**click artwork to enlarge**
(oil & collage painting on canvas, 16X20, 2009)
"Finding my religion"
For the majority of the kids growing up in the Soviet Union meant growing up without a religion, (not counting Marxism-Leninism). Quite a few Soviet citizens still celebrated Christmas and Easter. Not in the 'lets-go-to-church' kind of way, but more in the "lets-have-a-secular-family-celebration" way. Naturally, as a child I had no idea these holidays were anything more than opportunities to chow down on some awesome traditional food. I was finally baptized when I was twelve, just as the Soviet Union started falling apart and nobody would fire you anymore for going to church. Although, raised an atheist until then, I've always had a feeling there was something greater than a random string of coincidences guiding me through life. I sensed a connection to something greater without being able to identify or define it. I also used to notice signs (from above?) I felt were meant just for me.
Despite the years of being told that the Higher power does not and cannot exist, as a child I've never doubted my purely intuitive knowledge of its presence. I had my doubts about its existence later on in life, but somehow I've never doubted it as a kid. It's difficult for a modern educated grown-up to embrace a notion that there is an omnipotent all-knowing entity that can influence his/her life whichever way it pleases. When things don't go your way or you loose somebody close to you it's not easy to believe in God who is loving and kind. Traditional religious explanations for such occurrences can hardly satisfy a rational mind and taking a leap of intellect is much harder to take than a leap of faith.
I've almost lost my faith a few times. These were the times I felt lonely, and abandoned. I didn't realize that I was the one who chose to disconnect myself from the universe and to disregard what it was telling me. Not the other way around. Every time I would allow myself to believe once again that life is not as straightforward as it would seem for a non-believer, my surroundings would magically transform into a world full of metaphysical energy, of love and of secret messages meant just for me.
I'm fully aware that my beliefs don't exactly come across as traditionally Christian, but I consider the Christian philosophy the closest to my way of life. I love, I embrace, I don't harm, I don't worship false idols (read: celebrities), and I pray for others when I think they need it. The only thing I don't do is praying for myself, unless I'm in a serious pickle. As Orson Welles put it: "I don't want to bore God." I simply find comfort in knowing that there is someone watching over me and I try to live my life so that I don't disappoint whomever it is.
"When we talk to God we are praying; when God talks to us, we are schizophrenic."
"We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart."