Monday, February 19, 2007

The Seeker's Pick

I like this quote from one of America's most distinctive literary voices, Annie Dillard. I've read it many times and not sure exactly what makes it appealing to me, but I think it has something to do with the off-road slant she boldly considers when reflecting on nature. In the "Koran," from which she quotes, we are invited, challenged, and politely requested to ponder God's creation, as if pondering is the seeker's pick, the instrument through which we mine gems and insights. Secrets never give themselves up easily (or are they always gifts?). So we look, think, and supplicate that we are moved in ways that bare empiricism is so utterly inept in achieving.
In the Koran, Allah asks, “The heaven and the earth and all in between, thinkest thou I made them in jest?” It’s a good question. What do we think of the created universe, spanning an unthinkable void with an unthinkable profusion of forms? Or what do we think of nothingness, those sickening reaches of time in either direction? If the giant water bug was not made in jest, was it then made in earnest? Pascal uses a nice term to describe the notion of the creator’s, once having called forth the universe, turn his back to it: Deus Absconditus. Is this what we think happened? Was the sense of it there, and God absconded with it? . . . “God is subtle,” Einstein said, “but not malicious.” Again, Einstein said that “nature conceals her mystery by means of her essential grandeur, not by her cunning.” It could be that God has not absconded but spread, as our vision and understanding of the universe have spread, to a fabric of spirit and sense so grand and subtle, so powerful in a new way, that we can only feel blindly of its helm.

Annie Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, winner of the Pulitzer Prize 1974.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Maliha said...

Salamaat,
I just read that book recently and it's one of my all time favorites. She really took my breath away with so many hard hitting truths she stumbled upon. Mashaallah alayha.

I like when she said, we woke up to find ourselves here, we might as well figure out *what* this place is all about. (or something along those lines.)

That she wrote that book in her twenties makes her that much more impressive; to have such wisdom at a young(ish) age.

I think one think that irritates me about complacent believers is the feeling that we *know* the truth and therefore seeking/reflecting is not necessary anymore. (not all believers are like that...)

2/19/2007 11:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

-one thing..not think :p

2/19/2007 11:03 AM  
Blogger fromclay said...

I've never had a problem reading and collecting inspiration and insight from any source. What I look for is sincerity and honesty. Boldness for boldness sake is boring, as is playing it "safe" -- whether by Muslim or otherwise. Nothing kills insight and inspiration like religious pretension and self-righteous dribble. You hit it on the head, Maliha. Thanks for the note.

2/19/2007 11:42 AM  
Anonymous Irving said...

Thank for the excellent quote :)
The Qur'an agrees with her:

Allah's creation is not without a serious purpose. The life in this world is not vain, nor mere play or sport. What we do here will be the basis of our reward and punishment on the day of resurrection. (23:115)

Ya Haqq!

2/19/2007 6:33 PM  
Blogger Quill Chick said...

Thank you for bringing that quote to our attention. I guess that's a sign that i should actually read the book that i keep shuffling around my library. But why, when there's so much romance to be read ;)

Seriously though, it takes a thoughtful, pensive mind to remember that quote and, more so, to quote it--and that's as rare as the wisdom you quoted.

2/19/2007 9:18 PM  
Blogger Abdallah B. Stickley said...

With your recent troubling quote from Teilhard de Chardin, I wonder if you've read Dillard's book For the Time Being. I think it is some of her best work, and de Chardin is one motif, along with Baal Shem Tov, China, and geography.

2/19/2007 10:12 PM  
Blogger fromclay said...

Thanks Quill and Irving, as always.

Abdullah, I haven't read Dillard's "For the Time Being." I think I'll pick it up. I have her "The Writing Life" and "Living by Fiction." Thank you.

2/19/2007 10:33 PM  

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