by Annie Dillard
“My God what a world. There is no accounting for one second of it.”
That sums it up well. I’ve always been curious to read this one, but I also feared it would be dry nature writing. In fact it is rarely dry and is heavy on philosophizing. Dillard seems to walk through the world in a constant state of astonishment. She will notice a bug seeming slightly askew, and drop to the ground and stare at it for 45 minutes. She is in awe, awe at the profligacy of creation. She also gets herself into a state of high dudgeon over: the seeming waste of life represented by the sheer number of individual creatures who live nasty, brutish, short lives with only a few of their species living to propagate; the amount of general suffering that goes on in the natural world; and the teeming masses of creatures who are parasitic, noxious, or just disgusting.
I don’t find interesting everything that she finds interesting. But I do like philosophy. In addition to the sheer wonder Dillard brings to the table, she also holds forth on what it all means relative to our own place in the universe.
“Thomas Merton wrote, ‘There is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.’ There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end.”
“I have often noticed that even a few minutes of self-forgetfulness is tremendously invigorating. I wonder if we do not waste most of our energy just by spending every waking minute saying hello to ourselves.”
“Nature is, above all, profligate. Don’t believe them when they tell you how economical and thrifty nature is, whose leaves return to the soil. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to leave them on the tree in the first place?”
“Spend the afternoon. You can’t take it with you.”