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Plastic Prayers

This is not a secret that we learn from each other but if it comes to my students I always feel a certain unease knowing how much I enjoy learning in the classes I actually teach.

I am paid for teaching not learning after all, right?

I meet interesting people in my writing classes, they all are called my students.  They share with me their lives, their passions, their sorrows, and sometimes their most intimate secrets and they always, always, always teach me something new.

Last semester, a question of ones identity was raised during a writing assignment titled “Journeys” and inevitably a question of higher power or god became a part of the preceding discussion.

As we struggled to find answers one of my students, David asked why we have to do it.

“What do you mean?” I didn’t understand his reservations.

“I mean,” he said after a moment of hesitation, “Why do we have to continuously ask questions that don’t have any answers?  What’s the point?  Who cares if God exists or not?  Would you live your life in a different way if you knew the answer?  I wouldn’t.”

“What do you propose, David?”  I asked mechanically, feeling myself being stretched beyond my expectation.

“Just be,”  he said.  “Just live. Just be your best and enjoy life.”

When I teach I feel like a child in a candy store.  So much to see!  So much to taste!

And then I ask myself the same questions: Is it wrong for me to learn from my students?  Is is wrong to look forward to the new class of students with the highest anticipation knowing that our exchange will teach me something new?

Later on, David had sent me his interpretation of the “journey/life.”  This is the image you see above in this post. Make sure to click on the image to enlarge it and to see the rich fabric of the “journey/life” as seen by David.

I became very excited seeing the hands holding praying beads.  I have immediately imagined a life of a monk who devoted his life to meditation.  I could see him walking slowly through a zen garden contemplating his breath and at the same time focusing on the rhythm of his steps.

Many questions, that sprouted from the imagined monk, came to my mind and I have contacted David.

“My goodness, I love the piece!”  I couldn’t hold back my excitement.

“Can you tell me something about the person on the picture?  Is this a monk?”  I asked with the highest hopes.

“This is a manikin,”  David answered.

“No, no, no!”  A silent yet loud scream invaded my head.

“I wanted something beautiful, alive, perhaps romantic!”  I wanted to say but didn’t.

“The title is Plastic Prayers,”  he added. I am still dwelling on David’s interpretation of the journey we call life as I read the quote he forwarded to me along with the Plastic Prayers.

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?

Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing?

Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing?

Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing?

Then why call him God?

–Epicurus

9 Responses to “Plastic Prayers”

  1. Heather says:

    As a teacher myself, I can relate to how you feel about learning from your students. I am fortunate that my students also come from very different backgrounds than my own and they teach me something new every day.

    David’s photo and perspective on religion are very provocative. I admit that I don’t really understand people who have his perspective and I have tried to understand it for a long time. I feel a deep sense of sadness when I think that there might not be a God. And, being a more scientifically-minded person, I find evidence in nature and the universe that God does exist. There are just too many coincidences in science and mathematics for it not to have been planned in some way. I also think the fact that we are all made up of energy, means that we are all somehow connected. To me, that’s divine.

    • Danuta Hinc says:

      I think David’s perspective is a testimony to many young people today.
      As you said, Heather, it makes you sad to think that there might not be God (I am right there with you)–think how much courage it takes to think “I don’t know the answer. I don’t have to know the answer. I will live my best life anyway.”
      I think David mighty be going even further –“I know there is no god and I accept it, I am in peace with it, and I will live my best life anyway.”
      I admire David for this. Perhaps I don’t have that kind of courage.
      Do you think having “faith” is related to lack of courage?

  2. The Native Americans call god “wakan tanka” what means “all that is”. Since we are part of “all that is”, we are part of god.
    We can ask ourselves why we do not prevent evil – why we even cause it so often etc. etc.

    I appreciate the expression “plastic prayers” – because when we “are”, every thing works out the way we have set it into becoming with our original energy motion and our true will power. This is not the will-power of our head, it is the will-power from around the navel area where are the descendants of our very first body cell. This original will-power is most of the time knocked down and/or ignored, while the will-power of our head, usually our conditioned mind, is the big dictator of our original will-power and our body.
    It just takes time and tranquility to “be” to finally become aware of our true will-power…..

    • Danuta Hinc says:

      Monica,
      your words are truly inspiring.
      I love your interpretation of “reality” and I have a special sentiment for Native Americans (since the time I was a child growing up in Poland).
      If we could only tap into this layer of our existence, life would be so much easier.

  3. David S says:

    Call it what you will, but I see no evidence of a god. I see why people would wish to create one, to show that their lives matter in some way. To show we are special, that we are not just coincidence. Also, Danuta, most “young people” have been raised with sheltered lives, and do not understand where i am coming from. They have been told god is above, watching, and they accept it without a second thought because a parent or role-model gave them this idea years ago. If you were never told of the idea of a god…would you come up with it?

    • Danuta Hinc says:

      David,
      Thank you for your contribution!
      I actually think that many young people share your opinion. I wonder if it has anything to do with your generation.
      And yes, absolutely, you are right–we are shaped by the things that are introduced to us (especially in an early age) but also sometimes we reject the things that are introduced to us just to establish our own “identity.”
      I think that you posted an interesting question in our conversation–what would change in the way we lead our lives if we knew the answer?

  4. Ian Campbell says:

    I suppose I am playing the middle ground here. As far as age goes, I find the quarter-life an odd place: too old to be truly young, to have ideas accepted or dismissed upon the basis of youth, freshness, and all the other words used to divide up our society, yet too young for the passing of years to lend the weight of experience to my words. Both perspectives are, of course, nonsense. There is meaninglessness to be found in the old and the young, and the quarter-lifers, and there is rare bits of wisdom to be found in all three.
    I have never particularly understood the concept of a sheltered life. Certainly, some lives are easier than others, a few have luxuries beyond what would be credited but a few hundred years past, and others suffering beyond still what the human mind can compass. No, its not a failure to understand inequity, rather it lies in the connotations of the word ‘sheltered’ itself; to be insulated and protected, as well as cut off, from the world and its wounds. Humanity it is said, is very bad at determining what would make it happy, to that I would add we excel at finding what makes us miserable. Even if, laying aside family and culture, who even with the most benign of intents rarely refrain from adding to our miseries, one could be absolutely sequestered from the rest of the world, we still have our minds, swarms of questions and doubts that they are, to keep contentment at bay. People may parrot, but they never accept, our brains will not let us. Those who believe in Deity must wrestle with their beliefs every bit as much as people who refute the same.
    To that end, I have come to a point quite similar to David’s, at least insofar as I understand it: what does it matter if Deity exists or not? Are human actions, either benign or malignant, dependent on the existence of Deity, or are humans in and of themselves capable of actions some would call divine or infernal? Or is it even so cut and dry? Is the police officer who arrests the criminal saintly for protecting the neighborhood or infernal for destroying a family? Religion, I suppose, has its place. Some people need a reason to be outward centric or else resort to a life of self gratification, often in this overcrowded world to the detriment of others and religions have their place in curtailing this behavior. But this is religion not Deity, it is worship, or fear, the dividing line being as thin as that between angelic and demonic, that moderates peoples behavior. So in the end what does it matter about deity? Send your plastic prayers each the same pressed into molds carved by humans, in Deity’s name perhaps, but certainly carved by people, or send nothing and fight to come to terms with the metaphysical vacuum into which you place yourself. Perhaps one alternative is better, perhaps neither, but both are certainly irrelevant. What is, is, and consists of, for as long as we live, the weaving tapestry made by our response to others actions, and others reaction to ours. After is, in the end, after.
    Teaching is, perhaps, much the same. We have our classrooms for a fixed period of time, with no control over the circumstances that brought us, and others, into the room, and none over how we will in time part it, nor over where we all will wind up. But more importantly classrooms are about interactions: the teacher interacts with the students, the students with each other, and the students with the teacher. All of this interplay is essential. The teacher must impart knowledge to the students, but that is not so simple a task. Data delivered by rote is not teaching, for that leaves the students to pick up what information they can. Learning, at least a little, has occurred, but certainly not teaching. Teaching necessitates a connection, a derived similarity between teacher and pupils, to act as a framework to graft knowledge onto in a way the students can relate to. In order to do that, the teacher must understand the student’s perspective, and because each worldview is unique, the teacher must study their students carefully to create a cohesive joint paradigm. Therefore, it is not merely coincidental but essential that teachers are taught by their students. At least the effective ones. And because each person holds a grain of wisdom unique to themselves, those truly great teachers who reach and are reached by countless students, through each pupil, each class, each year that they teach, these teachers are the ones who truly become wise.

  5. Danuta Hinc says:

    Ian,
    thank you for your comment of beauty and wisdom.

  6. Sherry Tellitocci says:

    I think having faith takes the most courage more than unbelief because it is believing in something that we can not see or touch. I always like to relate tothe verse that even the rocks will cry out. I believe that just the creation that surrounds us is proof of a creator. My prayers do not feel plastic to me at all, in fact they feel like an extension of myself reaching out to grasp the unseen and it gives me a sense of peace.

    I understand David’s reluctance to reach out to the unseen and I can admire his courage to live in the moment, but I would be lost without my ability to reach beyond what I can see into that world that I call faith.