More from and about
Annie Dillard
(biographical info at bottom of page)


You do not have to sit outside in the dark.  If, however, you want to
look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary.
But the stars neither require nor demand it.


Thomas Merton wrote, “there is always a temptation to diddle around in the contemplative 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 to 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.

She read books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.  She read books as one would breathe ether, to sink in and die.
We are here to witness the creation and to abet it.
The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.

There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet.  Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading -- that is a good life.


Caring passionately about something isn't against nature,
and it isn't against human nature. It's what we're here to do.


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Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you.


These are our few live seasons. Let us live them as purely as we can, in the present.


I would like to learn, or remember, how to live.


Concerning trees and leaves... there's a real power here.  It is amazing that
trees can turn gravel and bitter salts into these soft-lipped lobes, as if I were
to bite down on a granite slab and start to swell, bud and flower.  Every year
a given tree creates absolutely from scratch ninety-nine percent of its living
parts.  Water lifting up tree trunks can climb one hundred and fifty feet an
hour; in full summer a tree can, and does, heave a ton of water every day.  A
big elm in a single season might make as many as six million leaves, wholly
intricate, without budging an inch; I couldn't make one.  A tree stands there,
accumulating deadwood, mute and rigid as an obelisk, but secretly it seethes,
it splits, sucks and stretches; it heaves up tons and hurls them out in a green,
fringed fling.  No person taps this free power; the dynamo in the tulip tree
pumps out even more tulip tree, and it runs on rain and air.

Annie Dillard

The soul may ask God for anything, and never fail.

Writer and poet Annie Dillard was born in 1945 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She attended Hollins College in Virginia, and in addition to authoring several books, has been a columnist for the Wilderness Society; has had her work appear in many magazines including The Atlantic, Harper's Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, and Cosmopolitan; has received fellowship grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts; and has received various awards including the Washington Governor's Award, the Connecticut Governor's Award, and the New York Press Club Award.

"I am no scientist," she says of herself.  "I am a wanderer with a background in theology and a penchant for quirky facts."  She adds, "As a thinker I keep discovering that beauty itself is as much a fact, and a mystery...I consider nature's facts -- its beautiful and grotesque forms and events -- in terms of the import to thought and their impetus to the spirit.  In nature I find grace tangled in a rapture with violence; I find an intricate landscape whose forms are fringed in death; I find mystery, newness, and a kind of exuberant, spendthrift energy."

Environmentalists have compared Dillard to Thoreau, Dickinson, and Emerson.  Edward Abbey wrote this about Teaching a Stone to Talk: "This little book is haloed and informed throughout by Dillard's distinctive passion and intensity, a sort of intellectual radiance that reminds me of both Thoreau and Emily Dickinson."  Loren Eiseley, reviewing Tickets for a Prayer Wheel, says this about her: "She loves the country below.  Like Emerson, she sees the virulence in nature as well as the beauty that entrances her.  Annie Dillard is a poet."


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Yes, life can be mysterious and confusing--but there's much of life that's actually rather dependable and reliable.  Some principles apply to life in so many different contexts that they can truly be called universal--and learning what they are and how to approach them and use them can teach us some of the most important lessons that we've ever learned.
My doctorate is in Teaching and Learning.  I use it a lot when I teach at school, but I also do my best to apply what I've learned to the life I'm living, and to observe how others live their lives.  What makes them happy or unhappy, stressed or peaceful, selfish or generous, compassionate or arrogant?  In this book, I've done my best to pass on to you what I've learned from people in my life, writers whose works I've read, and stories that I've heard.  Perhaps these principles can be a positive part of your life, too!
Universal Principles of Living Life Fully.  Awareness of these principles can explain a lot and take much of the frustration out of the lives we lead.


Other people: 

Alan Watts
- Albert Einstein - Albert Schweitzer - Andy Rooney - Anne Frank
Anne Morrow Lindbergh - Anne Wilson Schaef - Annie Dillard - Anthony Robbins
Ari Kiev - Artur Rubenstein - Barbara Johnson - Benjamin Disraeli - Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Hoff - Bernie Siegel - Bertrand Russell - Betty Eadie - Booker T. Washington
Charlotte Davis Kasl
- Cheryl Richardson - Cristina Feldman - C.S. Lewis - the Dalai Lama
Dale Carnegie - Deepak Chopra - Don Miguel Ruiz - Earl Nightingale - Elaine St. James
Eleanor Roosevelt - Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross - Ralph Waldo Emerson - Emmet Fox
Frederick Buechner
- George Bernard Shaw - George Santayana
George Washington Carver - Gerald Jampolsky - Harold Kushner
Harry Emerson Fosdick - Helen Keller - Henry David Thoreau - Henry James
Henry Van Dyke - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - Henry Ward Beecher - Hugh Prather
Immanuel Kant
- Iyanla Vanzant - Jack Canfield - James Allen - Jennifer James - Jim Rohn
Joan Borysenko
- Joan Chittister - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - John Izzo John Ruskin
Joni Eareckson Tada
- Joseph M. Marshall III - Julia Cameron - Kent Nerburn
Khalil Gibran Leo Buscaglia - Leonard Jacobson - Leslie Levine - Lucinda Bassett
Lydia Maria Child - Lynn Grabhorn - Marcus Aurelius - Marianne Williamson
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Maya Angelou - Melody Beattie - Michael Goddart - Mitch Albom
Mohandas Gandhi
- Morrie Schwartz - Mother Teresa - M. Scott Peck - Nathaniel Branden
Nikos Kazantzakis
- Norman Cousins - Norman Vincent Peale - Og Mandino - Oprah Winfrey
- Orison Swett Marden - Pau Casals - Peace Pilgrim - Phillips Brooks
Rabindranath Tagore
- Rachel Carson - Rachel Naomi Remen - Rainer Maria Rilke
Ralph Waldo Trine - Richard Bach - Richard Carlson - Robert Frost - Robert Fulghum
Robert Louis Stevenson
- Russell Baker - Sarah Ban Breathnach - Shakti Gawain
Soren Kierkegaard - Stephen Covey - Stephen C. Paul - Sue Patton Thoele - Susan L. Taylor
Sylvia Boorstein - Thich Nhat Hanh - Thomas Carlyle - Thomas Kinkade - Thomas Merton
Tom Walsh
- Victor Cherbuliez - Wayne Dyer - Wilferd A. Peterson - Willa Cather
William James - William Wordsworth - Zig Ziglar - Rhonda Byrne - Neale Donald Walsch
Carl Jung
- Desmond Tutu - Paulo Coelho - Jon Kabat-Zinn - Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Walt Whitman