Annie Dillard


Quotations

  • ''Cruelty is a mystery, and the waste of pain. But if we describe a word to compass these things, a world that is a long, brute game, then we bump against another mystery: the inrush of power and delight, the canary that sings on the skull.''
    Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. essayist and autobiographer. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, ch. 1 (1974).
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  • ''No; we have been as usual asking the wrong question. It does not matter a hoot what the mockingbird on the chimney is singing.... The real and proper question is: Why is it beautiful?''
    Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. author, poet. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, ch. 7 (1974).
  • ''Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf. We must somehow take a wider view, look at the whole landscape, really see it, and describe what's going on here. Then we can at least wail the right question into the swaddling band of darkness, or, if it comes to that, choir the proper praise.''
    Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. essayist and autobiographer. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, ch. 1 (1974).
  • ''When I was quite young I fondly imagined that all foreign languages were codes for English. I thought that "hat," say, was the real and actual name of the thing, but that people in other countries, who obstinately persisted in speaking the code of their forefathers, might use the word "ibu," say, to designate not merely the concept hat, but the English word "hat." I knew only one foreign word, "oui," and since it had three letters as did the word for which it was a code, it seemed, touchingly enough, to confirm my theory.''
    Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. essayist and autobiographer. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, ch. 7 (1974).
  • ''It is the fixed that horrifies us, the fixed that assails us with the tremendous force of mindlessness. The fixed is a Mason jar, and we can't beat it open. ...The fixed is a world without fire--dead flint, dead tinder, and nowhere a spark. It is motion without direction, force without power, the aimless procession of caterpillars round the rim of a vase, and I hate it because at any moment I myself might step to that charmed and glistening thread.''
    Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. essayist and autobiographer. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, ch. 4 (1974).
  • ''It is ironic that the one thing that all religions recognize as separating us from our creator—our very self-consciousness—is also the one thing that divides us from our fellow creatures. It was a bitter birthday present from evolution.''
    Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. author, poet. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, ch. 6 (1974).
  • ''The point of the dragonfly's terrible lip, the giant water bug, birdsong, or the beautiful dazzle and flash of sunlighted minnows, is not that it all fits together like clockwork--for it doesn't ... but that it all flows so freely wild, like the creek, that it all surges in such a free, finged tangle. Freedom is the world's water and weather, the world's nourishment freely given, its soil and sap: and the creator loves pizzazz.''
    Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. essayist and autobiographer. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, ch. 8 (1974).
  • ''In general the newly sighted see the world as a dazzle of color-patches. They are pleased by the sensation of color, and learn quickly to name the colors, but the rest of seeing is tormentingly difficult.... It oppresses them to realize, if they ever do at all, the tremendous size of the world, which they had previously conceived of as something touchingly manageable. It oppresses them to realize that they have been visible to people all along, perhaps unattractively so, without their knowledge or consent. A disheartening number of them refuse to use their new vision, continuing to go over objects with their tongues, and lapsing into apathy and despair.''
    Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. essayist and autobiographer. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, ch. 2 (1974).
  • ''I don't know what it is about fecundity that so appalls. I suppose it is the teeming evidence that birth and growth, which we value, are ubiquitous and blind, that life itself is so astonishingly cheap, that nature is as careless as it is bountiful, and that with extravagance goes a crushing waste that will one day include our own cheap lives.''
    Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. author, poet. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, ch. 10 (1974).
  • ''The creeks ... are an active mystery, fresh every minute. Theirs is the mystery of continuous creation and all that providence implies: the uncertainty of vision, the horror of the fixed, the dissolution of the present, the intricacy of beauty, the pressure of fecundity, the elusiveness of the free, and the flawed nature of perfection. The mountains ... are a passive mystery, the oldest of all. Theirs is the one simple mystery of creation from nothing, of matter itself, anything at all, the given. Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back as some creeks will. The creeks are the world with all its stimulus and beauty; I live there. But the mountains are home.''
    Annie Dillard (b. 1945), U.S. essayist and autobiographer. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, ch. 1 (1974).

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