This is my belief, anyway. People who regularly pray will, when asked about the suspiciously high failure rate of this childish exercise, sometimes say that the god they’re vibing doesn’t listen to prayers for things to happen (i.e., requests) even when these are selfless. Since many of the people who say this do in fact routinely pray for things to happen (i.e., make requests), this explanation fails on its face and can be ignored. Others who pray will acknowledge that, sure, prayers “don’t always work” or, for that matter, “work” in anything resembling a predictable pattern, but that humans do not and cannot know the reason(s) for this — for the will of the god they vibe.
Ignore the obviously goofy and painful attempts on the part of these people to hide from obvious conclusions and focus instead on what has to go through the mind of someone engaged in an exercise she deems vital, yet freely admits (using different words than I do) does not have and cannot have any measurable impact at all on world events.
You see, it’s one thing to have confidence in a method or ritual that proves itself efficacious at least some of the time, or at least suggests a connection. Let’s say that when I prowl the bars, I have a history of bringing someone home on the first try exactly 50 percent of the time. If I then introduce a certain “cool” bracelet into the proceedings, and notice that my success rate in subsequent months hovers between 40 and 60 percent, I’m not likely to fret if I leave the house and discover a few blocks up the street that I’ve left the bracelet at home.
Now assume that I have a history of scoring 15 percent of the time, and only then with incredibly foul, drunk, and hostile women. Say I then realize that every time I go out, I actually haven’t shaved or showered in about a week and have stinking debris matted in my armpits as well as the crack of my ass (stay with me, folks). Now assume that I remember to shower and dig out my crevices half the time and on these occasions am 50% successful, while during the times I don’t shower I remain at about 15 percent. Even if nothing were ever said, I’d probably figure out that my grooming behavior was influencing these night-on-the-town outcomes.
A less stark example might be the kind of half-ass superstition dressed up as reason most of us partake of in some way. Let’s say that I’ve set personal bests in three of my past ten road races, and that I realize that in two of those PRs I’ve worn a white New Balance visor and in the other one a yellow Nike cap, while in the other seven races I’ve either gone hatless or work a dark blue Red Sox cap.
Now instinctively I’m not going to formally credit this to anything besides coincidence, but PRs are important things to runners, so maybe I decide this bears looking into. Is it possible that some sort of hat is functionally beneficial in road races — possibly keeping sun out of my eyes, and thereby allowing me to relax and maintain good form because my facial muscles don’t tense up? (Don’t laugh, I have a lazy, almost blind eye and can really get the Bill the Cat thing going out there)? And assuming this is true, is it possible that hats made for runners are lighter and less obtrusive than baseball caps, to an extent that there’s actually a subliminal but definite difference?
All things considered, I’m probably going to grab one of the two caps made by running companies (either will do), but if I forget them and have the Sox hat, I’ll sooner wear than than nothing. Maybe. Even if it is dark-colored, and that’s bad…
Anyway, regardless of exactly what happens in the course of my mini-“experiment,” it’s almost certain that the hat-related behavior will wind up extinguished and forgotten. One shitty race would be enough to do it — not enough to make me abandon the Nike or New Balance hat and its practical benefits, but enough to keep me from throwing it on in a purposeful way.
Prayer does not work like this. There are people of deep faith who go their entire lives getting nothing but deafening silence and even bona fide nastiness on the heels of prayers, and somehow they can’t tie these experiences into the logical frameworks in which they otherwise operate. The praying behavior is never extinguished, and typically the praying person — in a mental gem that would be comical if it were not also a little pathetic — continuously makes the assumption that she is simply not praying hard enough, and continually upgrades this effort (how I do not know) throughout the course of her remaining years.
None of this would make a lot of difference if it weren’t for the nature of the things people pray for and the fucked-up obeisance tied into these goofy rituals. Here’s an example. In this post, the writer implores her readers to pray for someone with throat cancer. Then, just over two weeks later, there’s this — an acknowledgment that “Heaven has a new angel.” Yes; the victim has now “gone to” the same inert daddy who has stood by yanking his crank or maybe laughing while one of his children expired of a particularly painful malignancy.
What goes through Carolyn’s mind when she posts a prayer request? Translated into something sensible, is this just an ordinary “let’s hope” sort of thing, or does she really want the weight of additional vibed fired into a void on the patient’s side? And assuming she really does pray for things when she asks others to (I have my doubts when it comes to people following through in general here), does she consciously recall any of the previous dozen or hundred or thousand known failures of prayer?
The kicker is the assumption that the now-dead person is “with” the same fella who let her get sick and die to begin with. This would be like me insisting on wearing a certain kind of hate in every race — good, bad, and in between — even if it means turning around and going home to pick it up after I’ve left the house on race morning and driven a few miles toward the start. It would also mean my responding to an especially abysmal outing by going out and buying stock in the company making the hats and imploring everyone else to do the same.
I didn’t intend to go on about prayer today, though. What strikes my most of all is Carolyn’s scatterbrained paranoia about ilegal immigrants, a subject I’ll deal with in the near future.