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Mochas, Midrash and Mysteries: Confronting harshness with prayer

Draw us closer to Thee every moment of our life, until in us be reflected Thy Grace, Thy Glory, Thy Wisdom, Thy Joy, and Thy peace. Amen.

— Sufi Sauma (morning prayer)

I sat on a bench at the upper end of the Japanese Garden in Lithia Park. I listened to and watched the gentle stream of water flowing over a stone into a pond. I wondered, "What is the source of this exquisite water sound that so deeply soothes my spirit?"

I noticed light and shadows in the bushes and trees, on the rocks surrounding me. I wondered, "What is the source of this beautiful interplay between light and shadow?"

These two sensory experiences captured, for me, an essential spiritual truth: We are like moons, who reflect (do not originate) the sun's light. Like the water over the stone. Like the interplay of light and shadow on bushes, trees and rocks.

Great spiritual traditions teach this core truth: the divine source (the infinite, eternal, pervasive) infuses our limited capacity to capture and reflect it. Like moons, we might (at best) mirror 3 to 12 percent of the sun's light cast on us. G-d is source; we are reflections, mirrors, channels of the divine.

Rabbi Joshua Boettiger's "prayer without cessation"

Last month, Rabbi Joshua considered the wonderful, mysterious truth that we are capable of praying without ceasing. He wrote, "A conversation is a prayer. The way we walk down the street is a prayer. This is what the Sufis meant by remembering that life can be 'prayer without cessation.' Moving with humility, awareness, and kindness."

Implied in Rabbi Joshua's rich insight is that there is a source from which we draw, which makes it possible for us to pray constantly, to bring light and love into our wounded world. And, grace, glory, wisdom, joy, and peace. It is not, in its origin, ours; it is divine. We connect to it and reflect it.

Prayer, all great sages and saints remind us, is in its essence a communion, a divine-human connection — sometimes described as a loving glance cast invisibly in the depths of our souls, where the Divine abides.

Confronted by the world's harshness and woundedness

On June 24, our community's beloved and intrepid actor, Christiana Clark, encountered a man on a bike in the Railroad District, who made a false and brutal claim: that he could be out of jail in a day and a half, after killing an African-American person, according to Oregon law.

We all were shocked, abhorred. Nonplussed. How should we respond?

Christiana, during the OSF's Juneteenth Day celebration on Monday, June 27, described an "outpouring of love and support" from her Facebook testimonial of what occurred. Thank goodness.

After witnessing the often wrenching stories of outright and subtle racism during the Saturday, July 2 "Unpacking Racism" forum at the Historic Armory, I left feeling at once dismal and hopeful. I asked myself, "What am I to do?"

What am I to do?

Rabbi Joshua has taught me (and other meditators under his tutelage) to pose an inner question when perplexed, and to allow an answer to arise. It often does — gently, more like a whisper than a trumpet. I posed the question in meditation: "What am I to do?"

"Remain connected to the divine light, love, and life. Reflect it. In thought, word, and gesture. Trust that love alone endures."

I felt deeply at peace. I knew that this inner imperative was crucial: Stay connected. Reflect. Trust. The specific actions would follow.

May eternal light, love and life strengthen Christiana and all who suffer person-effacing racism in our community and beyond. And, may I do my part to prevent and to end it. Amen.

Daniel Murphy promotes human flourishing through Integrity of Life Services LLC, and is a member of Our Lady of the Mountain Catholic Church in Ashland.