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People these days are scary. They’ve grown fangs and spew poison. Get on their wrong side (easy to do) and you could be punished in a number of vituperative and terrifying ways. There is no shame. There are no moral boundaries. There is only internet anonymity and anger.

I read an article by a journalist opining this very same theory. One of the comments on his article was simply “you suck.” Ah! Well met, my friend! Your brilliant repartee reveals you as a man of wit and ingenuity. You are the Sam Johnson — nay, the Mark Twain! — of our times. Sadly, considering the level of discourse these days, that last statement may very well be true.

On the other side of the equation: SueBe’s and Ruthie’s posts this week, celebrating friendship, specifically the friendship of the three of us that led to the creation of this blog. It’s true; we deeply love and care about one another. Also true — we have never met in person. Just the other week, SueBe mentioned something about being short, and I was dumbfounded. All this time, I’d been picturing her tall. I’ll say it again: We’ve been working together for the better part of ten years, yet we’ve never actually hugged. Or eaten a meal together. Or heard one another’s voices, except on the phone.

Yet our bond persists, will persist, through the tumult and turbulence life hands us. This essentially boils down to a choice: We chose each other. We continue to choose each other. It’s what every great friendship, every great relationship, is made of. And it may be the one and only cure for the pollution that swirls around us politically and spiritually.

I once taught a mini-course on “The Company of Women” — both the book by Mary Gordon and the idea that enduring friendships enable us to become our fullest selves, allow us to thrive in the most polluted of atmospheres. I still believe this is true. All I have to do is think of my fellow bloggers to know it is so. This blog — and its posts by my fellow bloggers — has become a haven for me. When the world seems just too awful to continue to breathe in, I come here. I listen to SueBe and Ruth. I feel better.

Let us cultivate our own fresh air. Let us seek out those of us who are willing to be patient, to listen and to love. Let us keep them close to us. When darkness closes in, let us cling to them.

Let us not let pollution overtake us. Take our hands. Join us.

What follows is a pared-down version of the first post I ever wrote for this blog. I thought it might be time for review, to get my bearings, so to speak. I am still wandering, making great loops back to familiar subjects — prayer, faith, justice, the Church — yet remaining open to new discoveries along the way. How has your spirituality changed in the past five years? Do you still pray for the same reasons and in the same way?

I just read a fascinating article about how, if you blindfold a person (or place him in fog, complete darkness, or other sight-diminishing circumstances) and ask him to walk, drive or otherwise move himself in a straight line across some distance, he will end up making circles, loop after loop, until he either winds up where he started, or runs into a tree or other unfortunately placed item. Without sight cues like a mountain or a building to guide us, we can’t walk a straight line.

This reminds me of why I pray. God is my mountain — He shows me where I want to go — but prayer keeps me on track. It’s like echolocation is to bats or whales. It helps me finds my way, stay on the path, keep my eyes ahead on what is important. Prayer grounds me. It keeps me from running in circles, willy-nilly, never making progress. Because, let’s face it, we’re all blindfolded to some degree. If we saw with complete clarity, we would never hurt one another or ourselves. But things get in the way: jobs, people, everyday life, our own psychological tics. We need something to pull our eyes out of our own navels and show us the world not just realistically, but with hope. Because without hope, there’s no use standing up at all. You might as well curl up in a ball and die.

All of this is to say that I pray because I need to see the way. But we all have different reasons to pray. That’s sort of how this blog came about…the need for us to talk about prayer and create prayer so we can find our way to the light. Or express our emotions. Or shower God with rightful praise. Or whatever it is that motivates each one of us to a prayerful life.

So what about you? Why do you pray?

Here’s the thing about blogging: There’s no guarantee that anyone will ever read what you write. To put words out there, into the ether, and hope they land in the eyes and ears of the right folks (or any folks at all) necessitates a profound act of faith. I don’t care whether you blog about spirituality or soba noodles, God or government — you might as well shout your opinions into the mouth of a cave. Perhaps a daring spelunker will catch your cries. Or maybe a hibernating bear will swivel a deaf ear in your direction, heave a sigh, and go back to sleep. You never know.

I’ve been writing this blog (with my two dear friends) for two years now. That’s two years of intense belief that what I have to say is worth saying. But to whom? If I’m doing this for other people, then I’m doing it wrong. Every week, I release a little amoeba of thought into the vast ocean of the Internet. The odds of it wending its way to those who really need it are about a billion to one. It’s like finding a needle, not in a haystack, but in a field of hay the size of the Mall of America.

No. I must be doing this for myself. It is the only thing that makes any sense. With this realization comes a follow-up question: Why? Clearly, I’m passionate about the things I write about. Admittedly, I want to be heard. Which then leads to the big question: If a blog is posted, and nobody reads it, does it — like the proverbial tree in the forest — make a sound?

But if I’m doing this for me, why should I care? Aye, there’s the rub! I do care. So, my spiritual battle comes down to this: A brawl between my soul and my ego. I need to not care whether anyone reads this. It needs to be something I do for me, just like the hobbies SueBE wrote about in her post this week — something that sustains me for the journey, not something that saps me of my will to keep marching on.

So yeah, I want to keep doing this. And I will. And if a nugget of wisdom lands in your lap, good for you. But good for me for keeping up the conversation…even if nobody is on the other end. After all, God is always listening.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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