God’s Tooth


       “God despises everything, apparently. If he abandoned us, slashing creation loose at its base from any roots in the real; and if we in turn abandon everything—all these illusions of time and space and lives—in order to love only the real: then where are we?”
       In layman’s terms, Dillard seems to be claiming that the physical world is not real. This has profound implications. If the physical world is not real, what is real? What is it that we perceive day to day? Illusions? And as Annie Dillard so astutely asks, where are we? Are we lost in a façade of reality, a complex illusion? This is almost reminiscent of a Matrix moment- could we one day wake up to find that our world is not as we know it? What if that’s what death is- an awakening?
       In some ways, the physical world is an illusion. We perceive that which we are capable of perceiving. Our world is uniquely composed of our personal interpretations, thoughts, and experiences. It’s no wonder that Annie Dillard claims that the physical world is an illusion.
       Even more jarringly than her assertion that the physical world is not real, Annie Dillard begins the passage with, “God despises everything, apparently.” Since when does Annie Dillard believe that God despises everything? Her entire view towards God has negatively shifted in the collection of essays Holy the Firm. Before, Annie Dillard may have perceived God as distant at most, but now she is comfortable claiming that he despises everything. What changed, Annie Dillard? Is it that Julie was burned, that the world makes no sense, that atrocities are committed?


 

Aces and Eights

Here it is, the final installment of Annie Dillard’s essay collection, Teaching a Stone Talk- ‘Aces and Eights’. The most prevalent theme in Aces and Eights, at least for me, is time. As we all know, time is traditionally broken down into three categories: past, present, and future. Annie Dillard offers interesting insights into each of these, but I will discuss only two of her insights.

1) Future projection- At the beginning of ‘Aces and Eights’, Annie Dillard considers whether or not to attend an upcoming trip to the mountains. After reflecting for a while she decides not to go. Why? Annie Dillard believes that she can’t experience enough enjoyment during her vacation to ever justify her romanticized nostalgia of the trip afterwards. It’s almost as if she views memories as lies. Lies that grossly exaggerate our pain, pleasure, and excitement.

2) Transitional existence- Annie Dillard, speaking from the perspective of a young girl, speculates about the nature of the present day. Is the present day anything more than a transition in time?

“She [a young girl] seemed real enough to herself, willful and conscious, but she had to consider the possibility- the likelihood, even- that she was a short-lived phenomenon, a fierce, vanishing thing like a hard shower, or a transitional form like a tadpole or winter bud… and that she was being borne helplessly and against all her wishes to suicide, to the certain loss of self and all she held dear.” –Annie Dillard

If you haven’t already, take a second and reread that. Doesn’t it perfectly capture the horror that every child feels when they realize that they must ‘grow up’? However, doesn’t it also call into question the legitimacy of ‘now’? Possibly. I think I’ll write another blog post to expound on this at a later date, but the excerpt does suggest that ‘now’ is nothing more than a roughly chiseled, someday sculpture.

As a quick alternative to Annie Dillard’s imperfect now, I’d like to propose Slaughterhouse Five’s concept of the eternal now. Slaughterhouse Five views time as a continuum of simultaneous events. Linear time is an illusion. By this reasoning, there is never a transitional now- all moments are equal part past, present, and future. Thoughts?

A Field of Silence

Has anyone else noticed Annie Dillard’s preoccupation with silence? Several of her essays examine the role of silence, but this one explicitly so.

Even in the context of my own life, I feel the silence that consumes Annie Dillard. The silence she feels is universal. After all, we humans are born into a silent world.

Annie Dillard is right to be concerned with silence. Silence can be interpreted as a lack of connection, or a lack of presence. Silence is fine in movie theaters, but it is overwhelmingly unacceptable in relationships. In relationships, communication and interaction are crucial. We depend on interaction to affirm that our loved ones are present and attentive, and we require communication to feel loved and understood. Then what do we make of our relationship with God? How do we reconcile God’s silence with certainty of His existence?  If there were a God, wouldn’t He want to communicate? Wouldn’t He want to speak with us, interact with us? How can He be content to sit in the clouds as an omnipresent observer?  

When the fields around Annie suddenly embodied silence, I am sure she was plagued by these very questions. Yet, later in the essay she spoke of angels in the fields. She found angels in the very fields of silence that once terrified her. What allowed Annie Dillard to embrace silence? Did she come to understand silence as a medium for the divine?

      What do you think, is God really silent? Or is it simply a matter of miscommunication? After all, who says that God communicates through English

 

“… There is n…

“… There is no sense to the massed stridulations of cicadas; their skipped beats, enjambments, and failed alterations jangle your spirits, as though each of those thousand insects, each with identical feelings, were stubbornly deaf to the others, and loudly alone.”