Annie Dillard

I’ve been browsing through Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek for Literature class tomorrow. I wish that I had more time to do it justice, because it’s wonderful. There’s one section where she talks about a book she’d read about the discovery of how to operate on cataract patients. A doctor had recorded his experiences with what happened to people who had been blind and could now see:

[One girl] carefully shuts her eyes whenever she wishes to go about the house, especially when she comes to a staircase, and… she is never happier or more at ease than when, by closing her eyelids, she relapses into her former state of total blindness.

I think that this is a parable for so many of us. God gives us eyes to see, but it’s overwhelming and we’d just rather close our eyes to the brokenness of the world and the injustice that surrounds us. But not all of the stories were negative. One girl repeatedly exclaimed, “Oh God! How beautiful!” while another gazed at her hands: “she looked at them very closely, moved them repeatedly to and fro, bent and stretched the fingers, and seemed greatly astonished at the sight.”

The doctor consistently reported that people didn’t have any sense of space or what marked one object out from another. Patients consistently described the world as a collection of “color patches.” Dillard then muses:

Why didn’t someone hand those newly sighted people paints and brushes from the start, when they still didn’t know what anything was? Then maybe we all could see color-patches too, the world unraveled from reason, Eden before Adam gave names. The scales would drop from my eyes…

After a term full of pretentious modernist literature that I’d just as soon wipe my arse with, this is something that I can relate to. Beautifully written, beautifully thought.

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