Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Pray All You Want

Born 313 BC - Died 238 BC

Pray all you want-heaven can’t hear you. It’s not going to stop the winter because you are cold, and it’s not going to make the eartgh smaller because you don’t want to walk so far. You pray for rain and it rains, but your prayer has nothing to do with it. Sometimes you don’t pray and it rains anyway. What do you say then? If you act wisely, good things tend to happen. Act like a fool and bad things tend to happen. Don’t thank or curse heaven-it’s just the natural result of your own actions. If you want to have a better life, educate yourself and think carefully about the consequences of your actions.”

- Xun Zi 312230 BCE

My friend and fellow blogger "Sassy Bear" (a pseudonym for sure) at "Idle Eyes and a Dormy" posted this quote on his blog February 9th, 2015.  

If I wanted to capsulize my beliefs in one concise paragraph, this quote from the Chinese Confucian philosopher is exactly my view on life.  Xunzi believed man's inborn tendencies need to be curbed through education and ritual, counter to another Chinese philosopher Mencius's view that man is innately good. 

I understand and do not condemn people who sincerely believe in prayer.  Prayer gives them comfort.  I've been even known to pray myself (foxhole situations).  But one thing I have learned throughout my life is that most people are in a situation because of their own actions, either direct or indirect.  

To cite some examples, within the last few years two men I've known died of liver cancer.  Is it a coincidence that they drank every day?  My father died of lung cancer at 80 years old. He smoked every day of his life.  My good friends Sal and Ron, from my Army days, died of lung cancer and liver cancer.  Both smoked and drank.  But then on the other hand, I have prostate cancer.  I don't know why I have prostate cancer, maybe it was my diet.  But none of us live forever.  

I have to be careful here not to stray too far from the subject of this blog - the ineffectiveness of prayer (other than to give one comfort) and being responsible for one's own lot in life.  

Today we have a great evil in the world, Muslim extremism terrorists.  The group ISIS is committing horrible atrocities on innocent victims.  Will prayer make ISIS disappear?  No, good people rising up (and some bad people but in a different way) will eliminate the world the scourge of ISIS the same way those good people did when Nazi Germany and the soldiers of the Japanese Empire were committing similar horrible atrocities.

Man always has had the capacity for evil and cruelty.  We are most attuned to the physical atrocities and yet there are the mental cruelties.  

I don't want to get too deep in the weeds of philosophy and I especially don't want to hit all those alarm buttons of committed religionists (mainly conservative Christians in my world), but those prayers?  They aren't going to do anything except make you feel good.  Nobody "up there" is listening.  Believe me, it's all in your head. 

Now, having said that all my life I prayed for the life I have now.  I have that life.  Did it happen because I prayed for it or did it happen because I have spent 73 years navigating the shoals of all the bad places, bad habits and bad people during my life's journey? I think so.  

Again, I mean no disrespect to those who truly believe in prayer and get comfort from it.  It is not for me to judge how anyone else lives their life unless it affects my life unless they are telling or forcing me to live the way THEY want me to. But from my view, I wholeheartedly subscribe to the last line of this long ago philosopher:

"If you want to have a better life, educate yourself and think carefully about the consequences of your actions.” 

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