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"With Nothing Left But Prayer," An American Sonnet, discussed in a Tuesday Workshop for Writers and Teachers

Updated on June 1, 2015

Context for Writing a Real-Life Sonnet about Prayer

1. This workshop discusses one kind of real-life situation that can serve as context for serious poetry that seeks to address real-life issues.

2. We will start by discussing some actual situations that lead business consultants, for example (or teachers, ministers, or helpers of any kind), to realize they have nothing left but prayer to offer the person they wish to help. This will lead us to a new American sonnet I wrote devoted to just such a theme.

3. The years I spent investigating many different business activities in many different fields allowed me gradually to walk into the door of almost any company, or of any individual, and see rather quickly basic things they had themselves not noticed in spite of their walking right past them for many years.

4. For one example, I have my own true story of how I learned such things even as I was starting out as a consultant, "If One Million Dollars, Why Not Two?" (experienced in New York - New Jersey, 1969-70; written and privately printed in a small booklet in Lombard, Illinois, May 1997; and published on HubPages July 9, 2011).

5. When first encountering any prospect for business consulting, I always ask, "What is the biggest problem you have in your business right now?" Invariably, I get a nervous laugh and sidelong glance with the answer, "Money!"

6. But when it comes to offering concrete solutions to that or any other major problem that surfaces, the balking resistance settles in, and soon it becomes obvious in many if not most cases in small business, the owner really does not need or want advice from scientific business principles.

7. But why, you ask. Because it seems most people in or out of their own business have long ago fallen in love with their own problems, and don't you dare touch them! Their worst problems from the past and present have become the best, most reliable friends they could ever hope to have.

8. For that reason, I have learned to teach my clients, and the students in my various workshops, that every problem at its base is spiritual.

9. There is an old saying that "prayer changes things," but in the final analysis, since how one thinks is the root of all one's problems, "prayer in reality is the only thing that can change anything."

10. But you can see at once how rudely the "average person" might respond to such a suggestion, perhaps, at least in part, because they fear you may try to change their own deep-seated beliefs and subject them to the worst ideas they ever heard from anyone's religion or philosophy.

11. But if it is no option for you to consult for answers from science (as responsibly organized knowledge), or from the Universe in general, or from prayer to any variety of concepts of God the Creator, in short, if you can accept no Authority outside yourself, then you left, indeed, with your own private problems in a Personal-Void, no matter who or what you otherwise might be.

12. Perhaps not surprisingly, when working with people who have real problems, it turns out rather easy, painfully easy, in fact, to find a great many of them do not in actual practice accept any Authority outside themselves, and indeed, rather forcefully resist the possibility.

13. I have one friend who says that on her first visit to a psychiatrist, she stalked out of the office as soon as she heard the question, "Was there any possible role you might have played in the situation that angered her?" She turned a perfectly legitimate scientific question into "blaming the victim" and refused any further cooperation with the inquiry.

14. In my story "If One Million, Why Not Two?" the owner paid good money to get my professional analysis of his problem, but then he refused to accept the overwhelming evidence that he was, in fact, the source of his own problem because he insisted on micromanaging every single one of the 75 employees in every single aspect of his one-million dollar business.

15. No company can continue to grow beyond a certain size by hiring more new employees to be micro-managed by its owner-president! It is easier to fire the consultant than make some adjustments to work toward the company's own goals! It's called "shooting the messenger."

16. The consultant-doctor who still cares is reduced, by definition, to seeking help from Higher Authority, in everyday language, from prayer.

17. This business dilemma differs only slightly from the case at hand underlying the sonnet presented here.

18. My school currently uses literature-oriented workshops and poetic interaction to encourage problematic individuals with significant undeveloped natural talent, and especially, at my advanced age, I look to help solve real-life problems for potential teachers in hopes they will help me work with others along the same lines and also help insure this important work continues long after I am gone. See my recent workshop and sonnet, "Invitation to New Life."

19. But what do you do if repeated intensive effort produces only marginal, circular results? When a kindred soul, even after voluminous fascinating interaction, both sweet and sour, simply shows no significant progress? Hours of difficult analysis and decent writing get virtually ignored? Answers given do not address the questions you asked? Substantial possibilities at hand get overlooked in favor of stubborn attachment to ancient grievances?

20. It's like a potential love affair in which everlasting romantic talk and hand-holding finally raise the question, "Is this going anywhere, or are we wasting our time?"

21. So here is the American Sonnet I wrote on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013 (revised on Tuesday, Sept. 17) to deal with my own anguish that all my attempts at poetry and relationship building sometimes seem to accomplish very little in people I perceive have great talent, but gradually seem to drift away and leave me "with nothing left but prayer."

With Nothing Left But Prayer
An American Sonnet

Yes, I have offered, proferred, pleaded everything I have to you,
and now it seems it is not near enough for either me or you.

You either cannot or you will not eat the bread I bake for you.
You either cannot or you will not drink the wine I chill for you.
You either cannot or you will not pass the peace I share with you.
You either cannot or you will not do the work I offer you.
You either cannot or you will not read in depth the words I write for you:

with skill you dodge around them with a word or two of comment,
then quickly jump headfirst into your next unhappy moment,
demanding even that I bring you fresh poetic garment,
which never is enough to cover all the past mistreatment
that tries to keep you sick and solitary in confinement.

Our time together leaves me with a scant and sobering residue,
with nothing left but prayer to offer on behalf of either me or you.

Max Havlick, Friday, Sept. 6, 2013,
revised Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013


Copyright (c) 2013 by The Max Havlick School, 16 W. Vermont St., Villa Park, IL 60181-1938, all rights reserved. We value each person's life as a priceless work of art.


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    • Max Havlick profile imageAUTHOR

      Max Havlick 

      5 years ago from Villa Park, Illinois

      Thanks for reading, Kim, and for your comments. You make many good and useful points, showing personal experience and depth of insight.

      Surely you are right to imply that any consultant, mentor, teacher, physician, or any other "helper" in any situation, would be reduced in status to what I would go further and term "an ignorant fool" if, when they hit a brick wall, they failed to use the very most powerful methods they prescribed for others!

      But the praying referenced in the sonnet did cut both ways, pointing to the poet-helper's reduction to prayer as the ultimate resource every bit as much as prayer on behalf of the person who has run out of luck otherwise.

      Perhaps I'll edit the sonnet to make that point more clearly. Thanks again, Kim, for your constructive comments.


      Sat., Sept. 7, 2013, 11:43 a.m. Central


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