Monday, October 29, 2012

Walker Percy Himself on Hurricanes

Blogger Prologue: Great stuff! Why? Because the unencumbered Self is bored stiff by being taken up with self and can’t stand it in the ordinariness of every day – say Wednesday afternoon.

P.s. on "Boredom:" "The word boredom did not enter the language until the eighteenth century. NO one knows its etymnology. One guess is that bore may derive from the French verb bourrer, to stuff... i.e. to be stuffed with the self ("Lost in the Cosmos" The Noonday Press 1983 p. 70),

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Interview with Percy:

How does one go about writing about Christian faith in a culture where the language of faith has been discredited and devalued?

That's the problem. That is THE PROBLEM. And it's getting worse because the language of Christianity that you're speaking of is increasingly discredited, mainly by the media and the TV preachers. They've given us all a bad name. You do the best you can with it, usually by avoiding the words or using other words.

In your background there was a bout with tuberculosis. Was that in medical school?

Yes, I was interning at Bellevue, a big charity hospital in New York. I was working on the TB side doing all the autopsies in pathology. I just picked it up that way. It was picked up on a routine x-ray. I never had any symptoms. I had to take the classic rest cure. That was before drugs. Right now no one takes it very seriously. You can cure it with chemotherapy. I had the classical experience of Hans Castorp in The Magic Mountain which was a turnaround in his life too. It was certainly a revolution in mine. If it hadn't been for that I'd probably be a second-class phychiatrist in Birmingham.

How did that time effect the "cure" you suggest in your novels?

How do you mean?

As gestation for reflecting, listening and watching your own life--how does that work into the "cure" you allude to?

It was valuable to me and I used it later in various ways. As the Existentialists say, as Marcel says, speaking of himself as a modern man, "It may be of my essence to be able to be not what I am." Most of the time we are not what we really are. We are some distance away, not really ourselves. I find it useful, both what happened to me and other people I know about. There is a paradox. One is most one's self usually, not when one's needs are satisfied, but under conditions of catastrophe.
My character in The Moviegoer, Binx Bolling said the time he was most himself was when he had been shot at in the Korean War, and he was close to death, all of a sudden he was most alive. Actually, I think I swiped that from Tolstoy when his character Prince Andrei at a Napoleonic battle about to get killed, maybe he is badly wounded. All of a sudden he realizes for the first time what it was to be human, what is is to be alive, what it is to be himself.

I've noticed in Louisiana in hurricanes--my theory is that people enjoy hurricanes whether they say so or not. Because in hurricanes, terrible things are happening, people are getting killed, you're liable to get killed, there is a certain exhilaration  It comes from a peculiar sense of self, the vividness. As Einstein said, "Life is dreary as hell. Ordinary life is dreary." Somebody asked him why he went into quantum mechanics. "Well, to get away from the dreariness of ordinary life." Louisianans enjoy hurricanes if they're not too bad.

Now consider this: St. Josemaria Escriva said: "Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it" ("Passionately Loving the World" - Scepter Publishers). The mastery of self to do what one should and be in what you do for the love of God in the service of others is an exhilarating olympics. What's up is the experience of the "I" that languishes when not called forth from itself. When called forth, it rejoices

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