the day dawning with an image of some peripheral place (home in new york city, rainy spring, damp branches of blossoming trees rustling as pink and white petals fall like confetti to get trampled on slick sidewalks), syrup-thick expectation filling the air here pacific standard time, imagining enjoying someone’s company enough to want to sleep in with them, lie in bed with tangled limbs and all of those ‘-led’ words (‘cuddled’, ’snuggled’) somehow less offensive in this alternate universe of comforter cities that i imagine new coupledom to be but can’t seem to want here, now.
here, now i prayed this morning to give a good day or something along those lines and pressed my head into the rug and went out into the gray LA (the change of pace from incessant jubilant sunshine is just glorious) and asked to be free of expectations, to feel each step as a blessing and with every prayer-stride i heard:
Mr. Kling: And obviously, it was a choice. I remember you had a quote on one of your shows, where Rabbi Heschel said, “When we pray, don’t pray to get things, pray to be worthy to get things.”
Ms. Tippett: Hmm. Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
Mr. Kling: And, uh, that’s becoming clearer and clearer as time goes on.
Ms. Tippett: Hmm. Talk some more about that — because that’s a, that’s also a theme that I feel like, your whole sense of prayer, what it means, what it does, that that has completely shifted.
Mr. Kling: It has, and, yeah, the, one of the stories that I tell is about the three phases of prayer. The first being, pray to get things. I prayed, I, you know, I was a kid. Especially, uh, there was a squirrel monkey in the back of Spiderman comics. It was for $9.99. And I wanted that squirrel monkey so bad. So I remember around Christmas time, I’d pray to God to ask Jesus to tell Santa to get me that monkey, you know.
Ms. Tippett: Yeah.
Mr. Kling: And then it shifted, uh, to prayers in college to get me out of things.
Ms. Tippett: Right. Yeah.
Mr. Kling: And, you know, save me.
Ms. Tippett: Yeah.
Mr. Kling: You know, I’m in — I’m in over my head here.
Ms. Tippett: Mm-hmm.
Mr. Kling: Uh, and, you know, and the story I link to that is when I was, uh, on the island of Ios in the Mediterranean, and I wanted to get back to Athens, but I reached in my pocket and I only had $20, and I still wanted to see Italy and Ireland. So I stowed away on a boat. I bet I hadn’t prayed in 10 years, and I prayed, “Get me out of here,” you know. “Please God, I won’t ever do anything this stupid.” And then the third phase of prayer, I was in rehab, in the hospital, and while I was in rehab, 9/11 happened.
Ms. Tippett: Really?
Mr. Kling: And, yeah, and I watched it on TV and I didn’t think it was — I thought it was, like another TV show. And I saw 9/11, and then after that I had post-traumatic stress. And I was in sync with the country. We all were going through post-traumatic stress at the same time.
Ms. Tippett: Right.
Mr. Kling: It was, like, going from denial, to anger, to vengeance.
Ms. Tippett: Mm-hmm.
Mr. Kling: And I had to take an elevator down to the bottom floor every day and try to walk a half a block. That was, like, my job. And I walked my half a block, and my wife, Mary, met me in the lobby, and she bought an apple for me. And I hadn’t, food had no taste. So I was losing a lot of weight. And she said, “Just take a bite just for me.” So I took a bite, and flavor, that was the day it came back, and the sweetness came in, and, um, when the sweetness hit my tongue, it, I started to cry and it was flushing out all of the antibiotics and toxins that I had. I had not, again, I hadn’t cried in years. And my eyes were burning, and with my burning eyes and the sweetness in my mouth, it just felt good to be alive.
Ms. Tippett: Hmm.
Mr. Kling: And I just remember thinking, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you” that I lived. And that my prayers shifted to thanks. And then I couldn’t tell whether, after that, good things were happening because I was saying thank you or they just, I was noticing them. But there is blessings in my curses, even today. I mean, every day.