Anne Lamott has written a new book called Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential PrayersI This represents a
considerable development in her theology of prayer, because she said in an earlier work that there were really only two variations of prayer–“Help me, help me, help me” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” so I look forward this expanded theology! I haven’t read it yet–I will–but “wow” seems fitting. I believe part of the artistic vision is to tromp around in those parts of reality that hunger from neglect by politicians (a finishing school for becoming a world class dullard if you aren’t careful), scientists, economists, the military and cynics.
You would think the realm of artists and mystics (really, they overlap), would be tiny and easily mapped, but you would be wrong. In this week devoted to giving thanks, counting blessings and generally being glad that we aren’t as bad off as someone else, it might do well to visit this realm. It is where beauty, mystery and wonder abide. The ancient Hebrews would be astounded by us, who surround ourselves with astonishing things and spend little time considering them.
So, I would add to the litany of Thanksgiving an apology for wonder. Thankfulness assumes an enlarged view of life. How mundane if all we were to call thankfulness consisted only of a listing of possessions and good fortune! The ocean belongs to no one, yet who can forget the first time they saw it? The excitement of a small child in a car, eagerly waiting to arrive at the beach, smelling the warm salt air long before arriving, driving along the beachfront road trying to peek between the houses and condos, the incomprehensible moment when at last the child stands and tries to take in a lake with no shoreline; that is a morsel of wonder.
Here are some others:
- the first day in a long time without the pain
- a time of laughter after weeks of draining grief
- The mystical fellowship of fellow worriers in a hospital waiting room
- The never-boring ritual of watching children, then grandchildren discover life
- Mountains, rivers and deserts, or the blades of grass in our backyards
- The good ache of sore muscles at the end of a hard day’s work now finished
- Rich memories of people and places and happy times, available at will whenever I call
- The deep silence of the universe, signifying not emptiness but a different kind of fullness from the noise and clatter of my everyday life–wherein a prayerful heart can trace the embedded pathways of God.
So, “Thanks be to God, ” not just for the relative prosperity that gives me a better chance to survive than someone in the Third World. All around are unburied treasures, opportunities to grow and see and touch and live. We are loved, we are blessed, we are alive if we so choose to be. Thanks, indeed, be to God! We have plenty of those reasons that the dullard realms of money, power and dominance recite to us, but my prayer is to discover and give the thanks goes beyond and that flows our from deep joy. Strangely, it doesn’t usually cost any more than a little time, the right attention and a bit of slowing down. Oh, and a dash of being present!
Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and readers, even if you are not in the US for our holiday. Thanksgiving wonder knows no calendar or border.