“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them…” –Annie Dillard
Today I am craving Annie Dillard. If you are not familiar with her work, she’s an incredible nature writer who captures the violence and beauty of our world like few others I have encountered. I am craving her today because an old boyfriend of mine has cancer. I just found out.
Cancer is one of those things that is not supposed to happen to anyone. Especially 25-year-old newlyweds. Especially really, really good people. Right? I’ve been sitting with it for a few hours now, and I can’t stop thinking about how horrible it is. How terrible this monster is that affects so many people. And this kind of thing, the frailties of our bodies, the suffering of all sorts that people endure, this is life. They are not the exceptions. They are horrible and they are not exceptions. It breaks my heart.
I want to sit with Annie Dillard’s vision of the world right now because she sees the terrible things I see. In her writing she watches moths irresistibly fly into flames that devour them; she tells of random plane crashes that kill innocent bystanders. I haven’t encountered it in her writing, but I bet she sees cancer, too. And amidst all this, Dillard has a way of pointing out the way that “beauty bats and shines not in [the world’s] imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them.” I need to see those things right now.
Especially because this past year has been full of this sort of beauty/terror paradox. I traveled in Europe with one of my dearest friends; my cousin—my soul mate—is getting married to the most wonderful man; I was excepted to Harvard with honors beyond my wildest dreams; my work is being published; I’ve fallen in love; I have good, meaningful work. Yet amid all this I’ve been broken hearted, too. My friend has cancer. Bad news comes all the time.
I need Dillard’s worldview to piece this all together. To live with this heavy tension. To find stability amid the incredible goodness and hard horrors of this world.