The Spiritual Life of An Atheist

April 24, 2011

Spiritual Life of An Atheist: Celebrating the Life Cycle

We’re a month into Spring and children are searching out dyed eggs in backyards today.  That’s fun, whatever your stance on Jesus’s resurrection or Eostre, the Saxon’s Great Mother Goddess.  Who doesn’t love longer, warmer days, budding roses, scents of jasmine, or a toddler with a too-large-basket on a treasure hunt?

Life is a cycle of birth, maturing, demise, and renewal.  Easter, with its life-cycle theme, brings to my mind William Cullen Bryant’s “Thanatopsis”–which, in an earlier age of decent public education, I was taught in 10th grade and have never forgotten.  Bryant wrote “Thanatopsis” sometime around 1811 when in his late teens. 

Some of the lines that move me the most are:  

. . .Earth that nourish’d thee, shall claim
Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,
And, lost each human trace, surrendering up
Thine individual being, shalt thou go
To mix for ever with the elements,
To be a brother to the insensible rock,
And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain
Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak
Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould . . .

So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan which moves
To that mysterious realm where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged by his dungeon; but, sustain’d and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

The complete poem is at http://www.poetry-archive.com/b/thanatopsis.html.

copyright 2011 by S. Anne Johnson

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