Sunday, May 16, 2010

Apropos An E-Mail Re: Walker Percy

The great work of Walker Percy is his struggle to name the "I" of Walker Percy. His life-long endeavor was to name himself, which was to give himself an identity and reason to exist. By naming himself, his mission to everyone else would have been achieved since he is enabling them to name themselves. Hence, he was putting a message into the bottle that may wash up on the shore of a culture that has positivistically and reductively named everything else but the “I.”

Without being named, you are not affirmed as "I," and therefore, you aren't. You don't exist. Someone has to name you because you are constitutively relational as the Trinitarian Persons. Each of the divine Persons name each other "Father," "Son," "Spirit."

Today, we have no science of the "I" because as soon as you have “science” the “I” is left out. All science, as we now know it, is first order sensation and abstraction.[1] Percy agonized over this. So do I. We need to recover the "experience" and therefore consciousness of the "I" by receiving a name and giving names to the "I's" of God and the others. Notice how God has a name – “Yahweh,” “I Am,” Abba, and Jesus wants to be named by Simon son of John, "the Christ, Son of the living God" (Mt. 16, 16) – but the Demon has a number 666.[2] As soon as Simon names Him, Christ renames him "Peter" (Rock) as Christ is "cornerstone" (Acts 4, 11). Stone is known by rock [like is known by like].

Helen Keller is the great workshop for Percy's epistemology. Therefore, read the first chapter of "Message in the Bottle;" then "The Loss of the Creature." I would read as much of "The Message..." as you can take. Then read "Love in the Ruins" as I indicated in the blog. Once you get what he is up to - i.e. naming himself and you by writing the novels as narratives that speak in the existential now rather than in abstractions (as I am doing now)... you'll see how great he is.

[1] Karol Wojtyla has changed that since his work “The Acting Person,” and the accompanying essay “Subjectivity and the Irreducible in the Human Person,” Person and Communion Lang (1993) 209-215, where he reaches the “I” without reduction by using descriptive phenomenology and metaphysics. This is truly huge and is the new epistemology of the future that combines with Benedict’s thesis on Revelation and the act of faith as personal and realist (See Ratzinger’s “Milestones…” 108-109.

[2] J. Ratzinger, “The God of Jesus Christ,” Franciscan Herald Press, (1979) 15: “The Book of the Apocalypse speaks of the enemy of God, the beast. The beast – the counterpower – does not bear a name but a number – 666 – the seer tells us. The beast is a number and translates into numbers. That that means is known to us who have experienced the world of the concentration camps: Its horror was due to the fact that the camps obliterated faces, annihilated history, and turned human beings into interchangeable parts of a huge machine. Human beings were identified by their function, nothing more. Today we must fear that the concentration camps were only a prelude, and that the world, in accord with the universal law of the machine, may adapt itself completely to the organization of the concentration camps. For in a place where only functions exist, human being can only be a kind of a function….The beast is a number that transforms people into numbers. But God has a name and calls us by name. He is a Person who seeks other persons. He has a countenance and he seeks our countenances. He has a heart, and he seeks our hearts.”

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