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Angry Scrooge

Anne Dillard, Spinoza and freedom

The following excerpts are from an essay by Anne Dillard entitled "Living Like Weasels."

The weasel lives in necessity and we live in choice, hating necessity and dying at last ignobly in its talons. I would like to live as I should, as the weasel lives as he should. And I suspect that for me the way is like the weasel’s: open to time and death painlessly, noticing everything, remembering nothing, choosing the given with a fierce and pointed will.

People take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience — even silence — by choice. The thing is to stalk your calling in a certain skilled and supple way, to locate the most tender and live spot and plug into the pulse. This is yielding, not fighting. A weasel doesn’t "attack" anything; a weasel lives as he is meant to, yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of simple necessity.

I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it, limp wherever it takes you.

To me this is this an explication of Spinoza’s notion that freedom is understanding and embracing your own essential nature. This sounds simple, but in my experience is not. I am over sixty-five and success in this continues to elude me — though I sometimes feel I am coming closer.


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