WHAT IS GOD LIKE? It’s safer to say what he’s not. After all, if someone succeeded in writing a novel in French without using the letter e, it must be possible to write a theological treatise without adjectives. Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must do something anyway. But do what? Point with our fingers? The least I can do is to read, oddly enough, a theological poem.
I came to read John Paul II’s Roman Triptych, a book-length poetic meditation on a single image of God in the Sistine Chapel, out of an outmoded penchant, because I find it impossible to believe in a God who hasn’t been experienced right down to the marrow of one’s adjectives. It’s easier to say what God is not than what God is, yet we have a work like Roman Triptych, full of adjectives and bodily images. At the same time, I can’t deny that the faith of Christians in my native Poland, just like everywhere else in the West, is increasingly becoming an intellectual and ethical conviction, rather than a life which engages the whole person. A faith within the bounds of decency alone lazily swerves into a believing comprehended by an abstract reason somewhere beyond the human body, passions, and senses.
However abstract, this kind of faith is the concrete expression of contemporary religious practice, and therefore it has practical implications. Abstraction weakens our ability to believe in a personal God, in the reality of the sacraments, and in the efficacy of prayer, not to mention anachronisms such as miracles, the communion of saints, or even—God forbid—the resurrection. None of these dogmas can be reduced to the abstract level of syllogism: they are the intellectual consequences of religious experience. Without personal experience there is no point in believing; such belief would hardly differ from the rhetorical art of persuasion. If belief were only an intellectual game, there would be no sense in talking of paradise or purgatory, and belief in hell would become an indecency. Yet too often, in practice, we confess an impersonal absolute or an inexpressible sacred in order to distance ourselves from religious kitsch. We associate key concepts such as symbol, metaphor, image, and vision with something frivolous or irrelevant, something that may deserve respect, but not engagement. In the end such a faith becomes empty, although that doesn’t necessarily stop it from growing. Such a faith can become a bit like one of the enormous new churches in the suburbs of Krakow.
People used to worry that the visual traffic-jam of a baroque Catholic temple distracted the attention of the faithful from the crucial message of the liturgy, drawing the gaze from angel to angel instead of anchoring it on the altar. Yet in the new, sparsely decorated church in my neighborhood, people do not seem particularly attentive. They glance around as if they were looking for something. For angels? Or even for…? Nah. For how could a reasonable, modern person pray to the Renaissanced-out buttocks of the creator, or elevate his thoughts to the baroque and bloody wounds of Christ? In our faith-based intellectual salons, we only accept cleanly shaven mystics in designer suits. And yet I have the festering impression that this widespread apophatic faith is too much like a comfy government job: secure and undemanding.
Seeing is not just a game with images. It is a mode of being—and a mode of being truly human. To be more specific, seeing the good likens us to the creator. Thus, John Paul calls seeing an innate predisposition, a kind of eternal insatiability which directs our attention beyond our imperfections and infirmities. Can we say that seeing is synonymous with faith? Here I reopen a rusted-up Pandora’s Box: the ancient controversy between the iconoclasts and iconophiles.
It is impossible to believe without confessing. We confess by expressing, and we cannot express anything without using representation. Faith demands imagination. Without it, faith is only pre-faith, a state of yearning for the unhoped for, for the unexpected. Today’s postmodern phenomenologists of religion eagerly use the word desire, as if somehow to sweeten for us, and for themselves, this period of permanent depression after the death of God. The result is a vague yearning that replaces the call to a concrete hope with a comfortable sense of helplessness. Can we hope for anything we cannot imagine? Perhaps through a denial of concretization we want to suspend our commitment. For if God became something concrete for us, his precepts might start becoming clearer, and we’d have to do something about it.
It could be that things are even worse. Perhaps we do not look at him because we are afraid of his gaze. Like frightened children, we hope to hide by covering our eyes. But why do we worry? Could it be that in his image we would find our likeness? Might I find myself in his gaze, looking the way he would like to see me? Essentially, every image of God is a way of imagining human closeness to him: this hope for a closer encounter is the only one a Christian should demand from art. Karol Wojtyla, no stranger to creative work, summarizes his artistic manifesto in this way: “Art is not a path into the unconscious, but rather into greater consciousness; it opens man up to himself and makes him more human.” This is why he tells artists, “The church needs art…in order to better know what hides in man, in the man to whom it is supposed to preach the gospel.” Yes, we need images now, but our children will need them even more. Without images they won’t be able to talk about God.
In the meantime, the watering down of the image becomes the basis for justifying our blandness. A faith deprived of images does not fully disappear; instead it withdraws its trust, and in the end we cannot differentiate it from a fear of the unknown. By believing blindly, we believe poorly—not as a noble realization of the gospel virtue of poverty of spirit, but as a kind of insurance policy, with a guarantee of postmortem payment of indemnities for a lifelong disability. Not a lack of knowledge but a lack of courage paralyzes the modern religious imagination. We did not lose our courage through a single catastrophe; it was taken away piecemeal. Our inability to see images is part of an older problem.
Despite what the history books say, that ancient dispute was won by the iconoclasts. We have lost the ability to commune with images. We’ve been deprived of our ability to gaze trustingly, and it has been replaced by a distanced looking at pictures from which we expect nothing more than a glittering surface. We are able to grant the status of likeness to the Old Masters because we are comfortably separated from them by aesthetic, cultural, and institutional barriers. We can accept a dirty Christ in a painting by Caravaggio, knowing that a peasant farmhand posed for it, but who could make peace with a digital photograph arranged in the same way?
The iconoclasts’ diligent cleansing of the Christian imagination from naïve images will not bear fruit in a lasting ascesis. We cannot afford to jettison the imagination, because it is the sensitive spot into which God’s image stamps itself. It is a place that needs to be filled, like the blank walls of a Florentine chapel, a space that opens to God by being filled with images—frescoes with likenesses of the body, the means by which one person opens up to another. Not accidentally, John Paul’s theological-aesthetic treatise has a love scene woven into it. The imagination, like the skin, is sensitive, and like the mind it cannot endure a vacuum. Whether you like it or not, billboards and screens are ready to pounce upon the imagination. Its sensibility requires us to cover it actively, even if we do it weakly and diffidently.
But does our salvation really require all these images, metaphors, and symbols? Do they not expose something that should be invisible? The iconoclasts argue that since the sacred is deprived of an image that might address itself to our eyes, it cannot be seen, and so every attempt to show it leads us to project our own sensibilities upon it, to impose some kind of subjective (read: foreign, false, illegitimate) image. This, they argue, leads to dangers that are more than just theoretical. Such an image could easily gain control over that which it was supposed to represent. Like a dictator, it could manage to declare itself the absolute sovereign, a god in place of the true God. In other words, such an image would be yet another idol.
This line of reasoning was condemned by church councils as early as the eighth and ninth centuries, and there is no need to rehearse arguments here that can easily be found in textbooks. Since then, the controversy has transferred itself from monastery cells to parliaments and the street—where the iconoclasts have achieved a quiet, stealthy victory.
Apologizing for Visibility
Roman Triptych includes several sentences whose emotional temperature exceeds the contemplative quiet of the rest of the work. This sentence resounds categorically: “The book awaits an image.” Further on, we find words addressed to artists: “I call on all those who have seen throughout the ages.” And finally there is a deeply personal and substantial: “And it was good.” The poem is an unequivocal apology for visibility and a witness to art as a path to God. This homily at the “threshold of seeing” is another call to courage from the late pope to his frightened contemporaries. The concept of blind faith was forged by traitors, because Christianity among all religions is a uniquely unapologetic apology for visibility.
The Christian believes in a God who has revealed himself, and with his credo the Christian confesses, “I see you thus.” Nevertheless he believes in the one “the eye has not seen.” Not incidentally, God is best rendered within a dialogue, a dramatic scene in which two protagonists converse (I mean dialogue in the sense of a conciliar debate rather than academic controversy between professional philosophers in ivory towers). For centuries the interweaving of revelation with mystery formed the human bond with the creator; this was a dramatic relationship between persons, with periods of trust and periods when all contact seemed broken off. In this relationship, the sender discloses himself in an image created by the receiver, an image faithfully sketched in accordance with received inspiration. In such a dialogue, the receiver takes responsibility for the representation of the sender. The image of God as a person, when imprinted into a human being, allows us to hope that the unseen one wants to be encountered. Any person we encounter becomes someone for us, though we know that what we can describe about that person is not exhaustive, and that our imagination will never paint a comprehensive picture. An encounter with God works in the same way.
I am permitting myself this analogy in the knowledge that I am forcing upon the reader a certain style of language and am arbitrarily manipulating the reader’s associations. This arbitrariness is ineluctable, yet at the same time it calls us to hermeneutic responsibility. While speaking about mystery, the inexpressible, and revelation, we are forced to establish a language composed of metaphors which we treat as concepts, or even what we might call pre-sacraments. Metaphor, in its original Greek, means transference, and in our usage it is a transference of meaning from one semantic field to a different, distant one. What for? Figurative language is not another form of language, but rather our recording of our mutual experience. A metaphor does not hide or deform; we use it to fill out our used-up words. However, in order for that semantic miracle to take place, we must approach the process with trust. Otherwise the metaphor will remain an empty sign, a code morphed into an ornament. We use metaphors because we believe in the principle of likeness, and thus it is hard to get rid of the intuition expressed by John Paul that “according to this key the invisible is expressed in the visible.” By reading the “scripts of revelation,” which are everyday experience, the book which God addressed to man, and western literature and the arts, we draw upon metaphors which, when transubstantiated by our interpretations, become our daily bread.
A document of Vatican II puts it this way: “God wanted to reveal and express himself through revelation.” The one who reveals and expresses himself wants to be noticed, but not to satisfy our curiosity. He insists on making the contact that is the initial condition for a deep and lasting relationship. By decoding the images we have received, we will create a likeness. God presents himself, engaging us, demanding a counter-representation, while all the while he demands our independence, because he relates to a person who is his likeness. This self-presentation seems to say to Adam and the artist, “Who do you say that I am?”
That we create such an image seems not only possible, but something we owe to God. Turning to Peter (not exactly the most steadfast of disciples), the Son of Man treats him as an artist by entrusting him with a mission of witnessing, trusting in his attentive courage. By addressing himself to Peter’s innate ability to define the image of the son of God (“Who do you say that I am?”), he calls forth the creator in him.
Thus human creativity is an active acceptance of an invitation to cooperation. God, by revealing and expressing himself, invites man to co-create God’s image, while at the same time promising him an increasingly clear self-portrait. God thereby shows man more clearly what man’s likeness to the divine depends upon. The creative act is not only a faithful recording of the act of seeing, but also a response to inscrutability. The artist’s encounter with the world should bear fruit in wonder over its hidden genesis; the difficulty of creating is undertaken because the image is not yet fully seen, and it must come to light and become more precise. Everything begins with a calling that is something like a commission for a work of art: “The artist commits himself to a calling that comes from without, and surrenders himself without reserve to that which is inexpressible…. This is why we should consider art to be a path which leads to God.” These are not the words of a medieval theologian but of Wassily Kandinsky, considered one of the most revolutionary artists of modern Europe.
Of course, it is possible to be mistaken in one’s image of God. Faith, blind or enlightened, is in no way like an insurance policy. It is in the risk of creating that the artistic process is tied to the process of coming to know the subject. But I would hazard that it is better to imagine God badly than not at all. An error might bring a critical reaction, might provoke revisions, might become a stage on the road to excellence—whereas a lack of courage to try will lead to indifference. This leads me to the claim that rejecting the possibility of creating images is tantamount to rejecting the search for the image and likeness of God. It is a sin of indifference. Fear and narrow-mindedness are behind it. Rejection of the possibility of images is a sign of false humility and spiritual sloth; like any human vice, it can be translated into human weakness.
In the Likeness
As I read Roman Triptych, I see the late pope in front of Michelangelo’s painting. I also see Peter imitating the master, and in him I also see a theologian asking the artist, “Who do you say God is?” In these reflections, as in a mirror, I see the church inviting the arts to collaboration. I am deeply convinced of their mutual and necessary connection.
The necessity of this connection suggests itself to me not only through revelation, but by the means of revelation itself. God revealed himself like a work of art—in the scriptures and in the incarnation, which both have two similarities with works of art: they are simultaneously illuminating and inexplicable. Their semantic effect is like that of a masterwork: they provoke an endless hermeneutic. The sense of depth a masterpiece nurtures comes with a disturbing temptation to believe in some kind of transcendental archetype. The lasting hiddenness of the transcendent wakes in us the constant need to search for new ways of revealing it in our particular time and place. In other words, only an artificial creation of human effort and skill lets us see the fullest reality of creation.
This is why it seems to me that the unique status of the arts in the Christian sensibility comes from the fact that the arts represent religion. Or, put differently, art opens us up to the revealed word. “A world deprived of the arts,” writes John Paul, “would open itself up to faith with difficulty. It would be open to the risk of remaining distanced from God, as if it were dealing with an unknown God.” Only artistic creation has the full right to such representation. After all, no other sphere in that cloud of unknowing which is human spirituality fits our ability to believe and confess so well. Even logic, even the basic structures of mathematics, demand only objective proofs, whereas a work of art demands personal hermeneutic responsibility. The adjective religious compromises philosophy, doesn’t exactly fit theology, and caricatures the sciences. Only art, like man, can be religious. As John Paul writes, “This does not mean that only committed faith creates religious art; art in itself moves along paths similar to faith.” To put it more simply, artistic creation works in the likeness of faith. This likeness should, as the likeness of Adam to the creator, be understood as a calling to represent, as an ambassador represents a king or queen.
Without the arts, the religion of the revealed Word will lack a representative in the world of phenomena; it will not present itself and will live dimly. No other method of revealing it can substitute for metaphors and images. In them we come to know and confess the creator. To say that art represents religion also implies that we should not confuse the two. Their relation operates upon a hierarchical dependence and points to a distance between them which distinguishes the act of representation from the represented. It is precisely distance—of the mirror from the object, of the artist from the model—that allows us to see something new in a reflection or a painting.
By Human Hand
No one has seen God, says Saint Paul, but God reveals himself ceaselessly. Within an imagination and sensibility shaped by Christianity, the world appears to be a text. Which is to say (and this is crucial) it appears to be that way, but it is not. In texts and images fashioned by human hands, the world that appears is the world of those doing the describing. These descriptions, no matter how inspired, came to be through the use of the talents of the human intellect and for the use of other people.
What do I have in mind when I talk about these human talents of writing, painting, or dancing? This is how I see it: while creating a likeness, the artist discovers the meaning of his experience. He thereby witnesses (to others, but also to himself) to an encounter with something or someone which will be understood only at the end of that process, in the mirror of artistic creation. Then, the encounter will yet again be understood in the succeeding mirrors of the interpretations of this artifact, that is, this creation nestled within a tradition. Thus the creative act is a kind of textualization or visualization of that which we call reality, a reality whose presence constrains us to do so. The artist deals continually with this world—not some alternative or virtual one, but the world peopled both by the deaf and those who have ears to hear. In practice this means that we have to accept interpretation as the inborn essence of the human ability to respond creatively to what everyone can and does experience daily under the guise of reality.
Artistic activity seeks to make our interpretation of the real possible, rather than foisting an interpretation upon us. Art is not a rival of the creator, but rather a helper of the revealer. Creation took place as a value in itself, but revelation and incarnation occurred for man, with the expectation of a response from our side. A work of art understood in this way lets us come to know what we are experiencing; it lets us see what we’re looking at. As the things of this world become unveiled in this process, they emanate meaning. I should add that things seen artistically do not thereby lose their ordinary reality.
Why should we make all this effort to get beyond the veil of reality if we are looking for an image of the transcendent? We have to assume that not all likenesses of the sacred pertain to God as he is in himself; he does not so much remain unknowable as he is not of the world from which art comes. Therefore, the aim of the artistic search should be an image and likeness, which the creator wants to reveal to us—not elsewhere, but in the concrete here and now, in the present lasting moment. This reasoning leads us to a typically western postulate of a permanent artistic revolution which demands an unending variability of the likeness in succeeding visualizations. About God, just as about reality, we must speak continually. The truth of revelation cannot be codified like a mathematical equation. It has to be repeated continually and personally—until the end.
This triad of truth, reality, and personhood is the common basis of Christian thinking about revelation and of the western understanding of art. Creativity seems to be motivated by the constant tension between the impossibility of creating an adequate image of God and the uncertainty of seeing reality. These two weaknesses call the artist to battle. Yet perfectionism often deprives the artist of the courage to create. We are afraid of things of the imagination, because we are afraid of becoming trapped within their frames. We are afraid of being possessed by them. Yet that approach robs us of the older understanding of creativity as a trial. We are not interested in an endless tasting of bits and pieces, but in something more like an attempt to beat an athletic record, a test of strength, or an opening up to new tastes. If we treat each new image we create as another attempt at a likeness, we’ll rid ourselves of the fear of being trapped within a definitive representation.
I Believe, Therefore I See
No image or text that we acknowledge as a depiction of God is God in himself. We know him only as mediated by a representation—an old graybeard, or the starry skies. This mediation is significant—after all it opens up our vision—but no image, no art can show God directly. The represented God remains invisible. He will only be present in the likeness whose interpretive exploration becomes a path toward him. Art has been understood this way ever since we’ve learned to read the scriptures, thanks to the preparation given us by the Greek concept of mimesis.
Art needs to be trusted in itself because word and image call to the human ability to believe and see as the basis of all contact. There is no likeness of God without faith in him as he reveals himself in the image. On the other hand, it is impossible to believe without a prior faith in the representation. If in looking at a work of art I say “crucifixion” without believing in Christ, then at most I’ll see an image of a human body nailed to wooden beams, if not merely an interesting accumulation of colors. At the same time, if I do believe, I cannot ignore or bypass the work’s materiality, for looking into the depths of a painting does not mean looking through or beyond what is painted. Seeing an image (or a text, or a stage play) is a process that depends upon entering and exiting. It requires nearness and distance simultaneously. The perception of something (sacred or profane) in an image is possible only through the prism of meaning. This meaning is lodged, as it were, between the object and the viewer. It belongs as much to the artist and the artwork itself as to the interpreter looking on. Both sides continually construct a net of meaning. They negotiate and decide, using arguments from their experience and the cultural tradition. Thus, meaning is a kind of indispensable contact and contract. We might call it a covenant, or perhaps even a sacrament.
Why is it then that some do not see, even though they desire to see? Here is yet another stumbling block, a skandalon on our road to the image and likeness: our programmatic lack of engagement. The problem is that we are educated within a certain way of seeing art that’s been around for at least a century: critics and academics have fed us on skepticism. As a result, we are allowed to look at a painting, but we are not allowed to see anything in it.
This bookish faithlessness changes every representation into a “realization of a theme,” every nude becomes a portrait of a body and is immediately suspected of pornographic intentions. Academic circles do not tell us to believe in a painting, instead they tell us to delight in it. Proud of our ability to disenchant, we still allow ourselves a bit of sensual pleasure, and so through criticism we justify voyeurism. Even the artists, students of those same schools, are not free from the temptation to put themselves in brackets, to close themselves off in a safe playfulness.
If the postmodern citizen of the global village is taught to treat art as a frivolous game for intellectual slackers, then we cannot expect him to turn to the artist with a serious question like, “How do you imagine the resurrection?” We cannot have substantial religious art without a substantial trust in art itself. There will be no gifted artists capable of taking up such an immense calling if the margins of society are the only places reserved for them. The artist has not only the right to take pride in his calling, but also the responsibility to take himself seriously enough that we will trust him on important matters. In practice this means that the visualization of the sacred cannot take place without a serious look at the world, one that will turn our attention to what is important. The feeling for what’s important, for first things first, is one of the most basic conditions for recognizing that we are in the presence of the sacred.
Why do artists remain on the sidelines of culture? Are they afraid of their own weaknesses, or do their brethren not trust them? It’s hard to blame either side. Artists are pushed to the margins of the public square, and at the same time they flee it. It’s unfortunate that no pastor seeks them out….
Well, maybe one did. The late pope did not start bringing out the artists in us suddenly. He always reminded us that the church needs artists precisely as artists, rather than as executors of commissions. The emancipation of art is not an obstacle to understanding. On the contrary, only in its pride and independence does art deserve to participate in the creation of an image in a dialogue about God. The artist forms his mirror with the hope that something or someone will leave a reflection in it. This stance requires freedom and honesty from the artist, who must be on guard against the temptation to paint over the mirror with an advertisement or a self-portrait.
Paradoxically, art is authentic only when it is self-serving; only by serving art does the artist stand a chance of becoming a humble servant of the true image, instead of the slave of an idol. In his poem, the artist-pope stops at the threshold of the Sistine Chapel to admire the work of an artistic master, not an illustration in a biblical comic book. Michelangelo had the courage to answer the questions of his time. He answered the most important ones, about the Alpha and Omega, with his own images, rather than old ecclesiastical ones. He did this not because he felt he was a competent theologian, but because he knew he was a great artist. He was one of those who have the right and responsibility to till the furrows of the collective consciousness in order to cultivate a sensitive spot ready to receive the image.
These days, artists are allowed to do anything, so long as they don’t interfere in the discussion of democratically elected representatives of the majority. An artist’s pride should come from the art leaning against the studio wall behind him. Behind the postmodern artist there stands nothing, but in front of him stands a mirror reflecting what is past and the artist himself. Yet the church isn’t blameless either. In western Europe it has surgically removed itself from public debate, and seems to shelter religion as the only thing left to it. This includes sheltering religion from the interference of artists, who admittedly rarely seem interested in interfering. Thus capricious art will never get along with bureaucratized theology if the former treats images as a private escape and the latter sees the image as its own internal affair. The church-art relationship is weakened by avoidance of direct discussion, which is replaced by categorical gestures of approval or disapproval. Throughout the ages the priest has argued with the artist. They argued venomously in days past, but with results. Maybe back then they both felt that through their human pettiness they were called to represent something greater than themselves.
My Recent Road Trip
The image of God which we can look at and are called to create is contained within a picture of reality, our reality, which we should unveil. This is the credo of western iconophiles. In some sense we do need to part ways with our eastern brethren, for there is a basic difference between Roman and Byzantine religious art. The first, permanently aware of its imperfections, learns its image of God from the world in the conviction that no one but God created the world, and that he did not reveal himself to other beings but to humans. We see him as he shows himself here and now. The Byzantine approach to art, on the other hand, sees the church as guardian and repository of a treasure, of the true image and likeness, and cultivates this treasure in the conviction that attention and effort will allow us to see it more clearly.
Looking at a book of western paintings, I see sudden spurts and renewals of effort. Looking at icons, I see a process of slow, steady toil. Our ability to look and believe is stretched between these two poles. A Greek icon gives me the impression that God wants the artist to listen to him carefully and not intrude on the Word with his chatter, because God has something important to say; a Latin painting gives me the feeling that God asks the painter for a creative, individual, serious response to some important question. Perhaps that’s why eastern icons have an atmosphere of gravity, a feeling that we have in front of us an anonymous work that is shouldering something heavy. On the other hand, a western painting has an aura of adventure: it is a particular person’s attempt to lift a heavy load.
I once visited an immense and beautiful Turkish mosque. My gaze was drawn to the walls, which were filled with interweaving lines, a refined ornament in which I could find nothing, although the conviction (maybe false) never left me that there should have been something there. My eye raced through the emptiness, bouncing from wall to wall in a growing panic like a crazed rubber ball. Anxiety overtook me. I felt left out, rejected. I felt that the one who revealed himself through the mosque was closing me up within that place, condemning me to that particular here and now. I had the impression that he was flaunting his invisibility as something he had over and against me.
A few days later I went into a tiny and dark Greek Orthodox church. There I felt an intense sense of presence. The icons seemed to gaze upon me with his gaze, and on them were the faces of Christ and the saints. Yet he didn’t seem so much to gaze upon me as observe me from on high. I found myself in a subordinate position, lowered (though, alas, not humble) in relation to him. My appointed place is under his icon. Perhaps my lack of humility comes from my particularly Latin pride of independence, or maybe it’s because I’m used to standing face to face with his image. But this low position, truth be told, gave me a feeling of strength. It is a calling to meet his demands, to change myself under his gaze, but at the same time it discourages me from self-sufficiency. No, I dare not approach him there.
Then, on my return to the north, I entered a baroque church in an Alpine village. My first impression was of the heaviness of the immense gilded frames, their canvases gleaming with oils. Yet all you need is to approach them, adjust your eyes to the dimness of the church’s interior, and look again.
Look at what?
I never thought to ask the icon this question, but this painting wants to be recognized. And I recognize. It’s as if I already know it, as if that which is in the painting came from beyond it, but not permanently, just for a moment. I have the impression that little angels are flying through the canvas and Christ is looking into the interior, the depths. The temple remains open, and all the saints have come here like actors, itching to put on a show for me. Similar to me in their human passions, but at the same time always-already different, changed into dramatis personae. They stand before me like ambassadors representing a kingdom not of this world. If they could do it, why not me?
Translated by Artur Rosman