Atheism and the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California

The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose has a staircase that famously ends at a ceiling. A friend and I were talking about the Winchester Mystery House and then abruptly shifted to a different subject: an acquaintance engaged in an ambitious and time-consuming project that we both judge to be almost certainly futile. I asked my friend how the acquaintance was doing and here was his wry response:

He’s walking the stairs to the ceiling.

I thought that this was a startling metaphor for something that, unbeknownst to the earnest plier of the steps, must nevertheless end in unrewarded effort, irony, absurdity, and reversal (akin to the ancient Greek myth of Sisyphus). In other words, my friend had wound Kafka and Camus into seven simple words: he’s walking the stairs to the ceiling. And I thought how, if God does not exist, all of human life is like that: each of us is earnestly walking a flight of stairs to a ceiling.

Below is a YouTube on the Winchester Mystery House. Theist or atheist, are we all working and building to dodge the knowledge of something haunting us?

What is it?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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