Monday, October 25, 2004

"I Memorize Every Line..."

After weeks of delays — most of them children of my own laziness and my embarrassing dread of reading — I finally finished Franny and Zooey about two weeks into the Washington program. I liked it. It was good. But one of its major plot points — the siblings’ fixation on this certain prayer — really snagged me.

In the book, the two youngest children in the Glass family discuss the significance of this Jesus prayer — a sentence which ostensibly answers a European pilgrim’s question of how to “pray incessantly,” as a certain Bible passage instructs him — and us — to do. (I actually haven’t researched the passage or the prayer itself or even the possible fictionality of the book the Glass children read about it in. Maybe I will. More likely, someone will read this entry and tell me about it in some strange, nameless email.) The pilgrim finds out that all he must to do be in compliance with this biblical command is to simply recite one sentence — “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a miserable sinner” or something like that — over and over until it suddenly transforms him — or you or anyone who spends the time to recite — and alters his outlook on the entire world. It’s more characteristic of Eastern philosophies than Christianity, really, but it’s the repetition and recitation that changes you, melts your brain and forms it into something new and better.

I liked the book. It was good. I don’t quite understand the Jesus prayer. It changes Franny dramatically, I understand. And although I think about the prayer and the book a lot, I only seriously process thoughts about religion or God or prayer or anything in the brief span of time after my head hits the pillow but before my brain turns into an internal porno theater that blocks out the day’s noise until I fall asleep, whereupon my brain continues to be an internal porno theater.

This morning, I woke up sick. My alarm clock blasted away any memories of my dreams or anything that had happened while I was asleep, but a small ghost of those memories remained and haunted me all day. I don’t know why, but I felt like the ghost clung to my forehead, hanging on to the front of my face by my eyelids, pulling them down slightly so as to inadvertently create a drowsy feeling and to creating a certain oily slickness on them that I only noticed in the shower this evening — my third shower of the day. For some reason, I think I dreamed about God and the Jesus prayer.

Occasionally, I preface sleep with prayer. Occasionally, I actually mean it. Some vestige of my Catholic school education steeps up and rattle off an Our Father and a Glory Be in the staccato, syllables-running-together style that doesn’t allow me to actually process the words I’m saying — or not saying, I guess. I don’t know why I do it. But tonight I have the strange urge to say the Jesus prayer from Franny and Zooey. Even though I know my mind could never make room to endlessly loop that prayer through my internal monologue, I feel like I should at least start now. Maybe that’s a ridiculous thought.

Maybe if I say it enough, I have that dream again and remember what the morning took away.

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