For one moment she felt that if they both got up, here, now on the lawn, and demanded an explanation, why was it so short, why was it so inexplicable, said it with violence, as two fully equipped human beings from whom nothing should be hid might speak, then, beauty would roll itself up; the space would fill; those empty flourishes would form into shape; if they shouted loud enough Mrs. Ramsay would return. “Mrs. Ramsay!” she said aloud, “Mrs. Ramsay!” The tears ran down her face.

James Wood cites that passage from Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse in a broad-reaching, thought-provoking contemplation of secularism in this week's New Yorker. In the scene above, Lily Briscoe mourns her late friend Mrs. Ramsay while sitting with her friend Augustus.

Another passage of note: Wood cites the novelist Julian Barnes as saying he didn't believe in God but missed him all the same. Wood notes that more the charter given to new secularism is not just to deny religion but to fill the spiritual void left behind in its absence.

Nothing wraps up neatly with a bow here, but Wood writes with the urgency of someone grappling with his own Lily Briscoe moments. When he cites Philip Larkin's description of life being "first boredom, then fear", it's clear which phase of life he is experiencing himself.