From For the Time Being, why are there so many ways of explaining life's meaning and our purpose?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One way in which Dillard might answer why there are so many ways of explaining life's meaning and individual purpose lies in how her work is constructed.  Dillard suggests that her work is a collection of  incomplete approaches to consciousness.  She argues that her book is developed in a way that captures much of the challenges of life, itself:  "This is a nonfiction first-person narrative, but it is not intimate, and its narratives keep breaking. Its form is unusual, its scenes are remote, its focus wide, and its tone austere. Its pleasures are almost purely mental."  In the idea that the book is one where “its narratives keep breaking," it is suggested that there are many ways of explaining life's meaning and our purpose.

There are so many approaches to both because there is not one narrative that guides the answers to such questions.  Like Dillard's work, human beings are comprised of many narratives, some of which float, bifurcate, and remain separate from our own condition in the world.  Similar to the clouds that are a part of her analysis, individuals are faced with many different modes of explaining life's meaning and individual purpose.  The natural world that is one of divergence and intricacy is reflective of a realm where there are multiple meanings and understandings of life and its purpose.


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