Annie Dillard on the Secret of Seeing
October 04, 2021
"I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam."
Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is one of those rare treasures best described as secular scripture, partway between Thoreau and Mary Oliver – the kind of read that stays with you for life. Here is a taste:
The secret of seeing is, then, the pearl of great price. If I thought he could teach me to find it and keep it forever I would stagger barefoot across a hundred deserts after any lunatic at all. But although the pearl may be found, it may not be sought. The literature of illumination reveals this above all: although it comes to those who wait for it, it is always, even to the most practiced and adept, a gift and a total surprise… I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam. It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind. Light, be it particle or wave, has force: you rig a giant sail and go. The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff.
Treat your soul to more of Dillard's wisdom on the two ways of looking and how to live with mystery [here].