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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Go Go Ganesh!

Hi, everyone. I'm blogging from the Hong Kong Airport using my laptop and a free wireless connection.

I had an interesting experiment in "religion" on the way here.

When we were crossing the border, a car in front of us was held up for over 20 minutes. The "Chinese way" is to not think of all the cars in line, otherwise they would have that car move and let the others go. But no, we sat and waited.

With nothing else to do, I started "silently chanting" to calm myself down.

Then, as we sat longer and longer, with the exhaust from the back of the car (the back hatch is opened for luggage inspection), I thought, "This is for the birds."

So I said, "I'll close my eyes and chant, 'Lord Ganesh, move that car' five times, and see what happens." (Ganesh is the elephant-headed Indian god who, it is claimed, clears away obstacles, especially at the beginning of an enterprise--like this trip.)

So I closed my eyes and chanted. And when I opened them, the car was being taken out of line so we could progress.

Coincidence? You be the judge.

Anyway, I made it into the airport three hours before flight time. In a bookstore, the title God is not Great caught my eye. Its subtitle is "How Religion Poisons Everything." This will be my vacation reading, and an amusing contrast to my little "experiment." So far, it's fascinating, if a bit juvenile. More as I progress.

For the record: I don't believe that one's internal monologue can directly affect outward events. But here's a true story:

An Episcopal priest I used to know was at the home of a more evangelical member of the congregation, a woman with the delightful name "Charity." She was making lunch and, unable to find the mayonnaise, raised her hands, looked toward the ceiling, and prayed: "Lord, help me find the mayonnaise." Then reached into the fridge and pulled it out.

The priest, a "man of reason," chided her: "Charity, please. Do your really believe that God helps people find mayonnaise?"

She held up the jar and said, "But Father, here it is!"

So the question is: If prayer doesn't cause God to "help one find mayonnaise," what does it do? Focus one's thoughts? OK, that will get you mayonnaise. But it won't move a car in a border-crossing immigration line.

Here are today's posts:

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