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Dillard: speaking up for the creation

March 17, 2009

In case you are wondering, the wave breast/heave shoulder that Dillard gets to in the last chapter derives from the Hebrew scripture, specifically Leviticus (glossed here).

I am compelled by the line that follows her rather playful (and humorous–now look what you made me do) invocation of religion.

We are people; we are permitted to have dealings with the creator and we must speak up for the creation. God look at what you’ve done to this creature, look at the sorrow, the cruelty, the long damned waste!

Dillard seems to have a different sacrifice in mind–or a different attitude to the sense of sacrifice that she identifies with nature. Different, at least, than the interpretation of the same passage that I found on a religious blog. Where the sacrificial offering reflects man’s dominion. In any case, no hint of the anger at God that Dillard shows.

What do we make of Dillard’s spirituality, her invocation (as here) of specific religious perspectives? Does her spiritualism fit with her naturalism? Are environmental perspectives and religious perspectives compatible?

I might suggest this late line, speak up for the creation, almost as the thesis and argument of the book. Finally, we get it. But it is not the creation, it seems, of any one province: not exclusively the Hebrew Bible’s God, not Christian creationism, not Romanticism’s sublime nature, not science’s perfectly economical machine. It’s the creation of the giant water bug (notice how it comes back, along with the cat) eating the world. It’s Emerson; but the emphasis is not on transcendence (remember his transparent eyeball from 1836 Nature) but the totality of vision. “All of it. All of it intricate, speckled, gnawed, fringed, and free.” We have got to take (eat) it all, for better and for worse. Where does this leave us?

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