The sun glittered on the snow as Ellie the dog and I made our way towards clear blue sky. The swans flew in formation and landed between the thin crusts of ice floating on the surface like prophets, showing us what was to come. The hand of something greater, more beautiful and more powerful than anything I could conceive of must be in this. One couldn't just explain it in atoms, molecules and bonds, because it was a feeling, not an equation, which says that no man, woman or child is alone. All of us are a part of its continuity which helps us to manage the inconceivability of our own end. All of us are a part of its unity which is the portal to peace.
Yet, for most of my life, I have struggled with the idea of God, just as grandmother did. Our struggles are different and the same. In the small northern European town where she grew up, the churchbells determined the time, spartanness and thrift were necessary signs of devotion, and obedience was the condition of salvation. While she was a curious individual, hungry for learning, who didn't like this setup from the beginning, she found it impossible to escape her conditioning. If God wasn't going to save her, she'd have to find someone else, and she did, just as millions of others did in a Führer. Towards the end of her life her main concern was whether God would take her back. Repeatedly, she answered her own question: he didn't want her any more. She remained trapped in this dilemma of salvation until the end.
As a cultural traveler since childhood, religion wasn't a framework for my life. Rather, it was a fascinating aesthetic. The details of old churches, mosques and temples attested to a certain divinity in the human spirit. Some people call it creativity. An extended encounter with nature in a wilderness during a decade I spent living on an isolated island brought me closest to sensing that there was something greater that couldn't be explained. Still, it was in us, partly motivated by our ability to recognize it, and not a product of our neediness.
When trying times come, such as those we find ourselves in today, this changes. I can feel the connection to grandmother, and submit that the cultural conditioning of two thousand years of Christianity becomes evident. No doubt, somewhere in the unconscious is the hope that someone else will save me. As I read all of the analyses of the developments we see happening in different parts of the world - Christian, Islamic and other - I sense a great gap in the arguments. Humans are not rational beings - rather we are salvation-obsessed beings. Until we can let go of the idea that God will save us, we will continue to lay the path for our own self-destruction. God may well be there, but that is not her job.
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