Excellence Reporter: Mr. Quinn, what is the meaning of life?
Daniel Quinn: What is the meaning of life to me? To begin, recognize that humans aren’t something special, aren’t privileged beings, exceptions to the laws that bind all other species to the community of life. If you could ask this question of a wolf or an elephant or a lizard or a shark or an elm tree, I think you’d get the same answer from all, though we can put it into words and they can’t. The meaning of life is to live: to breathe, to sigh, to wonder, to walk, to sleep, to pass life on to others, in life and in death. But I’ll never say it better than Shirin does in my novel The Story of B:
“A child looks at the sea that rolls across the plains and calls it grass. But this is not grass. This is deer and bison and sheep and cicadas and moles and rabbits. This handful of stalks here—this is a mouse. And the mouse, the ox, the gazelle, the goat, and the beetle all burn with the fire of grass. Grass is their mother and father, and their young are grass.
“One thing: grass and grasshopper. One thing: grasshopper and sparrow. One thing: sparrow and fox. One thing: fox and vulture. One thing, and its name is fire, burning today as a stalk in the field, tomorrow as a rabbit in its burrow, and the next day as a man in his tent.
“The vulture is fox; the fox, grasshopper; the grasshopper, rabbit; the rabbit, man; the man, grass. All together, we are the life of this place, indistinguishable from one another, intermingling in the flow of fire, and the fire is god.
“To each is given its moment in the blaze, its spark to be surrendered to another when it is sent, so that the blaze may go on. None may deny its spark to the general blaze and live forever. Each is sent to another someday. You are sent; you are on your way. I am sent. To the wolf or the lion or the vulture or the grasses, I am sent. My death is the life of another, and I will stand again in the windswept grasses and look through the eyes of the fox and take the air with the eagle and run in the track of the deer.”
~Daniel Quinn is an American writer, cultural critic, and former publisher of educational texts, best known for his novel Ishmael, which won the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship Award in 1991.
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