Living Like Weasles

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“That is, I don’t think I can learn from a wild animal how to live in particular—shall I suck warm blood, hold my tail high, walk with my footprints precisely over the prints of my hands?—but 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.”

In “Living Like Weasels”, the author Annie Dillard, encounters a weasel. Typically, in the animal kingdom a weasel is viewed as an unremarkable, and even disgusting animal. However, with the appearance of a weasel, Annie encounters a sort of revelation, or epiphany, about life and how it should be lived. In a particularly poignant quotation in paragraph 14, Annie says, “That is, I don’t think I can learn from a wild animal how to live in particular—shall I suck warm blood, hold my tail high, walk with my footprints precisely over the prints of my hands?—but 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.” If interpreted literally, the beginning portion of the sentence is unexceptional, and with the advent of the rhetorical question it’s even a bit disturbing—images flash through the mind of a human acting animalistic, degrading herself, crawling through the roots and sucking blood. However, it is unveiled in the second portion of the sentence that Dillard doesn’t literally mean that, learning to live from an animal means to become one, copying its every action. Instead, she reveals how, learning to live like a weasel, means to emulate it’s “mindlessness” and “dignity of living without bias”. Her statement is understandable, as people tend to become fettered by stress, deadlines, time, and responsibilities. By “living like a weasel”, or more precisely, emulating a weasel’s existence by “living without bias or motive” , it does seem that life would have more meaning. An example that justifies Dillard’s claim that one may learn to...
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