Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Life as Prayer

I've returned to Brooklyn by by way of O'Hare, Midway, Albany, and (two days later) forested, still snowy Phoenecia. I feel like I've been away for weeks, only to get off the train tonight and run into T. We tried out Kenny's Trattoria (7 Withers, just west of Union), the new casual Italian spot opened by...Kenny (who formerly owned the well reviewed Brick Oven Gallery). The spiraled gnocchi were pretty good, like an adult version of macaroni and cheese. The ravioli of the day were a little strange, the "pasta" resembling wonton wrappers. The salads are fresh and big enough to share.

It's good to be home. There's a lot going on in the world, as usual, with the Hamas-Israel conflict taking center stage. I don't pretend to understand the full weight of politics and religious history bringing itself to bear on this poor holy region. Hamas wants to destroy Israel and instigates in words, propaganda, and the murder of students; Israel responds in such a way as to kill hundreds of innocent people. Where does it end? I pray for an end that preserves the most lives and the most capacity for wonder, kindness, and understanding, which seem like light, airy things now but which are of fundamental importance. Back in Brooklyn, with the little daily pleasures of cats and the BQE like a stream and strange ravioli, I pray for an ever-expanding sense of wonder.

"To pray is to regain a sense of the mystery that animates all beings, the divine margin in all attainments. Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living. It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live. Who is worthy to be present at the constant unfolding of time? Amidst the meditation of mountains, the humility of flowers - wiser than all alphabets - clouds that die constantly for the sake of his glory, we are hating, hunting, hurting. Suddenly we feel ashamed of our clashes and complaints in the face of the tacit glory of nature. It is so embarrassing to live! How strange we are in the world, and how presumptuous our doings! Only one response can maintain us: gratefulness for witnessing the wonder, for the gift of our unearned right to serve, to adore, and to fulfill. It is gratefulness which makes the soul great." Abraham Joshua Heschel

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