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?


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