From Eternity to Five-Year Plans
In 1882, four years before her death, Emily Dickinson would write from her splendid isolation in Amherst, Massachusetts:
Knew where they went—
They went to God's Right Hand—
That Hand is amputated now
And God cannot be found—1
Dickinson, who thought of herself as given to “Sweet Skepticism” whenever she chose not to call herself a Druid, Cynic, or Hermetic, thus expressed her awareness of living in a “now” quite different from some “then,” when God and his eternity could be taken for granted. Belief had been replaced by doubt and a distrust of anything the senses cannot confirm. A mere thirty-five miles from the spot where Jonathan Edwards had delivered his infamous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” one hundred forty one years earlier, Emily Dickinson could say:
Death is a dialogue between
The spirit and the dust.
“Dissolve,” says Death. The Spirit, “Sir,
I have another trust.”
Death doubts it, argues from the ground.
The Spirit turns away,
Just laying off, for evidence,
An overcoat of clay.2