Risking the Sacred – an essay by Tim Miller

Originally posted on Amethyst Review:
RISKING THE SACRED Many years ago now, while living in California, I was sitting in a mostly-empty university library, surprised to find a literary manifesto in a fairly prominent US magazine. Seeing almost immediately that it was just a lot of posturing and attitude, I gave up. Turning, I saw that behind me on a shelf was a set of books, Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, an area of history whose religion and mythology—from Egypt to Mesopotamia and early Judaism—had always held my interest. I gladly pulled the first volume off the shelf, and put the magazine aside. Up until now, hindsight always made this the moment when I chose an interest in “the sacred in literature” over the much larger net of “literature” itself. But just as the order and meaning derived from religion is often used to oppose the random cruelty of everyday life, I’ve spent more than a decade writing a short book that seeks to deny this characterization and unite the religion and everyday life. I’ve also never bought the argument that science and religion are necessarily opposed to one another. So why would I have continued so long loving the rift (for lack of a better phrase) between sacred and secular literature? The first answer is because it was helpful. Any bold attempt to carve out an identity or a boundary for oneself, even if it is not technically…

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