Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm III

Julie Norwich lies burned in the hospital. Annie Dillard continues her meditation.

So I read. Angels, I read, belong to nine different orders. Seraphs are the highest; they are aflame with love for God, and stand closer to him than the others. Seraphs love God; cherubs, who are second, possess perfect knowledge of him. So love is greater than knowledge; how could I have forgotten? The seraphs are born of a stream of fire issuing from under God’s throne. They are, according to Dionysius the Areopagite, “all wings,” having, as Isaiah noted, six wings apiece, two of which they fold over their eyes. Moving perpetually toward God, they perpetually praise him, crying Holy, Holy, Holy. . . . But, according to some rabbinic writings, they can sing only the first “Holy” before the intensity of their love ignites them again and dissolves them again, perpetually, into flames. “Abandon everything,” Dionysius told his disciple. “God despises ideas.”

God despises everything, apparently. If he abandoned us, slashing creation loose at its base from any roots in the real: and if we in turn abandon everything–all these illusions of time and space and lives–in order to love only the real: then where are we? Thought itself is impossible, for subject can have no guaranteed connection with object, nor any object with God. Knowledge is impossible. We are precisely nowhere, sinking on an entirely imaginary ice floe, into entirely imaginary seas themselves adrift. Then we reel out love’s long line alone toward a God less lovable than a grasshead, who treats us less well than we treat our lawns.

Of faith, I have nothing, only of truth: that this one God is a brute and a traitor, abandoning us to time, to necessity and the engines of matter unhinged. This is no leap; this is evidence of things seen: one Julie, one sorrow, one sensation bewildering the heart, and enraging the mind, and causing me to look at the world stuff apalled, at the blithering rock of trees in a random wind, at my hand like some gibberish sprouted, my fist opening and closing, so that I think, Have I once turned my hand in this circus, have I ever called it home? . . .

Continue reading “Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm III”