Saturday, October 01, 2011

Annie Dillard and Sorrow

Yesterday while weeding, Cornflower and I found the skeleton of a mouse.  I suspect it died of thirst.  It has been so dry this year.  The ground is cracked, the leaves brittle, the wildflowers almost nonexistent.  Fire has been a Texas norm this summer, with its attendant loss of cherished and even vital possessions.  The natural world affects us.
The picture of fecundity and its excesses and of the pressures of growth and its accidents is of course no different from the picture I painted before of the world as an intricate texture of a bizarre variety of forms.  Only now the shadows are deeper.  Extravagance takes on a sinister, wastrel air, and exuberance blithers.  When I added the dimension of time to the landscape of the world, I saw how freedom grew the beauties and horrors from the same live branch...  That something is everywhere and always amiss is part of the very stuff of creation.  --Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

While I embrace the idea of fruitfulness in nature, I shy away from considering its horror.   I wonder how much my avoidance has to do with a strong desire to always rejoice.  Yet, as Annie Dillard says, something is everywhere and always amiss.  Indeed, Christ was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

I mourned when I read Annie Dillard's chapter on fecundity.  I wonder if she is missing something, dwelling too much on the physical.  In the midst of sorrow, I consistently crave the ability to rejoice.  Reality encompasses more than the material world.

But perhaps I am the one that is missing something.  We are called to mourn with those that mourn.  I struggle to do this, to share the grief of others.  How do we altogether mourn *and* rejoice?

Key in the process must be "sorrowing not as those that have no hope".  As we witness and partake in the pain, we must embrace a truth larger than the material world.  It is a fine distinction that requires practice.

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