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Written by Timothy Sexton
It may be too much to accuse Annie Dillard of being misanthropic outright, but the collective conclusion to be made from the entirety of her experiences is that she prefers the animal world to the world of her fellow human beings at a ratio about 1000-to-1. This bias against other human beings extends all the way to the core of what makes an individual: identity. She never takes the time to identify or give much of a description of the very few fellow humans with whom she acts. On the other hand, her descriptions of animals and even plant life sometime verge on the ecstatic. While perhaps, indeed, it is going too far to suggest that Dillard holds the human race in contempt, it is certainly not going too far to suggest he holds the rest of the natural world in a higher place on her spectrum.
The Sophistication of Existence
Some people complain that health care is sophisticated. Health care is nothing compared the sophistication of the environment operating just within the very limited space around Tinker Creek. This is a diary of a woman contemplating everything that can be known in any way about the ecological sphere existing within and around Tinker Creek literally from the atomic level to the insect world to the vegetation below and above to even her own impact upon this intricate interweaving and interconnected of a universe in miniature. Compared to connective tissue that ties a patient to a doctor to an insurance company, the world within Tinker Creek looks almost impossible to ever understand in any significant way. And yet, Dillard manages to provide a glimpse that makes sense.
God's Presence in the Natural World
As much as Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is about science and the environment, it is also about how God works His magic in His mysterious ways. After all, the book is not just about Tinker Creek, it is about a pilgrimage to Tinker Creek. God shows His presence in the mysteries that can and cannot be solved. God is abundant and good, yet it becomes clear that His creation is a world where violence is an absolute necessity for survival. Just as there is beauty in the sunrise and sunset, so is there danger in the presence of poisonous snakes and the marital problems of a praying mantis and her mate. God is everywhere that this pilgrim turns and sometimes His presence explains the awe and wonder she sees and sometimes it does not. Every circumstance is a majestic thing of beauty on some level, however.
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