Friday, September 7, 2007

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Significant Sentences 01

Significant sentences from Loren Eiseley's The Star Thrower, a collection of Eiseley's memorable essays on nature.

Introduction: From the first essay by Eiseley that I ever read, I have been a fan of his. Although he is a scientist, to be exact, a paleontologist, he is thoughtful writer who translates his scientific knowledge into plain English for the average non-science reader. However, he puzzles over what he finds in nature and, in reflecting on it, he uses language that is cryptic. Like Emerson, he seems to write through the individual sentence, although the essays are understandable as a whole. But whether one reads his sentences individually, or his whole essays, the reader concludes by thinking beyond his ideas, almost as if he has left sentence and essay unfinished for the reader to complete.

He believes that evolution offers hope for human beings, that we will gradually improve human nature. I hope he is right. What I like most about Eiseley is his respect for all living and non-living things in nature and the wonderful interaction they provide for us. He is gone now. But God bless Loren Eiseley for the joy in living that he has communicated to us in recording and publishing his ideas.

Time Line

Loren Corey Eiseley. Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, September 3, 1907. Died, July 9, 1977.
B.A. in anthropology and English, University of Nebraska, 1933.
Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, 1937.
Taught at the University of Kansas, Oberlin College and the University of Pennsylvania.
Named Curator of Early Man at the University Museum in 1948.
Married to Mabel, 1938.
Appointed Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, 1959.

Books by Loren Eiseley

All the Strange Hours: The Excavation of a Life. 1975.
The Brown Wasps (private edition). 1969.
Darwin's Century: Evolution and the Men Who Discovered it. 1958.
Francis Bacon and the Modern Dilemma. 1962.
The Firmament of Time. 1960.
The Innocent Assassins. 1973 (Poetry).
The Immense Journey. 1957.
The Invisible Pyramid. 1970.
The Mind as Nature. 1962.
The Man Who Saw Through Time. 1973.
Man, Time and Prophecy. 1966.
Notes of an Alchemist. 1972 (Poetry).
The Night Country. 1971.
The Unexpected Universe. 1969.

Essay: "The Judgment of Birds"

"The world, I have come to believe, is a very queer place, but we have been part of this queerness for so long that we tend to take it for granted." p. 27.

"...those who have retained a true taste for the marvelous, and who are capable of discerning in the flow of ordinary events the point at which the mundane world gives way to quite another dimension." p. 28.

" any city there are true wildernesses where man can be alone." p. 28.

"It is knowledge, however, that is better kept to oneself." p. 29.

"Eventually darkness and subtleties would ring me round once more." p. 34.

"...a kind of heroism, a world where even a spider refuses to lie down and die if a rope can still be spun to a star [a lighted lamppost]." p. 35.

"It was better, I decided, for the emissaries returning from the record their marvel, not to define its meaning." p. 36.

Reflections: Miracles exist in this world, but we are so used to the world, we do not see them. Those miracles exist in nature--the struggle of a spider to stay alive in the cold by weaving a web to the light of a lamp. But, given people's responses to our appreciation of these miracles, perhaps it is better that they be left unsaid. RayS.

Note from RayS: You can tell, I am sure, that one of the characteristics of Eiseley's writing is that he is cryptic. You have to read the complete essay to understand the context of some of his remarks. Even with this context, however, you will to puzzle over many of his sentences. Without that context, the ideas are still worth thinking about.

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