Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Remembering Bethlehem

Some mothers didn’t talk about sex. Some mothers didn’t mention money, death or private parts. Mine didn’t talk about god. When I was twenty one I asked her why we never talked about god. I can’t remember what she said but I felt an embarrassment in her. It was the last thing she would have wanted to talk about. When deep questions arose in her as a child her grandmother would say,
“Mein kind, dass ist die Natur,” and that satisfied her.

I was born with god in the wings. Though genderless, god looked first like my paternal grandmother who died when I was six and later like the revolutionary Marxist cricket writer, C.L.R. James. I knew, though, that he was mercurial, a shape-changer, or no shape at all, and lived in the pines, in the forest that bordered the German village where I lived as a young child. Bethlehem was also in the forest. A star tagged to the top of a tree I could see from my bedroom window pointed to the stable and the wax candles on our christmas tree came from there.

Back in London, there was no more Bethlehem. In assembly, sitting cross-legged on the floor of the hall, which served also as gym and dining room, the moustachioed headmaster sang holy, holy, holy, and said thy will be done. Everyone knew about the thing that will be done. It was called Thy. Forever, amen. No-one there had been close to Bethlehem, under the same sky.

Today my son headed back to university, mathematics and logic. Last night, out of a conversation about homoeopathy, alternative medicine and a Devon-based shaman who uses earth elementals (gnomes, fairies etc.) to heal sick people, the talk came around to belief. I have a sense that my son may have inherited the god thing, but these days anything that can’t be properly argued and validated smacks of lazy thinking and quite right too, I suppose. But there’s not much I can say to support my belief that god is out there and in here (still looking like C.L.R. James), other than that it would require a degree of faith I do not possess for me to unbelieve. Also, I live near a forest. It isn’t the Bethlehem one, but sometimes I catch the drift of something that reminds me and I remember it, just as it was.


Trip. said...

Hi Reading The Signs
Love the Blog. Mothers and God.
My mother never stopped talking about God and reminding us that he was everyehere. She used the 'God is watching you' line like a cane. The mere fact that he was watching me all of the time gave my childhood a 'Big Brother' kinda feel. My mother could leave us alone happy in the knowlwdge that because God was watching us we would behave. Mostly I forgot that he was watching, but when I did remember I made sure I was doing a kind deed so that he would recognise what a teriffic person I was. Also of course I knew that I disappointed him regularly with my secret ways, but only him and I know that. Keep Blogging.

Reading the Signs said...

Oh, that God! No, fortunately I never had much to do with Him, (notice I use capitals when referring in case He strikes me down). If you want to meet mine take a walk into the middle of a forest and watch for the guy that looks like CLR James.
And thanks for the comments,trip, good to see you here.

Ms Melancholy said...

A lovely, lovely post. Strangely, I didn't have any real spiritual sense of the world until I started practising psychotherapy. But as I witness ordinary people deal successfully with the most terrible material conditions of their lives, either past or present, I can't help but believe that there is more to us than mere flesh, blood and neurones.

I will visit your blog more often (and welcome to my blogroll) x

That's so pants said...

For a long time I thought God's name was 'Harold'

Reading the Signs said...

ms m, the "s" word still has the power to set me on edge, though I also sense that we (including trees, stones and my cat) are more than just the stuff we're made of. And I'm happy to let this live in me as an open question rather than a fixed belief.

And thank you. I will enjoy.

tsp, His name IS Harold - which is one of the reasons I don't hang out with Him.