Searching with Walker Percy

Posted on November 21, 2011

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Every since reading The Life You Save May Be Your Own I have wanted to read something by Walker Percy. However, his books are not easy to find in my local library system. Plus, while The Thanatos Syndrome was available, I really wanted to begin with The Moviegoer, which was Percy’s breakout book and which was written about with such intrigue in The Life You Save May Be Your Own that I knew I wanted to begin there.

A couple of weeks ago someone posted it to Paperbackswap.com and since I had put it into my wish-list it was soon en-route to my house. While I have only just begun to read it, I can tell that I am going to enjoy it. On only page 10, I came across the following quote which summarized well what I am trying to do in life and reflect in this blog.

To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.

The movies are onto the search, but they screw it up. The search always ends in despair. They like to show a fellow coming to himself in a strange place-but what does he do? He takes up with the local librarian, sets about proving to the local children what a nice fellow he is, and settles down with a vengeance. In two weeks’ time he is so sunk in everydayness that he might just as well be dead.

What do you seek-God? you ask with a smile.

I hesitate to answer, since all other Americans have settled the matter for themselves and to give such an answer would amount to setting myself a goal which everyone else has reached-and therefore raising a question in which no one has the slightest interest. Who wants to be dead last among one hundred and eighty million Americans? For, as everyone knows, the polls report that 98% of Americans believe in God and the remaining 2% are atheists and agnostics-which leaves not a single percentage point for a seeker. For myself, I enjoy answering polls as much as anyone and take pleasure in giving intelligent replies to all questions.

Truthfully, it is the fear of exposing my own ignorance which constrains me from mentioning the object of my search. For, to begin with, I cannot even answer this, the simplest and most basic of all questions: Am I, in my search, a hundred miles ahead of my fellow Americans or a hundred miles behind them? That is to say: Have 98% of Americans already found what I seek or are they so sunk in everydayness that not even the possibility of a search has occurred to them?

On my honor, I do not know the answer.

With passages like this, I expect this will not be last time in my life that I’ll be reading through The Moviegoer.

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