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.