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Archive for February 28th, 2007


In a Midrash the Jewish sages said that prayer is like talking to a wall. The act of prayer, in this sense, is an anticipation, an act of anticipating that which has made itself absent. Prayer addressed to the absolute Other, the godhead, who is not present anticipates the presence of the godhead which is always already absent by choice. Deeply embedded within anticipation is the absence of the other. At the same time, absence is embedded deeply within the anticipation of the self.

In this sense, prayer is messianic at its core. Waiting for the messiah is the point upon which prayer turns. This waiting assumes the absence of the messiah, an absence that holds within it the promise of arrival–someday but not now! Hence, the need for prayerful anticipation in order to move the self closer to the other.

This dialectic plays itself out in terms of unfulfillable tensions that are always already present within themselves. From a theological perspective faith or belief provides a kind of synthesis, not one that resolves the issue but one that purports to provide meaning for the existence of the tensions that are always already present. Faith or belief resolves the underlying pressure that develops from unfulfilled anticipation by providing assurance, however unfounded that assurance might be, that there is an end, that the messiah will arrive, will come.

But, what if there is no synthesis, no resolution to the tension; that the tension is one that itself anticipates the tension of the dialectic. If there is no synthesis then there is no real purpose in the act of anticipation, of waiting for the arrival. Yet, this waiting is all there is. It is embedded within the text of language, within the text of human understanding. We are the waiting animal, the anticipating animal. We live in time, bound to the temporal bookended between two absented Others, two eternities. So no synthesis is not necessarily the case, rather, death allows us to approach the wholly Other, the eternal, by becoming eternal thereby ruining the tension of waiting.

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