Thursday, November 13, 2008

Piercing Heaven

Several years ago, in my meanderings through spiritual literature, I ran across the saying "A short prayer pierceth heaven." It kind of caught my attention, because sometimes I had a attitude of "If a little prayer is good, then a whole lot is better" -- which isn't necessarily the case. Thinking about it, mini-prayers are probably the most natural way to pray, which we do without thinking about it. If we hear of a friend of relative in the hospital we'll say -- either out loud or to ourselves -- "Oh, God, let them be all right." I don't know about other mothers, but a short one-sentence prayer asking God to look after one or the other of my children bubbles up naturally when circumstances warrent.

I've never been a big user of the Baha'i prayer book. I always say the obligatory prayers, and I have a few short, memorized favorites. The written prayers are beautiful and inspiring -- and I preferred them to the kind of extemporaneous prayer I grew up with, when I was in a group. A single person praying for a group always felt wrong to me, but Baha'i prayers belong to all of us. On my own, however, it was often difficult for me to find a prayer that says what I really want to say. And what I want to say is usually pretty simple and direct. Almost always, before I go to work, I say "Oh, God! Make me a good teacher today. Let me give the children what they need." Then, I'll add a couple of names of God, just like you find at the end of Baha'i written prayers.

That's not entirely a selfless prayer, by the way -- obviously, if I do well in my job it benefits me as well as the children I teach.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about ways to develop compassion within myself -- a virtue that all of us could pay a bit more attention to. And there isn't a written prayer that specifically addresses that, so I just say "Oh God! Let me show compassion to everyone who crosses my path." It's simple, to the point, and what more do I need to say?

Maybe that's why such prayers pierce heaven -- they focus on what really matters.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Tony Lee on Tahirih

I know I've been quiet of late, but I ran across something too good not to share. This is an interview with Tony Lee about his translations in Tahirih: A Portrait in Poetry.

Translated By, hosted by Shaindel Beers

Besides discussing the translation process, he reads several of these wonderful poems aloud -- and reads them like a poet. Not everyone can read aloud like that. When I first read the book, I found the part about the translation interesting -- there was an example of the literal meaning of the Persian, which was transformed into the published poem in English. It really demonstrates just how much of an art form translation is.

The book is available here from Kalimat Press. You can also get it on Amazon.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the interview, and do get the book as well. And God bless Tony and his colleagues for this marvelous work.