Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Moment with Annie Dillard

Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery. The surface of mystery is not smooth, any more than the planet is smooth; not even a single hydrogen atom is smooth, let alone a pine. Nor does it fit together; not even the chlorophyll and hemoglobin molecules are a perfect match, for even after the atom of iron replaces the magnesium, long streaks of disparate atoms trail disjointedly from the rims of the molecules' loops. Freedom cuts both ways. Mystery itself is as fringed and intricate as the shape of the air in time. Forays into mystery cut bays and fine fiords, but the forested mainland itself is implacable both in its bulk and in its most filigreed fringe of detail. "Every religion that does not affirm that God is hidden," said Pascal flatly, "is not true."

-Annie Dillard, from From Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, in The Annie Dillard Reader (HarperCollins, 1994).


Blogger Brent Goodman said...

thanks for reminding me how amazing she is. now I know what I need to read next!

9:58 PM  
Blogger William Hone Jr. said...

To start the New Year off I've been rereading Annie Dillard's For the Time Being. And as always I remained mystified as to why she insists on believing that what we do can in any way improve or repair the work and the way of the Creator of the universe. What emotional need makes her join with those egoists who want to believe that they can not only understand but can even serve to complete the plan of Being? Perhaps, the article linked to the title of this post holds the answer in its exposition of the concept of entelechy.

" Exploring Social and Emotional Aspects of Giftedness in Children" by Deidre V. Lovecky in Roper Review, 1992, 15(1), pages 18-25, attempts to define five traits common to gifted children that result in social and emotional vulnerability: divergent thinking ability, excitability, sensitivity, perceptiveness and entelechy. For each described trait the author discusses the specific issues that parents must face and, most helpfully, the types of interventions they might try to enable their children to reach their full potential.

What caught my attention was the acknowledgement that the development of the five traits was not only based the author's observations of gifted children but also included biographic data of eminent people to determine whether these traits could be delineated in their childhood years. Among those studied was Annie Dillard.

Because Lovecky used Dillard's 1987 memoir, An American Childhood, as her reference, she singles out perceptiveness as the dominant trait significant for understanding Dillard. Lovecky does not reference For the Time Being. If she had, she would have discovered the trait of perceptiveness to be subordinate to the trait of entelechy - a particular goal oriented type of motivation, need for self-determination, strong belief in one's self, and the experience of a sense of destiny.

I wouldn't be surprised to discover that all those theodicists who now pronounce themselves "partners" or repairmen of God's work were once gifted children possessed of a high degree of entelechy.

5:27 PM  

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