Hopeless prayer

When I pray I think, I try to think. And this thinking prayer is not simply negative. It’s a way of asking questions […] When I pray I am thinking about negative theology, the unnameable, the possibility [that I am] totally deceived about my belief and so on. It’s a very sceptical – I don’t like this word – but it can be interpreted as a very sceptical prayer. And this scepticism is part of the prayer. […] Instead of scepticism I would call it a suspension of certainty, and this is part of the prayer. And then I consider that this suspension of certainty, this suspension of knowledge, the inability to answer your question, ‘Who do you expect to answer these prayers?’ is part of what a prayer has to be in order to be authentic. If I knew, if I were simply expecting an answer, that would be the end of the prayer. That would be an order, the way I order a pizza. No, I am not expecting anything. And my assumption is that I must give up any expectation, any certainty as to the one, or more than one, to whom I address this prayer, if this is still a prayer. […] It’s a hopeless prayer on the one hand, and I think this hopelessness is part of what a prayer should be. On the other hand I know that there is hope, there is calculation, there is economy. But what sort of economy?  […] I know that praying in that way, even if there is no one God, mother or father receiving my prayer, I know that by this act of praying in the desert – out of love, because I wouldn’t pray otherwise – something might already be good in myself. […] By doing this I try to affirm and to accept something in myself which won’t to any harm to anyone, especially to me. […] If I give up any calculation, because of this calculation around the incalculable I can become better for myself, narcissistically, but to become better narcissistically is a way of loving in a better way, of being more loveable for our loved ones. So that’s a calculation. It’s a calculation which tries to integrate the incalculable. When I pray it’s a mixture of all these things in the same instant, in the same words, in the same gestures. [Then I have] a strange experience in which the Judaism of my childhood, my experience as a philosopher, as a quasi-theologian, all the texts I’ve read, from Plato to St. Augustine to Heidegger, are there, they are my world, the world in which my prayer prays. That’s the way I pray, sometimes in a given and fixed moment during the day, sometimes anywhere, at any moment, for instance now.

Derrida

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