[percy-l] LITR

Tommy Armstrong tfa at brickengraver.com
Thu Oct 6 12:20:56 EDT 2005

"But I will be all right as soon as I get home and take my drug, which is
the best of the consciousness-expanding community-simulating self
integrating drugs"

When Rich mentioned that essay I of course had to go and pull it off my
shelf and that is what I had underlined from it (among other things). I kind
of think it sums up a great deal of the insight and humor that is present
throughout Percy. He brings views of the world from a truly different
vantage points. That is his strength both then and now--an extra-consumerist
vantage point, an extra-science vantage point, an extra-political vantage

I once took a course in college a long  back named "Beththoven and
Revolution" by an incredibly smart and gifted professor named Dr. David
Green. In it we explored we explored all kinds of seemingly disparate things
like the Renaissance, Chinese Scroll Painting, the structure of Bethoven's
string quartets and symphonies, Lao Tsu, Confucius, Sartre, etc. And let me
not forget Mahler--that prof had listened to a Mahler piece every day of his
life for 10 straight years--something of an expert on him. The one
overriding thing that tied them all together was essentially vantage point.
When that sculptor, forget his name, discovered (or created) (or
rediscovered) single point perspective, and created those famous cathedral
doors it changed Western Civilization forever. Now it was possible for
people to study the natural world, for they could do it from a single point
of reference. Things can be measured and quantified and mapped. And thus
began linearity. 

The novel was one of the consequences of that type of perspective as was

Without that discovery by an artist at the beginning of the Renaissance (in
fact who started the Renaissance), there would have never been science as we
know it. 

The Chinese, however never discovered spp--and they had a view of the world
much closer to how humans actually see the world--multi-point perspective.
Scroll paintings do not exhibit spp. We Westerners now look at them (and all
art prior to spp) as somehow inferior, or at least, not as "sophisticated".
But the fact is that the human does not see like a camera--the ultimate tool
and demonstrator of spp. Even as we walk to the bathroom and take a tinkle,
our vantage point constantly changes, and not only our vantage point but our
area of focus literally hundreds of times. 

Now what I am saying is not that science and technology is not useful, but
this whole rational view of the world presupposes the validity of spp being
the "correct" perspective. But it is definitely not hardwired into the human
brain. In fact it was never even existent before those doors on that
cathedral were created. It took only a hundred or so years to become
hardwired into our culture--but not in our being. And there perhaps is the
genesis of schism of science and humanity. For what is natural for a homo
sapiens --constantly seeing the world from different vantage points and
areas of focus--and what is natural for the culture--seeing the world from a
single point of view--something to be measured, classified, and dissected,
are really at odds with each other. 

Tommy Armstrong
PO Box 484 
Lillington, NC   27546
...with the method of science one beholds what is generally true about
individuals, but art beholds what is uniquely true.
Walker Percy
Signposts in a Strange Land

-----Original Message-----
From: percy-l-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:percy-l-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Gray, Rich
Sent: Thursday, October 06, 2005 9:45 AM
To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion
Subject: [percy-l] LITR

Percy wrote the essay "Notes for a Novel about the End of the World"
while he was writing Love in the Ruins.  A common theme to both works is the
blessing of cataclysm, which jerks people out of their tranquilized
routines.  In their comfortable routines, Percy thought people -- Catholics
as well as other believers and agnostics -- were callous toward God.  

Tom More opens the novel in a serious rut: rejected by his wife, dependent
on alcohol, and largely unsuccessful in his psychiatric practice.  His
concern for the decay of America and his invention of the lapsometer mark
his attempt to throw off his stupefying midlife tedium.
Then the comedy kicks in.  Tom with the lapsometer seems like Don Quixote
with his lance -- they have a winsomeness, yet they are completely
ineffective in changing the world.

Rich Gray

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