Monday, November 5, 2012

Echoes of the Prayer Wheel

A post on LaMarotte (where I was venting about automated calls), got me wondering how the future would see our absolute faith in the power of advertising to move the secular version of Heaven. The Romans, of course, at the appropriate stage in their development, had the same sort of idea: Vox populi, vox dei. They were, however, technologically backward. And that, in turn, made me wonder if there are other relevant examples from the even deeper past. The image of a prayer wheel then presented itself to me.

These wheels are at home in India and in Tibet. I am showing a hand-held Tibetan version. It has a little counter-weight which causes it to whirl with but a little bit of human effort. They are functionally equivalent to calls delivered by a living human being. Prayer wheels, usually inscribed with the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum, also come in more automated versions. They may be driven by wind, water, or the heat of burning butter. They are, of course, equivalent to automated calls. In any case they illustrate a human belief: If it is worth doing, its worth doing without any effort. The device actually used, of course, may cost a bit of money, and the more elaborate and expensive, the more powerful, to be sure. Behind these wheels is the belief that the turning wheel works just as well as saying a prayer mentally or out loud.

Now, of course, the folks who start to smile awkwardly (and the more multicultural, the more awkward the smile) when they behold the prayer wheel will, nonetheless, expend huge sums of money on automated calls intending to persuade me to vote for X.

Oh, by the way. If you wish to try a prayer wheel—who knows, it might work!—the one I am showing is available from World Bazaar Imports for $22.49 (link).

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