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‘I become unstoppable, obsessed with a subject and that’s what I do,’ Barbara Ehrenreich. (Stephen Voss)
‘I become unstoppable, obsessed with a subject and that’s what I do,’ Barbara Ehrenreich. (Stephen Voss)

What happens when an atheist sees God? Add to ...

But there is one image, handed down over the centuries, that seems to apply, and that is the image of fire, as in the “burning bush.” At some point in my predawn walk – not at the top of a hill or the exact moment of sunrise, but in its own good time – the world flamed into life. How else to describe it? There were no visions, no prophetic voices or visits by totemic animals, just this blazing everywhere. Something poured into me and I poured into it. This was not the passive beatific merger with “the All,” as promised by the Eastern mystics. It was a furious encounter with a living substance that was coming at me through all things at once, and one reason for the terrible wordlessness of the experiences is that you cannot observe fire really closely without becoming part of it. Whether you start as a twig or a gorgeous tapestry, you will be recruited into the flame and made indistinguishable from the rest of the blaze.

I stopped at some point in front of a secondhand store, transfixed by the blinding glow of the most mundane objects, teacups and toasters. I could not contain it, this onrush: The dream in my uncle’s house had been right about that. Nothing could contain it. Everywhere, “inside” and out, the only condition was overflow. “Ecstasy” would be the word for this, but only if you are willing to acknowledge that ecstasy does not occupy the same spectrum as happiness or euphoria, that it participates in the anguish of loss and can resemble an outbreak of violence.

From Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth about Everything

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