In an otherwise perfectly unremarkable film, Lion (2016) (good interpretations aside, especially that of the young boy, Sunny Pawar, and Nicole Kidman of course), it made an impression on me how the starving five year-old, lost and alone in a hostile city, after having been trapped all by himself in a decommissioned train for as long as two days, before eagerly putting the food in his mouth when he finds some partially-consumed leftovers in a Calcutta park, leans his head down and puts his hands together in a brief act of thanksgiving.


This dinner prayer I found it online, liked it and adapted it a little, resulting in this:

For food that stays our hunger,
For rest that brings us ease,
For homes where the loved ones live,
We give you, O Lord, our thanks for these.
In a world where so many are hungry,
May we eat this food with humble hearts. Amen.

Somehow, though, I keep on stumbling at it when I say it out loud. So, I decided to make a Spanish version, which would go like this:

Por esta comida que nos quita el hambre,
por el descanso que nos proporciona este momento,
por la presencia en la mesa de nuestros seres queridos,
te damos las gracias, Señor, humildemente. Amén.

The problem is, not having a religious family or friends, I only say this prayer when I eat alone. So, a further adaptation is:

Por esta comida que me quita el hambre,
por el descanso que me proporciona este momento,
por la gracia de querer y ser querido,
te doy las gracias, Señor, humildemente. Amén.

Speaking of prayers, don’t forget the one you learnt from Yentl, the film:

Hear me, Oh Lord, master of the Universe, thou hast given me a son, who brings me great pride, and pleasure. And for this kindness, I thank thee forever and ever.

And the oldest, not yet surpassed in meaning, conciseness, essence, and compromise. Read it fresh:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil. Amen.
Padre nuestro que estás en los cielos, 
santificado sea tu nombre;
venga a nosotros tu reino;
hágase tu voluntad 
así en la tierra como en el cielo.
El pan nuestro de cada día dánosle hoy;
perdónanos nuestras deudas,
así como nosotros perdonamos a nuestros deudores;
no nos dejes caer en la tentación,
y líbranos del mal. Amén.  

Los dioses

El hecho de que este problema desempeñe un papel tan importante precisamente en las religiones, no es de ninguna manera sorprendente, puesto que la religión representa uno de los apoyos más eficaces de nuestro proceso de adaptación psicológica a la realidad. Lo que más impide toda nueva adquisición en el proceso de la adaptación psicológica, es la fijación conservadora de lo antiguo y de actitudes pasadas. Sin embargo, el hombre no es capaz de despojarse sin más ni más de su personalidad anterior y de objetos precedentemente codiciados, porque con ello se despojaría de su libido que mora cerca de su pasado. De este modo, empobrecería hasta cierto punto. Es justamente aquí donde interviene la religión, asegurando el encauzamiento de la libido relacionada con los objetos infantiles (=padres), a través de canales de símbolos muy adecuados, hacia unos representantes simbólicos de los anteriormente habidos: los dioses, con lo cual se hace posible la transición del mundo infantil al mundo adulto. Con ello, la libido encuentra una nueva aplicación social.

Carl Jung, Teoría del psicoanálisis (1912).

In my irresponsible hours

The pivot round which the religious life, as we have traced it, revolves, is the interest of the individual in his private personal destiny. Religion, in short, is a monumental chapter in the history of human egotism. The gods believed in—whether by crude savages or by men disciplined intellectually—agree with each other in recognizing personal calls. Religious thought is carried on in terms of personality, this being, in the world of religion, the one fundamental fact. To-day, quite as much as at any previous age, the religious individual tells you that the divine meets him on the basis of his personal concerns.

Science, on the other hand, has ended by utterly repudiating the personal point of view. She catalogues her elements and records her laws indifferent as to what purpose may be shown forth by them, and constructs her theories quite careless of their bearing on human anxieties and fates. Though the scientist may individually nourish a religion, and be a theist in his irresponsible hours, the days are over when it could be said that for Science herself the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Our solar system, with its harmonies, is seen now as but one passing case of a certain sort of moving equilibrium in the heavens, realized by a local accident in an appalling wilderness of worlds where no life can exist. In a span of time which as a cosmic interval will count but as an hour, it will have ceased to be. The Darwinian notion of chance production, and subsequent destruction, speedy or deferred, applies to the largest as well as to the smallest facts. It is impossible, in the present temper of the scientific imagination, to find in the driftings of the cosmic atoms, whether they work on the universal or on the particular scale, anything but a kind of aimless weather, doing and undoing, achieving no proper history, and leaving no result. Nature has no one distinguishable ultimate tendency with which it is possible to feel a sympathy. In the vast rhythm of her processes, as the scientific mind now follows them, she appears to cancel herself. The books of natural theology which satisfied the intellects of our grandfathers seem to us quite grotesque, representing, as they did, a God who conformed the largest things of nature to the paltriest of our private wants. The God whom science recognizes must be a God of universal laws exclusively, a God who does a wholesale, not a retail business. He cannot accommodate his processes to the convenience of individuals.

William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902).


The Sobering Process


Within the Christian body, for which repentance of sins has from the beginning been the critical religious act, healthy-mindedness has always come forward with its milder interpretation. Repentance according to such healthy-minded Christians means getting away from the sin, not groaning and writhing over its commission. The Catholic practice of confession and absolution is in one of its aspects little more than a systematic method of keeping healthy-mindedness on top. By it a man’s accounts with evil are periodically squared and audited, so that he may start the clean page with no old debts inscribed. Any Catholic will tell us how clean and fresh and free he feels after the purging operation.


On the whole, the Latin races have leaned more towards the former way of looking upon evil, as made up of ills and sins in the plural, removable in detail; while the Germanic races have tended rather to think of Sin in the singular, and with a capital S, as of something ineradicably ingrained in our natural subjectivity, and never to be removed by any superficial piecemeal operations.


The difference between Greek pessimism and the oriental and modern variety is that the Greeks had not made the discovery that the pathetic mood may be idealized, and figure as a higher form of sensibility. Their spirit was still too essentially masculine for pessimism to be elaborated or lengthily dwelt on in their classic literature.

Stoic insensibility and Epicurean resignation were the farthest advance which the Greek mind made in that direction. The Epicurean said: “Seek not to be happy, but rather to escape unhappiness; strong happiness is always linked with pain; therefore hug the safe shore, and do not tempt the deeper raptures. Avoid disappointment by expecting little, and by aiming low; and above all do not fret.” The Stoic said: “The only genuine good that life can yield a man is the free possession of his own soul; all other goods are lies.”

Each of these philosophies is in its degree a philosophy of despair in nature’s boons. Trustful self-abandonment to the joys that freely offer has entirely departed from both Epicurean and Stoic; and what each proposes is a way of rescue from the resultant dust-and-ashes state of mind. The Epicurean still awaits results from economy of indulgence and damping of desire. The Stoic hopes for no results, and gives up natural good altogether. There is dignity in both these forms of resignation. They represent distinct stages in the sobering process which man’s primitive intoxication with sense-happiness is sure to undergo. In the one the hot blood has grown cool, in the other it has become quite cold; and although I have spoken of them in the past tense, as if they were merely historic, yet Stoicism and Epicureanism will probably be to all time typical attitudes, marking a certain definite stage accomplished in the evolution of the world-sick soul.


We have seen how the lustre and enchantment may be rubbed off from the goods of nature. But there is a pitch of unhappiness so great that the goods of nature may be entirely forgotten, and all sentiment of their existence vanish from the mental field. For this extremity of pessimism to be reached, something more is needed than observation of life and reflection upon death. The individual must in his own person become the prey of a pathological melancholy. As the healthy-minded enthusiast succeeds in ignoring evil’s very existence, so the subject of melancholy is forced in spite of himself to ignore that of all good whatever: for him it may no longer have the least reality. Such sensitiveness and susceptibility to mental pain is a rare occurrence where the nervous constitution is entirely normal; one seldom finds it in a healthy subject even where he is the victim of the most atrocious cruelties of outward fortune.

William James, Varieties of Religious Experience.

The neurotic temperament

This is from William James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature:

If there were such a thing as inspiration from a higher realm, it might well be that the neurotic temperament would furnish the chief condition of the requisite receptivity. And having said thus much, I think that I may let the matter of religion and neuroticism drop.

Happily we’re not the type, are we?

armed buddhists

I once was in a restaurant in Berlin and a smiling Buddha in a slightly unbecoming pose kind of presided over the place. I remember telling my friends how I’d pick Buddhism over any other religion if I were to become religious just because of that —because it was highly improbable anyone bothered themselves and others about the Buddha being this way or that way.

This proves me wrong:

Anti-Muslim mobs rampaged through three more towns in Myanmar’s predominantly Buddhist heartland over the weekend, destroying mosques and burning dozens of homes.