In a recent conversation, I heard Dana Ganihar and Baruch Brenner describe prayer as,
"where the this meets the more-than-this."
I love the ordinary simplicity of simple words that open, just a tiny bit, the mystery of the experience we sometimes call prayer.
'This' is my 'known' world. It's what I think I am, what I think you are, and what I think our situation is.
'This' keeps me awake at night, with its misguided, unforgiving certainties. It is the way I think things are. It's the way I think we are. It's the way I think life is.
Once in awhile, I sense the edge of my 'this' and find relief. My 'this' lives inside a 'More Than This' which doesn't keep me up at night. Sensing the 'More Than This', I find (the) rest.
Heading to the beach at sunset, George tries to describe his discovery, the day before, of a very tiny sand dollar. I am trying to imagine the size, the experience, when I look down at the sand. A little ahead and to the right of us, the evening light, shimmering upon a tiny, bright speck. It could be any small, white thing; a broken shell, a stone, a piece of plastic. Picking it up, I notice the shape and unmistakable contours. I ask, "Small like this?"
Astonished and grinning, we walk on a bit in silence. We pause at the water's edge, as our enormous earth turns her belly away from the even more enormous sun, and the sky turns apricot.
I am compelled to understand the more-than-this of the brittle, white something I hold on the tip of my finger.
I learn that she was likely a year old when she died, leaving her bleached skeleton (called a 'test') on the shore. If I had not interrupted the cycle, she would have left a gift for the sea; a bit of calcium, the necessary mineral another marine creature would need to grow a shell.
I learn that she was conceived with thousands of others inside a floating pearly cloud of sperm and tiny, rose-colored eggs. After fertilization, she divided into many cells, then floated, her immature, wingless, wormlike form, suspended in the saline waters until her 'people' called to her with a scent only she would recognize, to settle down on the ocean floor with them.
There, she slowly grew into her mature, testy form.
I learn her ancestors survive by living in community, more than 650 per square yard, and they call to their own, as they called to her, "We're over here. Settle down with us."
I learn she ate the heaviest of minerals to keep herself grounded.
I learn of her velvety purple/gray rippling body with thousands of moving spines and feet and a mouth with a jaw and teeth and a lifespan of up to 13 years.
I learn that, if I picked her up when she was still alive, my hands would turn colors, yellow, like the sun, or apricot, like the sky, when the enormous earth turns its belly away from the even more enormous sun.