feeling nibbled

“It must be, I think tonight, that in a certain sense only the newborn in this world are whole, that as adults we are expected to be, and necessarily, somewhat nibbled.  It’s par for the course.  Physical wholeness is not something we have barring accident; it is itself accidental, an accident of infancy, like a baby’s fontanel or the egg-tooth on a hatchling.” -Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Tonight I soaked in the bathtub, trying to feel whole again.  The muscles in my entire body ache, it seems, though I haven’t done anything particularly strenuous or repetitive.  Some strange insect is nibbling at my nervous system — or one of my systems — making me fear the future, although I likely have no more to fear than any other healthy 25-year-old.

I read Annie Dillard in the bathtub, and in my half hour of healing, I finally learned to love the unwelcome houseguest who has been with me the whole time I’ve read Pilgrim.  This intruder made notes through the entire book, and while notes can be helpful in college textbooks and such (or when the notetaker is profusely intelligent), these were as bad as someone else’s… uh, farts.

Annie Dillard has embraced nature in this book.  She has appreciated praying mantises and copperhead snakes.  She has told of the horror and the intricate beauty of the natural world — sometimes in far more detail than I can appreciate — but nonetheless beautifully.

However, my unwelcome houseguest chose to end chapters with comments like:  “Boring! Boring!” and “How does scientists now how many yrs.”  I couldn’t resist flipping to the back page, to see if Numbskull had finally seen the light.  Instead, he wrote, “Stupid book!”  Well, then go find someone else’s book to write in, rather than spoiling it for the rest of us.

But did I say I loved him tonight?  Oh, yes.  That was before I reminded myself of all his unnecessary tirades.  But there was a moment I loved him — I had compassion on him.

Annie Dillard wrote to her “fellow survivor” of manna — that which Christ spoke of.  My unwelcome houseguest wrote, “*What is manna?”

What is manna?  Oh, to not know manna!  Oh, to not know that piece of edible grace by which God salves our nibbled stomachs.

“[B]ut now, although we hear the buzz in our ears and the crashing of jaws at our heels, we can look around as those who are nibbled but unbroken, from the shimmering vantage of the living” (Dillard).

That part of me which knows manna has not yet been nibbled off.  Mortality comes crashing at my heels.

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