I remember standing before the gods on a rainy Monday morning in Taiwan. Once again, the question that haunts me when I approach any kind of altar: Am I allowed to pray before you if I don’t understand you?

And how do I pray? Forty-something years old and I still do not know how to pray even though sometimes I try. Thankfully these temples offered a clear ritual: toss two moon-shaped blocks, ask a question, draw a numbered stick, and receive your fortune from a machine. A beautiful collision of technology and ancient rites. Soon I was gripped by a Vegas-style fever as I tried to upgrade my “very inferior fortune” to a superior one. Setting luck and superstition aside, the simple act of articulating a wish was clarifying. It forced me to remember what matters most in my life, followed by a small catharsis. Leaving the temple, I passed an elderly woman in a t-shirt that said, “Stay wild and free.”

McIntosh County Shouters – Sign of the Judgment

Wade in the Water: African-American Congregational Singing