In ENG 4081, the professor recommended us an essay named Living Like Weasels written by Annie Dillard, a very famous American writer who won the Pulitzer Prize. The essay is about the author’s experience of encountering with a weasel in the wood. Simple horizontal movement, very complex vertical movement.
Annie starts her essay by defining what a weasel is like, saying “a weasel is wild”, how come? Normally public conception upon this animal weasel would link with the image in which a cute flexible mouse-like animal jumping around, trying to find and befriend rabbits. But a weasel, a real one does not befriend other animal species, a weasel kills rabbits for living. A weasel can be really wild and persistent to chase after a rabbit and chase and chase until the rabbit exhausts itself, while other rabbits all standing still watching, and falls into its fate of being bit on the jugular and die trembling. A weasel is a killer, that’s what’s been shown in the video the professor has presented. Then Annie begins to ask the question, “Who knows what he thinks?”, as much like asking herself as asking the audience. Have human beings ever considered other creatures other than themselves what they think, about anything? Do we care? That is really a weird question. When we walk into a zoo and tries to feed the banana to the gorilla, would we think about what feeling does that funny-looking animal contain while they are eating the banana? Or we are just entertaining ourselves, fulfilling our own self-pride, satisfying our needs of making ourselves feel so generous, so benignant to other creatures? The thing is, it’s easy for us to observe what a weasel normal like is like, as it is described in Annie’s essay, but we’ll never know what a weasel thinks, we can only predict from what the weasel does what he thinks, or predict that a weasel doesn’t think at all, he just live in what he needs for survival. A weasel doesn’t think of anything, he is obedient to instinct, he does not make choices, simply because he does not have any choices. When he chases after a rabbit and tries to kill it, he doesn’t think of the reason why he choose to kill, but his instinct directs him to kill for living.
The first and the second paragraph writes respectively about how a weasel kills and how a weasel is killed. Like the way a weasel drapes his tail over his nose, a weasel’s instinct is indefinite, it can hold on when you kill and eat a rabbit, and it can live on when you try to challenge an eagle of his attack. A weasel doesn’t have that much choices as human kind, but they sure do have more freedom to stick to their instinct, and to follow their need. If human beings are like weasels, take the thing we desire, the job we want to occupy as the thing we must do, or we need to do, and to stick to it like a weasel, then we sure have no regret for what we fear but want to do.
Annie Dillard tries to convince the reader that she successfully sneak into a weasel’s mind and the weasel does the same. And she sneaks in and she finds the weasel’s mind empty. No regret or sorrow for the past, no plan or worry for the future, empty. But how can a human being think of the thinking of other creatures, we can’t even interpret what other people say most of the time. Here Annie tries to plays a trick and through which she tries to tell the readers that literally there is nothing in a weasel’s mind, why would we bound ourselves with so many choice, so many boundaries, when we tries to grab the things we like. Not only do we want something, but we want to want something, want the feeling of wanting, only knowing that we have desire for something would put us in comfort, feeling proud of our freedom to choose. As for how we should gain the things we want, we begin to hesitate, stuck in the dilemma deciding which path to go on, because there are so many things we want and unluckily they are not all on the same path. We just cannot be like weasels, not in want of something, but in badly need of it and making no thinking to gain that thing, out of necessity. The weasel seems to grab the freedom we claim to own.
How about we human being, like what Annie says, like the title suggests, live like weasels? Not literally in the way a weasel lives, but live holding the same attitude as the weasel’s. How about we treat things that we want or we want to want as things we are in badly need of? That we treat them like we cannot live without them? Once we are certain about one certain thing that we’re going to pursue after, we start off right away thinking time waits no man and nothing else. During the process, we stick to our want, never get our determination and our want eliminated, like a weasel chasing after a rabbit, we chase our dream like we’re chasing our living; like a weasel tries to make the reversal when attacked by an eagle, we swiveled around to avoid being the prey and make the positive attack towards our rivals, and bit in its jugular vein, nailing the target in an instant; like a weasel dangling from its want limp wherever it takes it, we hold our want tight and try hard till it really makes us what we want.
Living like weasels may not be the best way to live, but learning the weasel’s attitude towards its need can enlighten human creatures to treat their wants as their needs and chase after them like we really need them. That’s the spirit.