When I first met Mary, she wore dozens of jelly bracelets on one wrist, and a leather band on the other. She’d had mourning tattoos inked on each wrist, but they had faded to pale impressions in the night while she slept. You could make out the vague lettering: Pray for the dead. Fight for the living. They’re variations on a Mother Jones’ quote: “Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living.”
At first, I couldn’t figure out why she wanted that on her wrists. Pray for the dead. Fight for the living. It’s so Jesuit. But I can’t stop thinking about those phrases. I have trouble with prayer. It was enforced on us. Before every meal. No matter where we were. How many waitresses stalled beside our table while we prayed in restaurants. It’s not that I don’t understand gratitude, or thankfulness. It’s the display of it. The preening.
The thing is, I pray all the time. I pray when I hear sirens. I pray when I hear about injury. I pray when someone I know is struggling. I don’t pray to a deity. I don’t pray to the heavens. I focus my will. I meditate in the quiet. I think rigorously. Much has been made of liberals and their lack of morality. But I submit to you that without compassion, you are morally bankrupt. Give your prayers to the dead. Give your action to the living. Where is your heart? Where? I don’t care how you do it. How you nurture those around you. But you must. You must. To love one another is our highest purpose. It isn’t magic. It isn’t hokum. It’s love, motherfucker. It’s named desire. I want this for you. I will fight like hell for you.