[Excerpt from an old Journal entry]
I’m reading Annie Dillard this morning and, as always, she is leaving me breathless. Her words say everything. Her willingness to find her own reality in the reality of the wilderness is compelling. She tells a story in Teaching a Stone to Talk (pg. 12) of a man who shot an eagle out of the sky. When he examined the eagle he found “the dry skull of a weasel fixed by the jaws to [the eagle's] throat.” This is really a story of a weasel. She goes on to describe just how this sort of thing might happen. I did not realize this, but apparently weasels are relentless creatures – absolutely devoted to instinct, to the point of death. She talks of how weasels live “in necessity [while] we live in choice.” A weasel attacks its prey by the throat and does not let go – stubborn instinct even unto death. And then she turns and wields the eye on herself:
I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you. Then even death cannot you part. Seize it and let it seize you up aloft even, till your eyes burn out and drop; let your musky flesh fall off in shreds, and let your very bones unhinge and scatter, loosened over fields, over fields and woods, lightly, thoughtless, from any height at all, from as high as eagles.
She takes this gruesome thought of decomposition and decay at the hands of instinct and shows me the beauty of it, the beauty of commitment. What if I confessed my one necessity? What if I lived with only one choice, which is really no choice at all? What if I stalked it, attacked it on instinct, and took it by the throat to empty and drain all the good and life out of it and into myself. Would I kill it? Not if it was an eternal thing. Not if it was an eternal source. Not if the thing that I was after had no beginning and no end. Not if the prey was truth. Not if the hunted was God. What if I confessed my one necessity? What if I lived instinctively for that alone? What if I attacked after God like a weasel it’s prey, “to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into that pulse?” The dilemma in my life as a believer is not to figure out what my calling is. My calling is my prey. My calling is my one necessity. My calling is God. So the dilemma is to actually live that calling – to live in necessity, not in choice. My calling is to attack the throat of God not to drain the life out of it, but to draw the life from it. And only then does the battle begin – to hang on, jaws clinched, to this thing to which I am now a part, all the while being dragged, dangling, up into the air. Up into far reaches and distant places, “over fields, over fields and woods, lightly, thoughtless” where I will truly live and where I will also die “from as high as eagles.”