Salting the Robin’s tail

When I was a little girl, I used to chase birds. I wanted to catch them and pet them and teach them to land on my finger, like Snow White. My grandmother told me if I put salt on a robin’s tail, I could catch him and make him my pet.

Being a child plagued with concrete thinking, I deduced that salt magically grounded birds once it was sprinkled on their tails. It never occurred to me until I was well into adulthood that what my grandmother was saying wasn’t about the magical properties of sodium chloride but about the abilities necessary to put salt on a robin’s tail. In order to get close enough to the robin and not have him fly away AND put weight on its tail without it flying away, would mean I was very stealthy or very quick or both and anyone that stealthy or that quick could easily catch a bird.

Salt had nothing to do with it.

My mother told me when I was small that I could get rid of hiccups if I held sugar on my tongue. Again, I though it was the sugar that magically got rid of hiccups. Again I was wrong. In order to hold sugar on your tongue, you will find yourself holding still your diaphragm. The bodily control is what stops the hiccups, not the sugar.

We concentrate on the things and not the process. We attribute magic and power to the things without thinking about the skills and practices of the process.

So we think that the prayer entices God (or Gods) to grant us our desires without noticing that it is the praying that changing how we see our problems and thus the proper path to solutions. When we think in concrete terms, the prayers and God both become unchanging things of magic and mystery that may or may not grant our wishes for reasons we can never know. We miss the opportunity of engaging our intuitions, inspiration, and imagination. We miss gaining the understanding necessary to see more clearly the answers that are often right in front of our faces. We fail and feel ourselves inadequate and ineffective and pawns in the games of an awful God.

What if prayer isn’t about having wishes granted? What if God isn’t a genie in a bottle or an elf who live at the North Pole? What if the purpose of the exercise is to engage and experience the world in ways that encourage you and enable you to change that world into a better place?

Think about it.


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