Q: In your essay on Psalm Eight in The Death of Adam you wrote, “So I have spent my life watching, not to see beyond the world, merely to see, great mystery, what is plainly before my eyes.” I think it’s very central to appreciating what you’ve been doing in your work.and
A: Well, yes. I read things like theology, and I read about science, Scientific American and publications like that, because they stimulate again and again my sense of the almost arbitrary given-ness of experience, the fact that nothing can be taken for granted. Everything is intrinsically mysterious as a physical object, say, or as a phenomenon of culture, or as an artifact of the history that lies behind it. I’ve always been almost offended by the idea of mysticism, because it seems as if it diminishes what we know by every means that gives us access to it – it diminishes the simple spectacle of what we are and where we are, the complex spectacle, I should probably have said. I think probably one of the important things that happened to me was growing up in Idaho in the mountains, in the woods, and having a very strong presence of the wilderness around me. That never felt like emptiness. It always felt like presence. I never had the experience of banality, as it were. It always seemed as if there was something extraordinary around me, and I think that probably has done as much to form my mind as anything could have done.
Q: Lots of people have called what it is I think you’re talking about as seeing the sacramental. Is that what it is? That in everything you see there is a quality of the holy?
A: Well, yes, in the sense that I certainly think that the holy is at the origins of everything that exists, everything, and so necessarily that’s true. I mean, there’s a sense in which it’s a signature act, you know, the beauty of it, the scale of it, the intricacy of it, all that. It’s not as if holiness were something super-added to things, and that’s why I hesitate a little bit over the word “sacramental,” because there can be an implication that an unsanctified reality exists, as if there is any kind of unholy reality. I think that one of the meanings of Christianity, of the Crucifixion, is that the holy can be unvalued, abused. There’s no question about that. A great deal that you see in the world is the abuse of the sacred. But the intrinsic sacredness is invariable, is a constant.
I really think if I had to say that religion depends on one thing, putting religion categorically, you know, we have to think that people are sacred. Human beings have to be considered sacred. That’s the beginning, and then anything that, it seems to me that, really departs from that, that conditions people to part from it in their thinking, I think, is antagonistic to religious life.(via The Literary Saloon)