Quotes from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters

Annie Dillard ·  177 pages

Rating: (3.9K votes)


“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.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“The silence is all there is. It is the alpha and the omega, it is God's brooding over the face of the waters; it is the blinded note of the ten thousand things, the whine of wings. You take a step in the right direction to pray to this silence, and even to address the prayer to "World." Distinctions blur. Quit your tents. Pray without ceasing.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“I am sorry I ran from you. I am still running, running from that knowledge, that eye, that love from which there is no refuge. For you meant only love, and love, and I felt only fear, and pain. So once in Israel love came to us incarnate, stood in the doorway between two worlds, and we were all afraid.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“Wherever we go, there seems to be only one business at hand - that of finding workable compromises between the sublimity of our ideas and the absurdity of the fact of us.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“We are here to witness the creation and to abet it.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters



“I alternate between thinking of the planet as home - dear and familiar stone hearth and garden - and as a hard land of exile in which we are all sojourners.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“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, where you're going no matter how you live, cannot you part.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“At a certain point, you say to the woods, to the sea, to the mountains, the world, Now I am ready. Now I will stop and be wholly attentive. You empty yourself and wait, listening. After a time you hear it: there is nothing there. There is nothing but those things only, those created objects, discrete, growing or holding, or swaying, being rained on or raining, held, flooding or ebbing, standing, or spread. You feel the world's word as a tension, a hum, a single chorused note everywhere the same. This is it: this hum is the silence. Nature does utter a peep - just this one. The birds and insects, the meadows and swamps and rivers and stones and mountains and clouds: they all do it; they all don't do it. There is a vibrancy to the silence, a suppression, as if someone were gagging the world. But you wait, you give your life's length to listening, and nothing happens. The ice rolls up, the ice rolls back, and still that single note obtains. The tension, or lack of it, is intolerable. The silence is not actually suppression: instead, it is all there is.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“Whenever there is stillness there is the still small voice, God's speaking from the whirlwind, nature's old song, and dance...”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“I would like to learn, or remember, how to live.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters



“What have we been doing all these centuries but trying to call God back to the mountain, or, failing that, raise a peep out of anything that isn't us? What is the difference between a cathedral and a physics lab? Are not they both saying: Hello? We spy on whales and on interstellar radio objects; we starve ourselves and pray till we're blue.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“It is difficult to undo our own damage, and to recall to our presence that which we have asked to leave. It is hard to desecrate a grove and change your mind. The very holy mountains are keeping mum. We doused the burning bush and cannot rekindle it; we are lighting matches in vain under every green tree.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“We teach our children one thing only, as we were taught: to wake up. We teach our children to look alive there, to join by words and activities the life of human culture on this planet's crust. As adults we are almost all adept at waking up. We have so mastered the transition we make a hundred times a day, as, like so many will-less dolphins, we plunge and surface, lapse and emerge. We live half our waking lives and all of our sleeping lives in some private, useless, and insensible waters we never mention or recall. Useless, I say. Valueless, I might add — until someone hauls their wealth up to the surface and into the wide-awake city, in a form that people can use.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“Could two live that way? Could two live under the wild rose, and explore by the pond, so that the smooth mind of each is as everywhere present to the other, and as received and as unchallenged, as falling snow?”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“The mountains are great stone bells; they clang together like nuns. Who shushed the stars? There are a thousand million galaxies easily seen in the Palomar reflector; collisions between and among them do, of course, occur. But these collisions are very long and silent slides. Billions of stars sift amont each other untouched, too distant even to be moved, heedless as always, hushed. The sea pronounces something, over and over, in a hoarse whisper; I cannot quite make it out. But God knows I have tried.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters



“In the deeps are the violence and terror of which psychology has warned us. But if you ride these monsters deeper down, if you drop with them farther over the world's rim, you find what our sciences cannot locate or name, the substrate, the ocean or matrix or ether which buoys the rest, which gives goodness its power for good, and evil its power for evil, the unified field: our complex and inexplicable caring for each other, and for our life together here. This is given. It is not learned.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“Geography is the key, the crucial accident of birth. A piece of protein could be a snail, a sea lion, or a systems analyst, but it had to start somewhere. This is not science; it is merely metaphor. And the landscape in which the protein "starts" shapes its end as surely as bowls shape water.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“The soul may ask God for anything, and never fail.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“She is nine, beloved, as open-faced as the sky and as self-contained. I have watched her grow. As recently as three or four years ago, she had a young child's perfectly shallow receptiveness; she fitted into the world of time, it fitted into her, as thoughtlessly as sky fits its edges, or a river its banks. But as she has grown, her smile has widened with a touch of fear and her glance has taken on depth. Now she is aware of some of the losses you incur by being here--the extortionary rent you have to pay as long as you stay.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“The point of going somewhere like the Napo River in Ecuador is not to see the most spectacular anything. It is simply to see what is there.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters



“Silence is not our heritage but our destiny; we live where we want to live.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“Nature's silence is its one remark, and every flake of world is a chip off that old mute and immutable block.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“We are here to witness. There is nothing else to do with those mute materials we do not need. Until Larry teaches his stone to talk, until God changes his mind, or until the pagan gods slip back to their hilltop groves, all we can do with the whole inhuman array is watch it.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“It is difficult to undo our own damage, and to recall to our presence that which we have asked to leave.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“I set up and staged hundreds of ends-of-the-world and watched, enthralled, as they played themselves out.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters



“There was only silence. It was the silence of matter caught in the act and embarrassed. There were no cells moving, and yet there were cells. I could see the shape of the land, how it lay holding silence. Its poise and its stillness were unendurable, like the ring of the silence you hear in your skull when you're little and notice you're living the ring which resumes later in life when you're sick.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“The silence is all there is. It is the alpha and the omega. It is God’s brooding over the face of the waters; it is the blended note of the ten thousand things, the whine of wings.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“The silence is not suppression; instead, it is all there is.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


“Nature's silence is its one remark, and every flake of world is a chip off that old mute and immutable block. The Chiense say that we live in the world of ten thousand things. Each of the ten thousand things cries out to us precisely nothing.”
― Annie Dillard, quote from Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters


About the author

Annie Dillard
Born place: in Pittsburgh, PA, The United States
Born date April 30, 1945
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