Prayers from the Sky, Prayers from the Ground


Crashing into the Ground

When the plane drops from the sky, the individual begins to pray. The prayer is offered to a God who will hopefully see to the journey safely ending on land. The passenger knows there is nothing but a thought that separates them from crashing into the ground.

When examining the role of thoughts, it is apparent how we fall back on them to navigate the challenges of the day. It was a thought that urged the plane off the runway, it is a prayer that keeps it in the sky, and eyes closed, we reverently believe our thoughts will help the plane taxi before on another journey it begins.

Traffic moves on the highway in the same way, it is how the lights change from red to green, it is how our cities are built while we stand back marvelling. It is this habit that we carry over from childhood to adulthood to whatever years lie beyond, and it this we fall back to when reality does not go our way.

A thought to keep the plane afloat, the ground from trembling underground, to steady our lives as our systems come completely crashing down.

The Order of the Mind

We put our faith in systems long after they have failed us, long after they have been proven untrue. As the lid is lifted off our lives and then we lose the floor beneath us too, we scramble in the darkness, relying on reflexes to carry us to where reality can be made right again. This is the function of a thought in the form of a prayer when danger edges closer to what we treasure dear. We rely on our minds to organise the chaos, to fit the world neatly into a grid. If human activities were to be ranked for importance, this process would occupy a very high place: our entire lives devoted to bending the crooked straight, firming our foundations so we have the illusion of control over our days.

We repeat the line about humans being the captains of their destiny, and what is this string of words but another form of prayer? We unconsciously believe that if we think an idea enough, we can alter the course of the universe and the destiny of others too. This belief underpins our lives and it is a personal betrayal when it is shown to be untrue. The hurricane will not obey your ideas, no amount of prayer will release rain from the sky, the knot of thoughts will not keep the floodwaters at bay. We can pray and hope as much as we like but the ball has ruled beyond the area in which we believe our lives are played.

The Systems of our Lives

What we call civilisation is building a foundation in one place. One home built, then another and there you will find our community. We find comfort in this pocket and we can forget the larger forces at play. It is in this shelter we can believe the universe is organised according to the bends of our mind. We have our possessions and our government beating back the disruptors that threaten our days. Our illness is taken to a professional who treats us then waves us merrily away. We rely on the institutions of public order to keep the monsters who can’t abide by our rules locked away. This is the system where the more we trust in it, the more we believe our trust will be repaid. These are the gods we call to when the plane of our lives loses its footing in the sky. May our systems and institutions keep our lives rolling forward in a line!

Prayers in the Sky

When the plane drops a hundred floors, we all begin to pray. When a disaster strikes, we expect our institutions to stay put and delay their holidays. When the system fails to protect you, when it fails to respond, it is worth asking which institutions have merit and decide which ones are allowed to stay. The ecosystem of the sky should not be substituted for the ecosystem of the ground. In the sky, by all means, adopt the brace position and begin to pray but in the face of a catastrophe where we have alternatives, it is inhumane to tell people that their options are to endure and to pray. They should not be implored to trust more, pray more when they are paralysed over the loss of their world and their loved ones’ lives. When people are told to accept catastrophes as a matter of routine, it is time to assess the system and study what lies at the ground. If the foundation is changed, then every part should be analysed to determine what has been compromised and what should be allowed to remain.

If what worked well before does not achieve our aims, it is time to find alternatives for keeping the plane in the sky. Our lives begin with a thought and we are not empty of them until we die. This is not the time for prayer unless we are limited to a single option in the sky. Any individual who wishes to endure and pray, by all means, go ahead but do not stand in our way. Our lives should not be ruled by systems that once had merit but are now nothing more than a passenger praying to keep a plane in the sky.

Yumna Kassab

Author: Yumna Kassab

Yumna Kassab is originally from Parramatta, a place she still considers home. Her first book, The House of Youssef, is a collection of short stories about migrants in Western Sydney. It has been listed for the Victorian Premier's Literary Award, The Stella Prize and Glenda Adams UTS Award for New Writing. Her writing has appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, Meanjin and Kill Your Darlings.

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