[percy-l] Re: Some Random Thoughts, Largely Unrelated, Based on Previous Discussions and Readings

Karey L. Perkins karey at charter.net
Tue Dec 3 12:10:05 EST 2002

Oops -- same message, but Plain Text format this time.  I keep forgetting.


----- Original Message -----
From: Karey L. Perkins
To: percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org
Sent: Tuesday, December 03, 2002 12:05 PM
Subject: Re: [percy-l] Re: Some Random Thoughts, Largely Unrelated, Based on
Previous Discussions and Readings

Aristotle thought the teenagers of his day were all going to pot.  An essay
in Percy's Signposts says more (American) men were killed in the Civil War
than WWI and WWII put together. On a physical level, the 20th century wasn't
any worse than other centuries... On a material level, our lives are
terrific (Percy would agree) and far better than they have been ever (at
least the Northern Hemisphere).   The 9/11 tragedy and the wars that are
following it are tragedies of course -- but no worse than those that came
before and actually far less I would say.

However, on a spiritual level, we don't know why we're here, or who we
are -- THIS is what's different about our century.

On an ETHICAL level, however, I'd have to say this century is no better or
worse than any others...  We can still learn to be "ethical" in this
transient, anonymous, capitalist, postmodern society -- ethical implies a
statement about our behavior in the physical world, and the laws of nature
still apply.  I.E.:  If you're lazy and don't work, you won't produce and
hence you will be fired, become hungry, and become motivated to work.  If
you're a freeloader, people will know it, resent you, abandon you, and
you'll soon lose people to freeload off of.  If you cheat and lie, you will
(eventually) be found out.  Enron and WorldCom.  Being unethical just
doesn't work -- in the long run -- and the structure of the universe will
ensure that we learn our lessons and act ethically to succeed, or not learn
our lessons and fail.  "What doesn't work will eventually fail."  There are
exceptions, of course, but generally our world -- THE world -- works that

However, ethics is different from spirituality -- though the two are related
more often than not.  Spirituality implies a sense of meaning and purpose
behind our actions.  Spirituality implies something that is transcendent of
the physical world.  Spirituality implies, esp. for Percy, something
human -- different from the animals -- and entails such concepts and
experiences of "joy" and "alienation" and a "soul" and a "dark night" and
"pattern" and "purpose."

In other words, I can act ethically for the physical rewards/benefits of
that and have no spiritual purpose behind it at all (though spirituality
usually entails ethical actions).  You referred to the "Thanatos
Syndrome" -- in it you have the characters cavorting about engaging in all
sorts of meaningless sexual acts -- it's not that that's unethical that is
the problem with this -- but that it shows the absence of spirituality --
there's no meaning or purpose behind what should be a spiritual act.  In TS,
the water is tampered with to make a happy society on a physical plane, but
there's no purpose to the happiness, no transcendent meaning related to
that.  (In this way, to me, Thanatos Syndrome is very closely related to
Huxley's Brave New World -- in events and in theme.)

Huston Smith (best known for his "World Religions" work) has a great little
book, a pretty quick read, called "Beyond the Post-Modern Mind" (1989?
though that might not be the first edition).  In it he says the middle ages
was an era in which man saw himself as a creature of God, as a creature with
a soul, and his place in the world was determined by the state of his soul
and relationship with God.  So the middle ages was "Man with a soul," which
became usurped in the Renaissance by mind, science, and intellect -- man was
"Man with a mind," and in the 20th century, we no longer view our place in
the world as defined by soul or mind, but by body.  We are physical
creatures, and that is the end of that.

So, what's wrong with making society productive on a physical plane
(certainly what the Nazis wanted -- Hitler was a Utopian) and people happy
through physical inducement?  It lacks any connection to meaning, purpose,
and man's place in the world as it relates to anything transcendent.  It
(the postmodern age) lacks a spirituality.


----- Original Message -----
From: Earthrise Press
To: percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org
Sent: Tuesday, December 03, 2002 7:07 AM
Subject: Re: [percy-l] Re: Some Random Thoughts, Largely Unrelated, Based on
Previous Discussions and Readings

"Wade Riddick"  wrote:
> Well, the list appears to have gone dark, which isn't surprising what with
> the increasing corporate ownership of media and all.

I've been occasionally lurking around for some months out of interest
in Percy's work, surfing the website too. How about attempting a
"revival" with one of my favorite quotations from Percy:

Sign Posts in a Strange Land, 309:

"The old modern age has ended. We live in a post-modern as well
as a post-Christian age which as yet has no name....

"It is post-modern because the Age of Enlightenment with its vision
of man as a rational creature, naturally good and part of the cosmos,
which itself is understandable by natural science--this age has also
ended. It ended with the catastrophes of the twentieth century."

What are we to make of the catastrophes of the 21st Century?
Not off to an especially good start, are we?! Or too gloomy
a quotation to prompt comment?

Frederick Glaysher

Earthrise Press
P. O. Box 81842
Rochester, MI 48308-1842
Voice: 248-651-3380
FAX: 248-608-6424
EarthrisePress at Comcast.Net

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