A poet of our time whose work has achieved highest recognition wrote as his belief the pitiless words: “Only the people who need God, seek him. Whoever does not need him, does not seek him. Even whoever calculates about him, needs him.”
Only the people who need God, seek him... Is that so? Is God, however one perceives him, a God of the burdened and of those despairing of life, a deception that we ourselves cleverly invented in order to deal with a world that, as it is, does not satisfy us? Is prayer always just a requesting, an act of comfort or of our impotence? Many pray in order to request, many pray in order to be comforted - but the God of comfort is not ours.
When we affirm the statement: “God lives only in proud hearts”, then we mean a different God than the comforting one, or at least a different way of association with him: we mean that God and courage and strength seriously belong together, and that hence even those men pursue God who do not need him, leastwise not out of fear.
It would be conceivable that a young man, after he has, together with a handful of men, bravely defended himself against a superior enemy force and in a manly manner held out in the most bitter hours between life and death, that such a man, after he had survived the danger, would squeeze his feeling into some kind of shout, yes, that he would curse! It is nonetheless to be presumed that he prays. And indeed in a very ardent and passionate manner. We are not so much moved by whether or what the man might be able to say - we are moved because the man, in the highest moments, is amazed at life as an ever greater, yet inscrutable, totality, and that this amazement, far removed from weakening or lowering the man, only then actually confirms him as part of a final, mighty fate. The man elevates himself beyond all that is only visible, tangible, practical; he elevates himself beyond all individual things and advances to the consciousness of the world, that secretive experience into we find ourselves born and from which we are tom by death, unasked, when the time comes. It is the might and greatness of man, however, that he, born without will, does not live through his existence arbitrarily, rather since the earliest years already and then ever more daringly faces this his existence as a seeker, what thirty, sixty, ninety years of life actually want and what this is: loyalty, love, comradeship, courage.
It is mankind’s mercy and curse, that to this hour nobody has found a concise answer for such thoughts and nobody may find it. God is not an “x” that could be precisely calculated with full certainly from some kind of equations; for us humans he is not a fact, rather a question, and to again and again pose this question, to again and again become aware of the conditionality of our existence, without tiring from it, that appears to us to be for the intellect the most beautiful and most fertile courage that can be imaged.
It does not mean much, to live. Everything born passes the short span until death and struggles for food and drink. But to step out from the spell of life, to freely affirm or reject it, that is the pride and nobility of our humanity; through this nobility and through this pride we first become the men. No point is set for thought where it must forever end; wonderfully fit and firm remains each person who carries within his heart the daring for a healthy, joyful world-feeling and god-feeling. How should he ever become bourgeois, small, low? There is a measure of things to which he must again and again stretch up and fight up: It is not him, rather the all of creation, as wide and as deep as it only appears to men.
We require an elevation and admit it straight out, that we require it, namely the elevation out of the all too stubborn and the all too prejudiced. We want to be uneasy and we want to be dissatisfied, as if we would indeed someday learn the secret of the clouds and seas, the secret of life, manifold a hundred- thousand times and a million-times. We ask the stars who placed them in the wonderful game of their fall and rise, and we ask the water to what distance and depth it wishes wants to escape us. We are stout-hearted enough not to flee from the eternal whence and wither, and we accept no ever so thorough account of nature as a sufficient interpretation of its foundation.
No amazement at the depth of the world should alienate us from the facts, not even from the struggle for bare existence; we want to become neither contemplative natures nor divided men, rather take up life with a free voice, the daily and often so bitter life as well as the transfiguring and purpose-giving. The God in whom we have trust corresponds to our hearts; he is our own heart in its world-open and world-affirming hours.
God lives in us, because we have set out to penetrate his world with the spirit of strength and to usurp it. Does it not, however, require a wonderful pride and an upright courage to set about such a conquest of world and God; does it not require also a noble steadfastness and reflection, to hold one’s own as a man before tremendous God?
We praise God and his world-creation more believably, the more proud, the more confident we appear in it. The laughing eye, the quickness of stride, a soul that can genuinely enjoy and elevate itself, genuine youth, genuine manliness, perseverance, love, comradeship, those are God’s banner-bearers. And here we join again with the spirit of the poet from which we started, who concluded the affirmation of his poet-faith with the words that bind us all: “Man, however, should carry the divine into the world!”