I’m quite sure that I had never truly prayed before. I know some who did, and swore by it. But most people I know did not pray, and I saw no need for it, no calling to it. It was not until I watched with my own eyes as the tree line instantaneously receded from the nearby mountainside like a children’s flip book of the falling of winter changing the leaves from green to auburn to a brittle desiccated brown, reducing the work of a month into a few moment’s time that my mortality shivered in my heart and my mouth dropped open.
“My god” I said.
That was my first prayer.
Amidst it all, insane massive screeching flocks of birds descended the mountainside as frantically as if they were escaping a forest fire. They perched on rooftops and power lines and hoods of cars, the trees vacant behind them.
Most were unable to escape before the air ran out, they ever made it off that mountain to ground low enough where the air was still breathable, so the deaths of the mountain trees and mountain creatures furthered the cycle even more so the atmosphere shuddered to lower and lower tiers of altitude. My eyes fixed on the highest green tree on the mountain and I tried to breathe.
The old man saw me. I went to him. He looked me in the eyes and began to pray. “Oh God of Life: transparent omnipresent, we call upon you though you are diminished. You are the We, you are the Aggregate. You know that when death spreads, you recede, and when you do not hold us, we too shall die. Oh Life of God, opaque independent, we call upon you though you are diminished. You are the I, you are the spark of the ages. It is only through your agency that we can sustain our selves. I call upon you now, show us what must be done.”
I did not hear a voice or receive a divine command, but I did feel something shift within me. It was as though whatever wavelength I had been operating on began to harmonize and synchronize with a higher one- my inner string turned to create a chord with another source. My eyes welled up and my body hummed with the low strum of this new force. I couldn’t help it, I smiled. Hello God.
Suddenly, I was connected to the old man and the birds and all the other somebodies and somethings living around me. They had been there all along but now I felt them. I saw the solid world of Life and the vaporous world of God. I felt a pulse of energy radiating down from the very sky, it was the cord and I plugged into it. I felt the tub of the energetic tether to my own Life’s portion of God within the atmosphere just above me. I felt it tremble and strain until I realized I had been holding my breath.
I gasped again and breathed until it settled in.
I looked beyond my self. I knew that if the other living creatures around me died, the aggregate God would deplete and the breathable air around me would sink like tub with the drain unplugged. I knew that my survival demanded that others thrive, too. I could not outrun, outkill, outcompete. I could not even fight for food with others or their death would threaten my life. What good is food without air? Whatever the key to our survival, it was clear that there would be no I without We.
I looked again at the tree-line and then back at the old man. With one arm lifted, as if holding the string to an imaginary balloon he placed the task at my feet: “Now that you see it? What will you do?”