Living with a Wild God

Living with a Wild God

“Try inserting an account of a mystical experience into a conversation, and you’ll likely get the same response as you would if you confided that you had been the victim of an alien abduction,”

Barbara Ehrenreich, Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth about Everything

The first time I met Barbara Ehrenreich was when I read “Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking is Undermining America.” (Which reminds me, I must write a review on that book)  While the meeting wasn’t face-to-face and it is unlikely that we will have a conversation over coffee, Bright-sided gave me insight into her brilliant mind.

Barbara Ehrenreich is candid and determined to have honest dialogues that challenge the status quo. For someone who questions the idea of positive thinking, she embraces joy.

“I have a big foot in the joy camp.” Barbara Ehrenreich

“Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth About Everything,” published in 2014 is her latest exploration into the unknowable. To be clear, Ms. Ehrenreich is an atheist and a skeptic.  Her response: “Why ‘revere’ the unknowable?  Why not find out what it is?”

Living with a Wild God, is as close to an autobiography as most would define the term.  Ms. Ehrenreich does not hold back in her frank retrospective.  The good and bad, are recounted in a forthright manner, including the mystical experience she had as a young girl.

Ms. Ehrenreich is highly intelligent, which is not surprising given that her father, a scientist, was endowed with a genius I.Q and photographic memory. With a PH.D. in cellular immunology, she took on the challenges of life, which were, at times, intensely difficult.

So, what happened on the pre-dawn walk in Lone Pine, California?  The reader is never quite certain. All we are told: “There were no visions, no prophetic voices or visits by totemic animals, just this blazing everywhere. Something poured into me, and I poured out into it.”  Here is where it becomes interesting. Ms. Ehrenreich is not certain of what happened either. Now, as an older woman, she looks back to explore the meaning of an event that remains vivid decades after its occurrence.

Perhaps the passage of time endows humanity with a greater capacity for understanding.   Is it possible that age allows freedom to accept there may be undiscovered possibilities?

My greatest takeaway from Living with a Wild God was logic, sound reasoning and yes, skepticism are essential to human endeavour; that searching and questioning enable us to move forward, to come face to face with the unknowable.

“You can and should use logic and reason all you want. But it would be a great mistake to ignore the stray bit of data that doesn’t fit into your preconceived theories, that may even confound everything you thought you were sure of.”

Barbara Ehrenreich, Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth about Everything



    • Barbara Ehrenreich will challenge you. When I first started Bright-sided I had to put it down for a time. She made me think – and that is a good thing. I don’t agree with everything she writes, but that isn’t the point. She wants the dialogue – that’s what I like about her writing. Thanks for the comments. Sunshine in Vancouver today, but see that snow is coming our way again. Getting out my woolen hat!

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    • I agree wholeheartedly. Our ability to read and write has, in my opinion, been the greatest boon to humanity. We are able to transfer knowledge and information over centuries, tell our stories, and gain a greater understanding of our place within the universe. My favorite quote about reading is from dear Dr. Seuss:

      “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that your learn, the more places you’ll go.”


    • I agree – very interesting. There has never been a easy connection between science and faith. I enjoyed Barbara’s refreshingly honest approach to this issue. This mystical experience changed her life, gave her a compassion for others. Over the years, she worked tirelessly for positive outcomes for all. Thank you so much for your comments and your visit.

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    • I agree wholeheartedly. The story of humanity throughout the centuries has demonstrated that faith, which comes in many forms, has been a constant companion. We only have to look at our mythologies to recognize our need to seek out the unknowable. We may live in an finite existence, however we recognize the possibility of the infinite.

      I especially like the way J.R.R. Tolkien writes about this topic:

      ““After all, I believe that legends and myths are largely made of ‘truth’, and indeed present aspects of it that can only be received in this mode; and long ago certain truths and modes of this kind were discovered and must always reappear.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

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    • That is the most powerful combination of all! I checked out the definition of “open mind.” Embedded in the meaning: an open minded person considers and is willing to accept new ideas. A benchmark for me to consider next time I argue a position with zeal and passion. I will listen with the same vigour. Thank you for your comments!!! Have a great day.


  1. Excellent book review, makes me want to get a copy and add it to my ‘want to read’ list. I am going to reblog this article for you, it is a very good read.

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    • You would enjoy Barbara Ehrenreich, although she is not an easy read. It took me several days to finish “Living with a Wild God” for it isn’t a “page turner” novel. She challenges her readers to reconsider closely held cultural values. There are mixed reviews especially for this book, but to me she brings honesty to her readers. A prolific writer, she takes on difficult and controversial subjects. I want to read two of her other books: “Nickel and Dimed” and “Bait and Switch.” But I think that I will wait until next year…


  2. “Try inserting an account of a mystical experience into a conversation, and you’ll likely get the same response as you would if you confided that you had been the victim of an alien abduction.”
    So true, and exactly why I only share these experiences with people I am very close with. They know me too well to discount it.
    It is the things that we don’t understand, and cannot explain, that are the most interesting and put us on the brink of wonder. Somehow, I would rather talk to you about this than Barbara.
    PS- Talking with Alison (Alison & Don) who live (when they aren’t traveling) in Vancouver, about coming in November to visit a nearby bird sanctuary with Sandhill Cranes and so much more, and want to know if you’d be interested????? Would be wonderful!

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    • Cindy – I love your phrase “brink of wonder.” Barbara Ehrenreich’s books are not easy, nor do I agree with all her ideas, but I admire her tenacity, her determination and outright stubbornness to discover what is unknown. I would love to visit a bird sanctuary and meet Alison and Don! Actually, I visit a bird sanctuary every time I stop by your remarkable blog. Keep me posted!! Hugs!!!