it lamentation or grief work, and it is described almost perfectly in the Mary Oliver epigraph(belowleft). Lamentation prayer is when we sit and speak out to God and one another —without even knowing what to pray for—stunned, sad, and silencedbythetragedyandabsurdityofhumanevents .Itmightactuallybe themosthonestformofprayer.Ittakesgreattrustandpatiencetoremain inthisstate,soIthinkitisactuallyprofoundprayer,butmostofushavenot beentoldthatwecould,orevenshould,“complain”toGod.TheJewshave beenverygoodatit.IsuspectwemustcomplainlikeJob,Judith,andJeremiah or we do not even know what to pray for—or how to pray. Without thiswedonotsufferthenecessarypainofthisworld,thenecessarysadnessofbeinghuman. Walter Brueggemann, my favorite Scripture teacher, points out that even though about onethirdofthePsalmsarepsalmsof“lament,”thesehavebeentheleastusedbyCatholicand Protestantliturgies.Wethink,perhaps,theyexpresssinfulangerornegativity,whengriefand lossareactuallysomethingquitedifferent.Wethinktheymakeusappearweak,helpless,and vulnerable, and most of us don’t want to go there. We think, perhaps, they show a lack of faith, whereas they are probably the summit of faith. So we quickly resort to praise and thanksgiving,evenwhenitisoftendishonestemotion.WeforgetthatJesuscalledweepinga “blessed” state (Matthew 5:5). We forget that only one book of the Bible is named after an emotion:Jeremiah’sbookof“Lamentation.” Until I did my research for Adam’s Return, the book I wrote on male initiation, I did not realizethatgriefworkwasakeyelementinmany,ifnotmost,maleinitiationrites.AsGeorge Santayanawritesinhis1925workDialoguesinLimbo,“Ayoungmanwhocouldnotcrywas asavage,”incapableofempathyandsolidaritywiththelargerworld.Ifhedidnotlearnsympathy early in life, he would be damaged goods by the end of life, incapable of smiling— because “an old man who cannot laugh is a fool.” A man incapable of tears would be a toxic member of any social unit. How different from our modern world which considers weeping inmalestobeweakness. InourcommunityinNewMexico,wehavecreatedtheMen’sRitesofPassage.Thisexperienceisnotaboutreligion ,butaboutspirituality,aboutage-oldtraditionsthatguideusinto manhood, about coming to trust that there is something much greater at work in our lives thanwecouldeverimagine.Oneofthecentralritesintheprogramisagriefritual,whichvery Complaining to God by Richard Rohr In the open mindedness of not knowing enough about anything. It was beautiful. … How quietly, and not with any assignment from us, or even a small hint of understanding, everything that needs to be done is done. -Mary Oliver, “Luna” from Why I Wake Early: New Poems Religion_2.qxd:Politics rev. 4/7/08 3:32 PM Page 12 M AY / J U N E 2 0 0 8 W W W. T I K K U N . O R G T I K K U N 13 often is the central event that moves men into liminal space and a readiness for transformation . Robert Bly, author of Iron John: A Book about Men, insists that grief work is the privilegedandpowerfulentrancewayformostmenoutoftheircontrollingheadsandfinallyinto their bodies and hearts. Remember Pat Conroy’s book and movie Prince of Tides? Until the tidalwaveoflossisfeltandsufferedbymostmen(andwomen),theyquitesimplydonotunderstandtherealityofthespiritualworldortheirowninnerworld . Iremembermyownunsettledandshapelessstateafterthedeathofbothofmyparents.I felt I was living in a different world for some months. Everything looked and felt very, very strange. I felt emotionally askew for a long time, and I was ready for almost anything to fall apart and disappoint me. It did not make me angry or isolated, as much as humble, open, readyforhelp,soappreciativeofthekindnessofstrangersandfriends. Verysmallthingsactuallydelightedme ,althoughIwasafraidtosmileorreallyenjoythem.Ilivedina“holytentativeness ,” which made the listening and learning curve very high during that time. Their deaths occurred right before I received my own temporary death sentence from malignant melanomain1991.Myegostructureswereverypermeable,veryopentobothdeepdarkness andlovelylight. The entire afterword to my book TheQuestfortheGrail was written in the weeks followingmyMother ’sdeathinearlyJanuaryof1994.ThereIhadtoresorttohaikuandpoetry,but even my prose became more poetic. My writing was coming from a much deeper and truer place.Itwasthegleamingandgenerousstatecalledlamentation,eventhoughitdidnotfeel very“gleaming”atthetime.Theafterwordreads: “Herdying,crookedbodytaughtmesacrament, Builtaswingingbridge Betweenmudandmysticism OnwhichIwillhenceforthwalk Andweep—andwonder”(Jan11) “Backintheair, Ontheroad, Butmoreundertheearth Withher(withChrist?)”(Jan23) Thissuggestsaverynewandneededliturgicalstyle.Aprayerformforpeoplelongingfor peace and justice in church and country, but without any need to blame, accuse, or give answers .Weneedaliturgicalsettingthatcouldbelayled,circular,andwithoutclosure,oreven final “blessing.” It will take practice, but then we can be sent back into our world honest and shared, emotionally cleansed, heartfelt and soulful, out of our controlling heads, ready for guidance,andnotevenneedingtoknowtheshapeorthetimeofresurrection.AgainIresort to Mary Oliver from her poem, “At Black River”: Then I remember, death comes before the rollingawayofthestone. Ithinkperhapswehaverolledawaythestonetooquickly,withourhappyalleluiasandtoo easy appreciations. As a result we are neither softened nor...


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