An Expedition to the Poles

“Wherever we go, there seems to be only one business at hand- that of finding workable compromises between the sublimity of our ideas and the absurdity of the fact of us.” –Annie Dillard

 Is it just me, or does anyone else find this quotation compelling? “The absurdity of the fact of us”- Do you ever consider yourself absurd? I do. Like Annie Dillard sitting in church, at times it’s all I can do not to burst into laughter. Especially when things of little importance are treated with the severity of a diseased lung. What is an essay in the grand scheme of life? The universe? It’s nothing. But, for a short time, it means all the world to its creator.

As light-hearted as the word ‘absurd’ may seem it renders Dillard’s entire quote a tragedy. Doesn’t your heart break to think that our lives will never compare to the “sublimity of our ideas?” In “An Expedition to the Pole”, Dillard expertly captures the futility of our perfection in her retelling of the doomed polar expeditions. After all, a throng of silver-laden, library-toting polar explorers is nothing less than human idealism at its finest. And, as Dillard points out, human sentiment at its most absurd. While the notion of an enlightened polar expedition is appealing, it is far removed from reality. Dillard finds a comparable disconnect between her lofty ideals of church-wrought divinity and the mundane reality of her Sunday service. Rather than discovering God perched amidst the church pews, Dillard is disheartened to find only guitar strumming youths and communal prayers for the pregnant.

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One thought on “An Expedition to the Poles

  1. I am re-reading An Expedition To The Pole again and decided to do a search and found this. I love this essay! I am nearing 50 now and I find it more and more relevant. My ideas change and shrink/grow daily. The absurdity is a comfort and a source of inspiration to continue having ideas, processing, and letting go.
    I love Annie’s writing. Thanks for making posts about it.

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