Raising Cain

I’ve been telling everyone I know about The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard. It’s a modern-day Walden and full of dense, lyrical, beautiful prose about living in Southern Virginia and contemplating nature. It’s as much about how we observe life and participate in it, and there’s one paragraph that makes my heart sing every time I read it (emphasis mine):

Thomas Merton wrote, “There is always a temptation to diddle around in the comtemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues.” There is always an enormous temptation in all of life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for itsy-bitsy years on end. It is so self-conscious, so apparently moral, simply to step aside from the gaps where the creeks and winds pour down, saying I never merited this grace, quite rightly, and then sulk along the rest of your days on the edge of rage. I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous and bitter, more extravagant and bright. We are making hay when we should be making whoopee; we are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.

With one paragraph, she eviscerates complacency and sloth. Whenever I read it, I want to go looking for windmills to tilt at and giants to slay.

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