Holy the Firm by Annie Dillard

#16 in my book challege for the year is Dillard’s tiny but powerful Holy the Firm. I finally read the copy I purchased so long ago that the friend who recommended it is no longer in my life. The book is more of a keeper than the friend was. More poetic than prosaic, it’s beautifully written, sometimes painfully so. A wandering, but not meandering, meditation on faith, it plumbs some of the same territory as Anne Lamott’s Travelling Mercies, though in a very different way.

There is no one but us…., a generation comforting ourselves with the notion that we have come at an awkward time, that our innocent fathers are all dead–as if innocence had ever been–and our children busy and troubled, and we ourselves unfit, not yet ready, having each of us chosen wrongly, made a false start, failed, yielded to impulse and the tangled comfort of pleasures, and grown exhausted, unable to seek the thread, weak, and involved. But there is no one but us. There never has been. There have been generations which remembered, and generations which forgot; there has never been a generation of whole men and women who lived well for even one day. Yet some have imagined well, with honesty and art, the detail of such a life, and have described it with such grace, that we mistake vision for history, dream for description, and fancy that life has devolved. So. You learn this studying any history at all, especially the lives of artists and visionaries; you learn it from Emerson, who noticed that the meanness of our days is itself worth our thought; and you learn it, fitful in your pew, at church.

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