Emily Martin and Derek Baron on St. Francis (Feb. 2021):
What does it mean to pray? To address someone, to plead for something, to welcome humiliation and failure: Please, let me forget about the China Chalet parties, please let there be no countries and no war, please let me love you. Is prayer iteration, or just repetition: My god, my god, my god, my god… To know spleen you just have to be down to be humiliated. But do we know for sure that we are miserable? How do we know?
This is how it has to go. We listened to this for the first time together in May 2017, while driving from Chicago to New York along the I-80 in Pennsylvania, stopping at the rest area that I later mistook for the famous picture of American “culture.” We stayed at a hotel and may have ordered a pizza. Content first, then, content again. Went inside and drank wine in relative silence, burping. Recognizing the sacredness in the plot of Friends. A choral melisma representative of holy Joy.
The dreams of moving through a convoluted space of passages, staircases, open courtyards, rooms just glimpsed past a door. It doesn’t seem possible that you can get from one place to the next but according to the logic of the dream you do. I think this has to do with how each little unit of ‘content’ happens at a different distance from your ear. The holiness of the periphery. That you can catch a shard of history if you only find the right distance to stand from the painting.
But prayer is also like the magic language we were talking about — faith that words do something more than just mean — they have the capacity to effect change in the world, and not just in the like, “words change ppl’s minds” kind of way, but in that the words themselves actually have agency. Form: sing-along.