December 26, 2011
What passes for prayer
I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.
This is the mantra used in the Hawaiian practice of forgiveness and mental cleansing called Ho’oponopono. I read about Ho’oponopono, as you would expect of an affluent Westerner, in a magazine with advertisements aimed at people who someone apparently hopes will buy, for instance, a $5600 handbag made out of the skin of a python snake. YES. Bourgeois people like me love this kind of “standing-on-a-cliff-by-the-ocean-doing-sun-salutations” shit; you have to picture me at a cocktail party, explaining it to people, the halting of my breath and the roundness of my o’s as I pronounce all six syllables exactly as practiced: “Ho (perceptible pause) oh poh noh poh noh.” A coterie of central casting cocktail party people (red-haired man with boxy glasses and turtleneck, brown-skinned man with nice teeth in button-down shirt and sweater vest, pale woman with black hair in high bun and jaunty neck scarf suggesting Frenchness) lean in, nodding, the Frenchie smiling and turning to the turtleneck guy and flitting her eyes towards his to see if he notices how much we all agree that meditation is the key to human fulfillment, but turtleneck guy is GAY, just look at the glasses (which doesn’t mean he’s not interested in Ho’…oponopono, or even in Frenchie’s opinions on it, just that she’s barking up the wrong bamboo yet again, and she’s thirty-seven years old, and when is she going to learn?). Anyway, everyone loves the mantra, and soon I’m writing it on soggy scraps of paper, or dictating it to people so they can put it in their phones. Some of them say it aloud once, looking thoughtful, or looking like they’re imagining what “thoughtful” would look like to someone watching them, and attempting that. Some of the boyfriends scoff later, at home. “What’s that hookadookapalooka bullshit that woman was talking about? Jesus. Shut up and eat some flax seed, ya’ fuckin’ hippie.” The girls roll over onto their sides so they face the boyfriends and lazily swing a leg towards them, the tops of their feet making contact against the boyfriends’ shins. “Ow,” say the boyfriends, flinching and throwing up their hands in mock fear. “Abuse.”
I had a mantra I’d say when I was coming down 16th Street, where we used to live, from my office on 14th. The walk was separated into legs — from the office to the corner, from the corner to the Dunkin’ Donuts, from there to the bicycle shop — short legs, so I was always passing through them quickly, ticking them off, relieved to already be one twelfth of the way home, now one tenth, now one eighth, now twenty percent. When I finally got to 16th Street, I kicked it into Approach Mode, which was characterized by rising anxiety, a desperation caused by the simultaneous nearness and farness of the apartment, and the necessity of the following chant:
First there’s the building,
Then there’s the church.
Then there’s the school,
And the school is long.
Then there’s the brownstones,
Then there’s the building,
Then we’re upstairs,
And we’re home.
I tried to say this to myself silently, which didn’t always work; it usually came out faintly, sort of muttered to the side, in a sympathetic but impatient, ”all right, we’re almost there, hold your horses,” warning tone. And I tried to say it slowly, so that by the end of the first recitation, I was already hitting the school, even more almost-home than I was at the start. I probably did this for two years, every time I went from that office to that apartment alone. It was a way of proving that time works, that change occurs, and that this too shall pass. Even as you describe what’s happening around you, so much of it’s gone.
This has nothing to do with anything and there is no point. WOW, I think I just got the title of my next book. It’s called THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ANYTHING AND THERE IS NO POINT. Books with really long titles have been in ever since Dave Eggers’ A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS; the longer and more literal the title, the better. Ideally your title should be a complete sentence, if not a paragraph or two, and should sound like something a ninety-pound waif with smudged eyeliner and a Klonopin habit might say if she woke up on your couch out of cigarettes and felt the need to speak for some reason, e.g., MOST PARTIES ARE GUARANTEED TO SUCK, or THERE WERE THINGS I LIKED ABOUT YOU BUT I FORGET THEM NOW. It’s even better if it’s a sentence that would ordinarily take a comma or some other punctuation, because ideally it should be read by the reader in an internal monotone, with no change in pitch at the end, so the statement feels even more detached and ephemeral.
I should retitle this post IT CAME TO AN END BEFORE I KNEW WHAT IT MEANT