Thursday, February 28, 2008

Natural prayers

It occurs to me that during the past four years I have written upwards of a million words on this site. That's roughly the same total as the sixteen books I published during the past 25 years. Or the 1000 weekly columns that I wrote for the Boston Globe. But with a difference. This latest million words exist only in digital form, on some massive computer in California.

Why? What in holy hell am I doing in the blogosphere? At the beginning the idea was to sell books. But the thing soon took on a life of its own. It is gratifying that the site has found a modest readership, but what keeps me going is a kind of monastic discipline. I love the early morning hour with a cup of coffee at my elbow, giving shape to a thought or two from the previous day's experience. I do it for me.

Matins, lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, vespers, compline: These I have incorporated into my life, each with a secular equivalent. A blog, a walk, a book, a starry sky. In the monastic tradition, the arc of canonical prayer recapitulates the arc of a human life, imagined as a quest, for meaning, for the Grail, for God. It is a magnificent conception, encompassing the intellectual, the physical, the contemplative, and it survives translation into religious naturalism.

The monk's prayer is sustained by the belief that someone is listening. I suppose my fidelity to these daily posts is sustained by the fact that someone is reading. To all of you who visit -- thank you.