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THIS IS THE LIFE By Annie Dillard from the Fall issue of Image A Journal of the Arts and Religion published by the Center for Religious Humanism at Seattle Pacific University Dillards most recent book is For the Time Being Any culture tells you how to live your one and only life to wit as everyone else does Probably most cultures prize as ours rightly does making a contribution by working hard at work that you love being in the know and intelligent gathering a surplus and loving your family above all and your dog your boat bird-watching Beyond those things our culture might specialize in money and celebrity and natural beauty These are not universal You enjoy work and will love your grandchildren and somewhere in there you die Another contemporary consensus might be You wear the best shoes you can afford you seek to know Romes best restaurants and their staffs drive the best car and vacation on Tenerife And what a cook you are Or you take the next tribes pigs in thrilling raids you grill yams you trade for televisions and hunt white-plumed birds Everyone you know agrees this is the life Perhaps you burn captives You set fire to a drunk Yours is the human struggle or the elite one to achieve whatever your own culture tells you to publish the paper that proves the point to progress in the firm and gain high title and salary stock options benefits to get the loan to store the beans till their price rises to elude capture to feed your children or educate them to a feather edge or to count coup or perfect your calligraphy to eat the kings deer or catch the poacher to spear the seal intimidate the enemy and be a big man or beloved woman and die respected for the pigs or the title or the shoes Not a funeral Forget funeral A
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