Sometimes art explains the secular/ sacred divide better. Here is a poem by Scott Cairns (from the January 2009 issue of Poetry) (An eremite is a religious hermit who lives very simply and alone, often in a cave):
BY SCOTT CAIRNS
The cave itself is pleasantly austere,
with little clutter—nothing save
a narrow slab, a threadbare woolen wrap,
and in the chipped-out recess here
three sooty icons lit by oil lamp.
Just beyond the dim cave's aperture,
a blackened kettle rests among the coals,
whereby, each afternoon, a grip
of wild greens is boiled to a tender mess.
The eremite lies prostrate near two
books—a gospel and the Syrian's
collected prose—whose pages turn
assisted by the breeze. Besides the thread
of wood smoke rising from the coals,
no other motion takes the eye. The old
man's face is pressed into the earth,
his body stretched as if to reach ahead.
The pot boils dry. He feeds on what
we do not see, and may be satisfied.
© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.