Wednesday, January 18, 2012

But Here God Didn't Come

Mandelbaum: My God. Please God... Help me find a piece of string and a shoe that fits!
Vladek: But here God didn't come. We were all on our own.
- Maus
by Art Spiegelman

Sometimes it's easy to find God in the storm. Sometimes we can clearly see evidence of God's hands at work even as our world comes crumbling down around us. But sometimes the valley is so deep that we find no bottom and as the darkness swallows us up we cry out to God for mercy. For some unexplained reason, though, God is not there.

From my thesis:
...[T]ragic, real world occurrences inspired Art Spiegelman to write his Pulitzer winning graphic memoir Maus. Spiegelman wrote Maus primarily as a memoir of his father's harrowing experiences during the Holocaust. As a reader, I thought Maus would be filled with reflections on God and how he could let such evil happen, especially to his own chosen people. For someone expecting and searching for such insights, the silence about God in Maus is deafening.
In a rare mention of the Divine, Art's father, Vladek, recounts how, while he was in Auschwitz, a fellow prisoner named Mandelbaum begged God for shoes. Vladek, coldly summarizing his understanding of the circumstances, says, “But here God didn't come. We were all on our own.” Instead of relying on God, Vladek finds his own way to survive the concentration camp. By his own cunning, he is able to secure a pair of shoes for a very grateful Mandelbaum, who insists that God has preformed a miracle through Vladek. Vladek does not share this sentiment, especially when guards take Mandelbaum away just a few days later. He is never seen again. If God did perform a miracle here, it lasted very shortly.
Maus presents the Holocaust as a purely human affair. Spiegelman manages this message with some irony since he depicts the characters as cats and mice. But humankind did this to itself, and anyone who wishes to survive must do so by their own skill and luck. Crying out to God will serve no purpose, for God simply is not there.
Unlike (Will Eisner's) A Contract with God, Maus does not blame God or ask why this horrible situation occurred. This story does not even ask where God is, but states simply and factually (at least, according to Vladek's view) that God is not there with them. I initially expected Spiegelman's work to be ripe with theological speculation and reflection. The opposite proved true and, whether intentionally or not on Spiegelman's part, this lack of God forced me, as a reader, to provide my own reflections. Sometimes the absence of God results in the most potent theology.
During this bout with my own personal struggles and situation, I began doubting the existence of God. But, since I am who I am*, I was very self-critical of this doubt. I reasoned that no, I did not doubt. I still believed in God. I just didn't want to. I didn't want to feel this horrible, this depressed, this miserable, and still believe in a good and loving God.

My present circumstances do not reflect this belief. And this gets to the core of theodicy and the problem of evil. The reality of the world we live in does not reflect our belief in and understanding of God. So we try to reconcile a fallen world with a loving God. We inevitably fail at such reconciliation and the problem remains unsolved.

This is my current crisis of faith.

I've never told anyone that before.

*No pun intended (See Exodus 3:13-14).
Okay, that's actually kind of funny.


No comments:

Post a Comment