High Noon Atheist

My spiritual crisis is usually a “bright day of the soul” rather than the “dark night of the soul” described so well by St. John of the Cross. It comes at noon in the dry days of August or early September. We have had a hot and dry end to the summer in Myrtle Point. We have had days without a cloud in the pale blue sky. At noon even the crows and jays are quiet. The grasshoppers are still too until my steps in the dry grass open their wings.

In this dry silence, I wonder if this is all there is: light, hard surfaces, matter. What if the hard material world explained by physics is all there is? What if there is no spirit in me—just tissue. And no spirit in or beyond the world—just matter and energy forever. The thought invites relief. I could cease striving and know there is no God. Yes, it makes all meaningless. But it would bring a rest from trying to make sense of God, suffering, and Scripture.

In these moments, the silence of an August noon can feel like the silence of the cosmos. I look over the edge of a bright and sunny abyss. My spiritual vertigo fades as the sun sets and the day cools. Shadows begin to reclaim the land as the sun angles green through the forests. The green radiance of the filtered sun sings in the trees.

Autumn brings the shadows sooner and the alders, maples, and poison oak streak the evergreens with red and yellow. The cooler, damper mornings bring the smell of fallen leaves and musky blend of smoke and decay. Mortality and change are everywhere. Eternity is closer, no matter what the reports from the doctor say.

I sometimes think that as I hang my chin over the edge and stare into the abyss, there is someone beside me. Perhaps God, looking with me. He says, “It is a long way down!” I say, “Yep. Let’s go home.” And we rise.

About Mark

I live in Myrtle Point, Oregon with my wife Teckla and am the father of four boys. Currently I teach writing and literature at Southwest Oregon Community College. I am a graduate of Myrtle Point High School, Northwest Nazarene College, and have a Masters in English from Washington State University.
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