I just found this bit of writing I did after visiting the German History Museum in Berlin right after the New Year. I was hesitant to publish this piece on my blog when I first wrote it because it deals very directly with my conflicting and ever-changing views on religion and spirituality, but now I'm simply curious to hear what others might think about this strange experience I had.
I think what makes this anecdote particularly interesting is that I'm not strictly opposed or supportive of religion at all - I really try to embody the "live and let live" philosophy, do what makes you happy and try to make the world a better place. If we can agree on those things, then we'll get along just fine. Spiritually, I believe there is a force that is both ignorant and unsympathetic to the idea that humans are superior, we are all equal with everything else in the Universe, and Nature is the ruling voice over all things. With that being said, this is what I experienced that day in Berlin on January 2nd, 2012:
" I was at the History of Germany Museum today, a sole adventure because my friend had to work and I don't know another soul in the city. It was actually a very nice experience: I brought my iPod and was able to spend a lot of personal time with each exhibit. Near the beginning of the Early German History section is a wooden crucifix. A somewhat plainly featured Jesus hangs humbly from the cross, his head drooping and his eyes cast downward. Looking at him from a distance one would assume his eyes are closed, forever departed from this sad world, having finally escaped Earthly sufferings. But when I stood directly in front of him and looked up into his face, I saw Him. I wasn’t just looking into the smooth, wooden face of a statue of a man, I was looking into His eyes and he was looking back at me. I had the distinct feeling that I was sharing a moment with someone, the same feeling one gets when they’re being watched and which makes them instinctively look up at the person to share the moment. It was startling, and I tried to avert His gaze by walking to His side, but His eyes followed me. I looked objectively into His face and noticed that there was hardly any detail at all, not even irises or pupils in his eyes to give him a sense of realism. I can’t understand why I felt his gaze so strongly. I have looked many people in the eye, people who are very much alive with all the specificity of human features, and have not felt so strongly the deep attention I felt I was receiving from this wooden depiction of Jesus.
I still feel disturbed by this moment. I am not a religious person, and if I was religious I would definitely not be Christian. Was I being called by God? Was it a sign from the Universe? Or was it a trick of the light? As I walked around him, trying to find the source of this feeling, I thought I saw a tear come from his eye. It was a short moment, I noticed quickly it was just a chipped part of the wood that made up his face. But as I continued to look at him, I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was crying, and that he was crying because of me. It felt like he wanted to tell me something but couldn’t, that I was disappointing him somehow and he couldn’t tell me what to do. It was hard to leave him. I felt I had found something very important, that I was receiving a message from someone or something. As I walked away, I looked over my shoulder and noticed he wasn’t looking at me anymore, just staring down as before. But I still felt his sadness. I still feel it now.
I believe in signs, but I believe they come from within ourselves and that the mind perceives them through external messages in order to understand them more concretely than the mind can express to itself. This was a very strong sign that something is not right. I am in a very delicate time in my life, nothing is certain and my actions now are forming who I will become in the future. I'm in a place where I could go in literally any direction I choose, and there are many, many options. I think this was a sign to stay true to what I know is right: that love, kindness, and tolerance must never be sacrificed for the sake of being someone you think you ought to be. I must be vigilant in my protection of the self, to keep pure what remains of who I’ve always been, and to let it become a part of who I will always be."
What troubles me most about this experience, looking back on it, is that I still don't know how to respond or react to how that moment made me feel. It was very powerful. Thinking back on the memory is similar to thinking about a time as a child when I did something wrong and my Mom, Dad, or Oma gave me that bone chilling look of disappointment. And that hopeless feeling that there's nothing you can do to change what you've done, and you can only hope to be good enough for them in the future.
Like I said in the piece, I believe in signs, but I believe that they come from within. I'd love to hear some thoughts and ideas about what this could mean.
It would be especially comforting to hear that its all a bunch of nonsense and everything I saw was just a trick of the light... ah, to be atheist! What luxury!