A lot of my friends identify as secular, or even spiritual, but not religious. I've taken a recent interest in exploring my Jewish roots and find myself shying away from the word religion, even though I'm pretty sure that's what it is...What’s your take on this?
A few months back I was engaged in a discussion - over Facebook - about "secular prayers.” It was initiated by a writer-friend who I greatly admire. He was soliciting recommendations of favorite secular-prayer-poems and I responded with a couple of cherished picks, but referred to them simply as "prayer-poems," curious about the definition of "secular prayer." People replied with their selections describing them as “like a prayer.” I was - and remain - confused as to the difference between what was dubbed as "secular" and what I called straight-up prayer, but even more so, the value (if any) of such distinctions.
I am not completely obtuse. I get that there is a bucking against that which can be perceived as hierarchical, oppressive, provincial. These are arguments against religion that I have heard many times, and those descriptions are not flags we want to waive in social circles, let alone intellectual ones.
Whatever happens. Whatever
what is is is what
I want. Only that. But that.
Every day I want to speak with you. And every day something more important
calls for my attention—the drugstore, the beauty products, the luggage
I need to buy for the trip.
Even now I can hardly sit here
among the falling piles of paper and clothing, the garbage trucks outside
already screeching and banging.
The mystics say you are as close as my own breath.
Why do I flee from you?
My days and nights pour through me like complaints
and become a story I forgot to tell.
Help me. Even as I write these words I am planning
to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.
There is such vastness in these lines. And when I read your question, Unclear, this is what came to mind, how two of my favorite poems entitled "Prayer" might not make the cut into a "secular prayer" category. That in an attempt to avoid what is perceived as narrow, there is actually a further shrinking of language, of experience.
There is plenty bad in organized religion. But that's not the work that you're embarking on, as you set out to reconnect and explore your tradition. I imagine you are more interested in rituals, passages, finding open spaces of worship. Religion can provide opportunities for you to experience spirituality communally. To pray collectively. To bear witness. These are powerful acts.
There is so much here, Unclear; it will take years, it could take your entire lifetime to uncover even small pieces. Don't let limited definitions of what you're seeking make your world smaller.
Let it unfurl and be expansive.
Let it be like a prayer.
And let it actually be a prayer.