Tag Archives: Loren Eiseley

Incident In The Zoo

From Prairie Schooner

The little fennec foxes from the veldt are shy
And quiet and they keep
The largest ears of anything so small
Wide open in their sleep.

There in the corner of the slatted cage
Stirring awake
The shudder at the city’s iron pulse.
You cannot make

Friends with them. No one can make friends with them,
They are too shy
From fear of the shaking ground, the thunder
From track and sky.

They move in memory among mint leaves.
Their lives are bound
To a lost land, all night their ears have captured
No friendly sound.

Only once did I see their ears uplifted—
Wild hearts so wrung!
It came as the lion house—remote and dreadful—
Spoke, in its tongue.

-Loren Eiseley

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Loren Eiseley

Except from Wikipedia:

Richard Wentz, professor of religious studies, noted that The Christian Century magazine called attention to a study of Loren Eiseley by saying: “The religious chord did not sound in him, but he vibrated to many of the concerns historically related to religion.” Wentz adds, “Although Eiseley may not have considered his writing as an expression of American spiritually, one feels that he was quite mindful of its religious character. As an heir of Emerson and Thoreau, he is at home among the poets and philosophers and among those scientists whose observations also were a form of contemplation of the universe.”

But Wentz considered the inherent contradictions in the statements: “We do not really know what to do with religiousness when it expresses itself outside those enclosures which historians and social scientists have carefully labeled religions. What, after all, does it mean to say, “the religious chord does not sound in someone,” but that the person vibrates to the concerns historically related to religion? If the person vibrates to such concerns, the chord is religious whether or not it manages to resound in the temples and prayer houses of the devout.”[5]

Wentz quotes Eiseley, from All the Strange Hours and The Star Thrower, to indicate that he was, in fact, a religious thinker:

“I am treading deeper and deeper into leaves and silence. I see more faces watching, non-human faces. Ironically, I who profess no religion find the whole of my life a religious pilgrimage.”
“The religious forms of the present leave me unmoved. My eye is round, open, and undomesticated as an owl’s in a primeval forest — a world that for me has never truly departed.”
“Like the toad in my shirt we were in the hands of God, but we could not feel him; he was beyond us, totally and terribly beyond our limited- senses.”
“Man is not as other creatures and. . . without the sense of the holy, without compassion, his brain can become a gray stalking horror — the deviser of Belsen.”

Wentz encompasses such quotes in his partial conclusion: “He was indeed a scientist – a bone hunter, he called himself. Archaeologist, anthropologist and naturalist, he devoted a great deal of time and reflection to the detective work of scientific observation. However, if we are to take seriously his essays, we cannot ignore the evidence of his constant meditation on matters of ultimate order and meaning.”[5] Science writer Connie Barlow says Eiseley wrote eloquent books from a perspective that today would be called Religious Naturalism. [31]