Almost everything in this world seems to tell us: give up this spiritual thirst, renounce it and you will be full and satisfied, healthy and happy. "Just be satisfied with your life, be meek and mild ... " wrote Alexander Btok (1880 - 1921) in one of his darkest poems at this century's dawn. And sure enough, complete ideologies have sprung up, based on the rejection and renunciation of spiritual thirst, on hatred toward it-ideologies striving with all their might to get us to suppress within ourselves the very source of this thirst, to admit its delusion and self-deception, and then to join in building a life now purified of all searching whatsoever. If anything sets apart our 20th century from all previous centuries-fundamentally and not just on the surface-then above all it is the extreme sharpening of two opposing, antithetical understandings of human life and of man himself. One view affirms that man is man precisely because of the spiritual thirst within him, a searching, a restlessness for transcendence. For the other, man begins his human destiny only after having killed this thirst. In this battle everything else, all that is occurring in the contemporary world, is ultimately secondary. For everything else flows from the depths of this primary question: politics, economics. culture, everything people argue about so passionately, and in the name of which they fight each other.
Thus, whether we like it or not, whether we realize it or not, the religious question is at the heart and very centre of contemporary life. For religion, by its very nature, is in fact the sign and presence in this world of spiritual thirst.
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