As I continue to delight in re-watching Little House on the Prairie, I savor the profound lessons that each episode holds, which are slightly different from the lessons I absorbed when I, as a little girl, first watched the show and read the books.
In season 1, there is an episode when Laura Ingalls takes literally the idea that God may hear us when we are closer to him and decides to climb mountains to get "closer" to God to ask for a miracle: for her baby brother to come back from the dead. She asks for this miracle because of the guilt she feels for having had thoughts of jealousy toward her baby brother, who ended up becoming sick and dying.
SPEAKING OF MIRACLES
Speaking of miracles, as I continue my caregiving work, I occasionally receive messages from well-meaning folk who tell me that they are praying for a miracle for Gerardo. When I receive such messages, I reply with silence because 1) I don't want to appear ungrateful by not saying "thank you," and 2) I don't want a "thank you" to be misconstrued as though I believe in miracles.
NO MATTER HOW HIGH
No matter how high she climbs and how fervently she asks, Laura learns that God doesn't exist to grant wishes or perform parlor tricks. Instead, she meets Jonathan, played by Ernest Borgnine who is either the wisest good Samaritan OR perhaps God's messenger who helps her understand the purpose of prayer.
FAITH THROUGH SCIENCE
Though I don't believe in miracles, I think life is miraculous. The fact that I can cause my fingers to move and type the ideas in my head to write this blog post is miraculous. The fact that my body knows what to do with the food I eat is miraculous. And as one of my favorite lyrics from an old-time hymnal goes, I think it's miraculous that "in a cocoon there is a butterfly and in a seed, an apple tree."
I believe there is an explanation for everything. The way we humans have been able to study and find explanations of the miraculous through the laws of biology, physics, chemistry, etcetera, inspire me. And though some humans like to position faith as opposite to science, I develop faith THROUGH science. Like the concept of entropy, which points to how every day, we become more and more disordered as another egg cracks, and another tear sheds. The cracked egg cannot become un-cracked, the shed tear cannot become unshed. The law of entropy causes me to recognize that as we become incrementally messy and disordered, yesterday was more ordered than today. And that the day before yesterday was more ordered than yesterday. Which makes me imagine a time when there was complete order. And that such a consideration indicates for me, the existence of God.
The faithful Michael Landon who played the faithful Charles Ingalls (AKA, Pa) died at the age of 51 of pancreatic cancer. I wouldn't be surprised if in his dire moments that some people in his life and perhaps he himself prayed for a miracle. It seems that that is part of human nature: to ask for miracles in moments of suffering coupled with our inability to know and control what happens beyond this life.
A popular vision of the prayerful is one where a person is on their knees with hands folded and eyes closed. I used to assume that position when I was a little girl which is why as a little girl, I identified so strongly with Laura Ingalls whose prayer posture was just like mine.
Today, I don't pray like that. Some might not even call it prayer. But it occasionally happens when I'm knitting, when I'm hiking, when I'm listening to music, or even cooking eggs. I find that the purpose of prayer is to ask for greater awareness and greater acceptance of the miraculousness of life. And as caregiver, to use the awareness and acceptance to be diligent about playing my part in advocating for competent medical interventions, and for facing each moment of this journey, no matter how dire, with dignity, responsibility, humility, and elegance.