Called to climb heaven

Just for once, get out of the permanent conflicts and controversies that always come to peak so quickly and get emotionally charged: Me or you, right or wrong, truth or lie, attack or defense, power or powerlessness, victory or defeat. Always only either-or.

That’s the moment when it helps to take a break. To step out. To withdraw for a moment. To create distance. To gain an overview. Maybe just a few steps upwards. Like the climber of heaven. Not raptured yet. No feeling of freedom above the clouds, leaving everything behind. No escape. But a new perspective in which I look at myself and my counterpart. In the hope of arriving back at the bottom with new possibilities of perception and action and being able to enter into the confrontation in a changed way.

Nothing is gained with arrogance and devaluation

However, a self-critical impulse arises in me at this point. If I only use the position to look down from above, nothing would be gained for the argument. The conflict would only have shifted from the horizontal to the vertical and would have intensified emotionally because feelings of inferiority and superiority would have been additionally fueled. Who wants to feel treated down and belittled.

If I interpret the climber of heaven as a religious symbol, the conflict potential of religions become visible. If I claim the religious perspective from above for myself alone, the conflict situation is intensified by a dangerous dimension. With God on my side, every means seems to be justified in the controversial dispute. A corresponding trail of violence runs through the history of religions right up to the present time. And even where violence is consciously renounced, this basic attitude is accompanied by arrogance and devaluation of the other person.

The same dignity of heaven for all

A different perspective arises if I assert the religious world view in the same way for both of us. This can be illustrated by a striking example: In a Christian worldview, all human beings are images of God. All have the same dignity of heaven. This view puts me on the same level as my opponent and introduces a new logic into the relationship. No longer only either-or, but also both-as well. It is as if the dimension of heaven, as a connecting, as well as a separating element, moves between us and thus expands the space and stretches it into a triangle.

This creates distance without skewing from above and below. This opens space to not only insist on a position in disputes, but to move. To look at oneself as well as at the others with understanding. To discover common ground in addition to differences, without minimizing the differences. This does not guarantee that every conflict will be resolved amicably. But it offers a space to respectfully struggle with each other for possible compromises without having to lose face or even more.

Whoever looks at the opponent, looks into the face of  God. The dignity of man is inviolable. Because every human being is called to be a climber of heaven.

Philipp Elhaus