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Home / Articles / Columnists / Life 101 /  Let Us Pray or Let Us Play?
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Thursday, May 7,2015

Let Us Pray or Let Us Play?

By Cary Bayer  

I’ve been fortunate to have given sermons in and taught through some 75 different metaphysical churches in the U.S., some many times over.

So I’ve heard - as you’ve heard if you’ve ever been to houses of worship - the expression, “Let us pray.”

These words tumble out of the mouths of ministers and priests as easily as falling off a log. But in all those dozens of dozens of times in church, I’ve never heard the words, “Let us play.” And this is odd, when you consider that Jesus is said to have uttered the words, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.” And Jesus is Christianity’s patron saint (patron Rabbi?, patron Master Teacher?, patron Avatar? You fill in the patron blank). His name is, after all, on the door. Notice the Jesus quote: you must be not like children, he said, but little children. That’s because they laugh a lot. Researchers say that children laugh some 15 times more per day than adults (approximately 20 times for an adult, 300 times for a child.) Yikes! Let us play indeed.

So why is playing so overlooked in religion? Why are the temples, churches, and mosques of our land so darned solemn? Perhaps we need to address an even deeper question: why is our depiction of the Higher Power so darned solemn? In the Old Testament we read of a vengeful God, the Great Punisher. Not the Great Punster. He eventually got a more loving and merciful literary depiction when his Son came to speak for Him.

For my two cents… God is the Ultimate Comedian. That’s probably Why George Burns fits my casting eye for God better than, say, Billy Graham. Call me wacky, but I don’t think I ever saw Billy Graham laugh. Better yet, read the New Testament; Jesus never sounded like he was having a good time either, and he was living in Heaven. Call me wacky again, but if I could turn water into wine, I’d be smiling from ear to ear. I’ve only seen one depiction of Jesus laughing, and that was in a poster I saw in a church. Jesus laughing… as if that was some kind of miracle.

Maybe our conception of the Heavenly Father is a function of our experiences of earthly fathers. Watch movies set in the 19 th century and you’ll see stern, solemn, Godfearing fathers. Not God-enjoying fathers, but God-fearing ones. Fear ain´t joy.

America, remember, was populated by religious fanatics who left  England because they were… well, fanatics, even to the uptight Brits. The Puritan work ethic is still very much alive on our shores, thank you, and the Puritans, you’ll recall, were not a fun-loving bunch.

Maybe my sense of the playful nature of the Heavenly Father is due, in part, to my experience of my earthly father. Sam Bayer was an easy-going guy, quick of wit, with a light heart that found it very easy to laugh and make others do the same. So did his brother Dave. In fact, when I was about five years of age, I remember the two of them at a family function having the entire gathering of cousins, uncles, and aunts in stitches, tears falling down many a face. In that moment, time stopped for me. That moment in life was like a movie in which the sound was suddenly knocked out, and I said to myself, “I want to do this, too.” And so from that Kodak moment (the iPhone hadn’t been invented yet) came the desire to find the lightness in every moment. So I was drawn to all things comic, and then when I became a teen-ager and was drawn to all things cosmic, I was particularly drawn to the cosmic with a comic twist.

Enter Maharishi Mahesh Yogi into my life. This is a saint, I said, who ain´t afraid to laugh. He was early on dubbed the giggling guru. Hey, Bliss Consciousness is fun. Bill Maher said that the Dalai Lama is said to relax with reruns of M*A*S*H.

So the $64,000 question is: Is my concept that God has the ultimate sense of humor borne of the fact that my earthly father had a great one, and my guru had a great one, or is it that my father had a great sense of humor and my guru had a great sense of humor because humor is one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind, because He Himself has a great sense of humor, and wanted to pass it on to us, his creatures? Humor and playfulness help us through the darkest of our days, for as the great comedian and film auteur Charlie Chaplin once said, “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in longshot.”

So the next time that, as James Taylor sang,  “When you’re down and troubled and you need a helping hand And nothing, whoa, nothing is going right.”

and you get down on your knees to pray, consider sprawling out on the floor even more like you did in the sandbox when you were very young and… well, play.

 

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