When we accepted the exchange of prayer for God's love, we began accepting other things we shouldn't:
property taxes and rent, in exchange for a piece of the world to stand on; visa fees, for the right to move in peace; museum fees, for the right to learn about our world; jobs we hated, or unethical jobs in border-control/politics/the-military/marketing/journalism/espionage, for money; sacrifice and favors, in exchange for the love of other humans.
Was prayer the beginning of capitalism, of our enslavement on Earth, our loss of dignity? Did our prayers in seclusion leave us isolated?
One morning in Tunisia, my roommate Amur woke up before sunrise and performed his ten-minute prayer not once but twice. Why? "Go to bed, man!"
I took my sleep seriously. And so, later that morning I told Shamsidin the Agricultural Engineer that I would accept his offer to move into one of the farming company's empty houses. Like all the houses in Sminja, it had no heating and became cold on winter nights. But, at least I wouldn't get woken up for the morning Fajr prayer.
That night, Sali the Islamic Shopkeeper invited me to his house for dinner. His twenty-five-year-old sister, in a shiny pink head-scarf, appeared briefly to bring us our food and tea. We ate spaghetti noodles in "harissa" (a spicy red pepper paste).
Sali walked me in the direction of my home. In the olive orchard darkness that separated my farming company from town, we saw the stars were out. Orion's belt shined above us, its three stars like three smiling friends. As always, when there were no clouds nor moon nor city lights, the night sky was beautiful.
Sali and his Islamic beard asked me: Who made these stars? Then, he answered his own question: "Allah."
I thought to myself but failed to say: "Ama, bla Allah sma mezyana." (But even without God, this sky would be beautiful.)
And I was reminded of a quote:
"People spend their whole lives thinking about god, arguing about god, and never listening to their heart. The heart has no desire for god. The heart only wants to dance, sing, enjoy, live, love, be loved. The heart wants to live like a flower full of perfume, like a bird flying into the open sky." - Osho
Looking at the stars, I imagined I believed God had made them. Imagining this, my psychology changed. I felt a strong desire to look away from the sky - because, there were things to be done. I felt ambition. Restlessness. A desire to impose my will on others, to dominate them. A desire to compete with my fellow man, to prove I was better than someone. A desire to leave my mark on the world, even a negative one, because if another being existed who could make the stars, how could I not feel small?
After a moment, I returned to my normal beliefs and my normal psychology. I looked up at the mysterious stars.
And all I wanted was to enjoy their beauty.