Take it for a Spin

The Tibetans have an interesting variation on prayer, in the form of prayer wheels. A prayer wheel has a prayer written on it, usually many, many times, and is designed so that a person can easily spin it. The idea is that when you spin the prayer wheel it is as if you recited each copy of the prayer written on it each time it revolves. Basically it’s automated praying, but like so many things religious the automation is artificially restricted to the level of technology that was around when it was invented. In this case that’s done by telling people that if the prayer wheel is spun by an electric motor the benefits of the repeated prayers accrue to the electric company, not to the owner of the wheel.

God tells me that prayer wheels provide the percussion section to the daily drone of praying. The wheels tend to clack and because of the nature of their spinning the clacking has a rhythm to it. As prayers go, this makes them easier to sort of mask out than most, but even with God acknowledging that I couldn’t get her to admit that the repetition has no incremental benefit.

What I did get her to say is that prayers in general are kind of like car alarms. When car alarms were new everybody paid attention. When an alarm went off people would look, they would even come out of houses and stores to see if anything untoward was going on. But over time, as they saw time and time again, that nothing was happening, that nothing was going on, that it was a false alarm and an automated one at that, they got a lot more lax. They’d look if they were already outside and it wasn’t too far away, but that was it. Well now we’ve gotten to the point where we not only don’t look unless we’re right on top of it, mostly we just want them to shut up. And the sooner the better.

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