[percy-l] Tom Wolfe's Jefferson Lecture

Tommy Armstrong tfa at brickengraver.com
Tue May 16 21:33:55 EDT 2006

Sounds to me that Mr. Wolfe, whom I greatly admire, and still have a copy of
Kandy Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby on my favourites shelf, has
come around to Percy's theories on the nature of man. Isn't there somewhere
in Percy something to the effect of "homo sapiens loquacious" or something
of the sort. I may of course be wrong. 

Anyway I was listening to NPR Saturday on the way to check my sewer plant
and almost had to pull over. Here was someone actually espousing the Percy
theory of evolution, at least my interpretation of Percy's theory of
evolution. Not less than a week ago my operator and I had had one of those
"philosophical" conversations about the origin of man--and I had pointed out
to him that phrase "In the beginning was the Word...  As explaining what I
thought Percy was saying about the importance of language. After giving him
'Lost in the Cosmos' and 'Signposts in a Strange Land' and TMG, my operator
now thinks Percy a genius--a fact that I have been trying to impart to my
squeakers for 2 decades. Percy of course makes the case that it was perhaps
divine intervention that empowered us with language--but Tom Wolfe otherwise
makes many of the familiar Percy arguments. 


Excerpt from Jefferson Lecture:
" Evolution came to an end when the human beast developed speech! As soon as
he became not Homo sapiens, "man reasoning," but Homo loquax, "man talking"!
Speech gave the human beast far more than an ingenious tool. Speech was a
veritable nuclear weapon! It gave the human beast the powers of reason,
complex memory, and long-term planning, eventually in the form of print and
engineering plans. Speech gave him the power to enlarge his food supply at
will through an artifice called farming. Speech ended not only the evolution
of man, by making it no longer necessary, but also the evolution of animals!
Our animal friends--we're very sentimental about predators these days,
aren't we--the lions, the tigers, the wolves, the rhinoceroses, the great
apes, kangaroos, leopards, cheetahs, grizzly bears, polar bears,
cougars--they're "endangered," meaning hanging on for dear life. Today the
so-called animal kingdom exists only at the human beast's sufferance. "

If yall have never read 'Kandy Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby' you
should check it out--especially the essay on the origins of Stock Car
Racing--which is a "biography" of Junior Johnson. 

Tommy Armstrong
PO Box 484 
Lillington, NC   27546
"Science is extraordinarily stupid about people as people and the
consequence of this stupidity is going to do us all in if we don't do
something about it"
 Walker Percy

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