Resisting, Persisting

For so many reasons, I think Tayo is really obsessed with what it means to be a human. Silko writes at one point that:

"Tayo thought about animals then, horses and mules, and the way they drifted with the wind. Josiah said that only humans had to endure anything, because only humans resisted what they saw outside themselves. Animals did not resist. But they persisted, because they became part of the wind." Ceremony

This difference between resistance and persistence really caught me this time through.

Resistance: the refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument. 

Persistence: firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition

The difference to me seems to hinge on this connotation that resistance takes reflection, consideration, cognition. Whereas, for the persistent there is a kind of dumb refusal, a thoughtless pressing forward that is less about opposition and more about... ignorance. At first I felt repelled by this kind of speciesist characterization. Yet, then I recalled that as we progress through this novel, the traditional human way of doing things isn't exactly praised. Given Tayo's perspective, he might see animal persistence as by far the more enviable approach.

Like so many of the great novels that stay with me over the years, Silko's leaves me again and again with more questions than answer, more problems than solutions. The older I get, the more I think that great literature doesn't illuminate, it haunts. This image of Tayo on the donkey, the donkey that would persist until its death, "frozen solid against a fence, with the snow drifted around [its] heads” sticks in my mind like I've stared at the sun too long, like I've burned a bright disk of light into my retina whose ghosting image is now superimposed on all that I see.