becoming a self in history, becoming a self in my street

Monika Schneider

Monika was brought up in Germany. When she was fifteen her father died of cancer. Until then she had had a lively spiritual life. For her, God had been someone with whom she could talk as a friend. The unfairness of the death of her kind and loving father left her spiritual life shattered. Longing to find another expression for her idealism she became involved with politics. Eventually she joined the Communist Party where she became a youth leader. She was then sent to Russia to learn more about this role in order to make her work in the West more effective. At this time in her life she believed in world revolution and in the justification of violence in achieving it. The young revolutionaries training in Russia knew that with such heavy responsibilities to shoulder, they were not expected to enter into personal relationships during the course. However, while she was there she fell in love with a man from Nicaragua. Despite the disapproval of her superiors, she decided to follow him to Central America when they had completed their training.

One evening she and her lover were sitting together in the square, talking. The young man began to speak of his attitude to the U.S. soldiers who were preparing to invade his country. He spoke of the pleasure he would have in killing his enemies. Monika sees this time as the beginning of a shift in consciousness which would have a huge effect on how she then went on to live her life. Listening to her beloved, she realized in her deepest heart that she couldn't feel the same way. Far from agreeing with him, she was horrified by his words. Her abstract ideals seemed inhuman in the face of reality. The enemy soldiers couldn’t be dismissed so easily. They were people, each with a life story as complex as her own. Her previous belief in the justification of violence began to waver. To allow these feelings to live and blossom in her inner life took a lot of courage. It meant acknowledging that everything she was now involved with had not after all provided the answers she needed. She had lost her ground when she lost faith in her Christian God, and she would eventually have to acknowledge that this conversation revealed the flaws in what had become her new faith.

Monika's life did not suddenly change as a result of this moment. However, by giving her doubts and her pain space, she came to new insights which led to her leaving the Communist Party, thereby losing her whole social network and value system. She was left with nothing but the wish to combine a sense of responsibility and meaning. She wanted to find a way to live where there could be a creative and transforming engagement with the challenges of both personal and social life. She wanted to find an alternative to the polarity of good and bad, rich and poor; to be inclusive in the deepest sense. It was allowing everything to fall away that prepared the ground for the next part of her life. The process of letting go and being open still remains the ground from which she tries to live and is probably the only certainty she has in her life. Monika has since become a priest in The Christian Community. Outwardly she has no connection with her former lover from Nicaragua, though he has a place in the landscape of her soul that remains a question. Their connection had a deep impact on her life in her youth and there still remains a tender, unresolved wondering as to what has become of him since, as well as a question as to whether they will ever meet again.