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The Secular-Sacred Divide

doi: 10.1097/01.COT.0000358144.99185.f6

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):

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The Eremite


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.
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