The book “Teaching a Stone to Talk,” by Anne Dillard, is a collection of essays she wrote; some published, and others not. All of the essays have themes pretty similar to each other just as Emerson ties in centralized themes into his writing pieces. Each writing touches on philosophy, nature, religion, history, and general kindness. She uses her personal experiences to help develop these central themes. Dillard tells her readers that she wants her essays to be read how they are, and not delve deep to find a deeper meaning. Each essay touches on different perspectives that enlighten and immerse readers.
In her essay, “Living like Weasels,” she uses plenty of imagery to describe her encounter with a real, live, weasel. In a particular paragraph describing how a weasel lives, she writes: “I might learn something of mindlessness., something of the purity of living in the physical senses and the dignity of living without bias or motive. The weasel lives in necessity, and we live in choice, hating necessity and dying at the last ignobly in its talons. I would like to live as I should, just as the weasel lives as he should.” In this excerpt, she focuses on how simply the weasel lives, only doing what it needs to survive. The weasel is driven purely by instincts, while us humans are driven by wants and not needs. We live life measuring success on who drives the nicest cars, while innately, our ancestors were driven by food and instinct. We begin to ignore these instincts when we begin to listen to others and compare ourselves to them. When Dillard says she wants to live in necessity, she wants to live a life where she only has what she needs. Although this statement is quite drastic, something can be taken out of it. We do not necessarily need a fast sports car, or a luxurious home on the beach to be happy, happiness is having the little things in life, such as food on the table, and a roof over our heads. I too am beginning to realize that I have been living a life full of wants, and not needs.
Another essay similar to weasels is “In the Jungle.” In this essay she writes of her accounts in the wilderness of Ecuadorian Jungle near the Napo River. She uses loads of imagery to describe the complete isolation from society in those woods. Dillard uses personal accounts with the native people to have a solid foundation in the essay. She writes of the little girls singing Old MacDonald and braiding her hair while the native boys kicked around a volleyball shirtless in their jeans. The same theme of ditching a materialistic life is present in this essay as well. While listening to one of the men she was with tell his life story of his materialistic Manhattan lifestyle, she notes that he concluded his story with: “It makes me wonder what I am doing under a tent here. It makes me wonder why I am going back.” This part of the essay is very powerful and the addition of this side story drive home her initial argument of a non-materialistic lifestyle. She uses the man to show her readers that if he can ditch his Manhattan-Hollywood lifestyle, why can’t we? Obviously we shouldn’t all drop out and quit our jobs, but I think we are asked to reevaluate our lives, and realize what is important, and what is temporary.