[percy-l] Re Lit Crit on Percy - Where to Start?

Jim Forest jhforest at gmail.com
Sun Feb 24 06:50:12 EST 2008

An extract from Robert Eckert's posting:

>> In one interview, Percy, when asked a question concerning
something about living at another time, said he would like to sit on a
park bench in NYC in the year 2050 to see how we were doing.
To see if we made it.
>> Will we?
>> Percy's questions concerning human destiny are still relevant.
>> Even more so in a post 9/11 age.
>> Bad people possess the capability to inflict inordinate damage
upon you and everything you know.

I have a feeling that, if Walker Percy were still with us and could
respond, he might point out that it's not only the bad people (Them)
but the good people (Us) who all too often inflict inordinate damage
upon a great many people.

My guess is that his response would be along the same lines as
something Thomas Merton (a writer Percy greatly admired) wrote
while the Vietnam War was gaining momentum.

Having read Hannah Arendt's book about the trial in Jerusalem of
Adolph Eichmann, the chief bureaucrat of the Holocaust. Merton was
inspired to write an essay: "A Devout Meditation in Memory of
Adolf Eichmann."

Eichmann, Merton noted, had been declared sane by examining
psychiatrists. This sane man who had been involved in the death of
millions seemed to Merton an archetype of all those who were
brilliant perfecters of new technologies of killing. They were simply
doing their job, following orders, being good citizens, etc.

Merton wrote:

"The sanity of Eichmann is disturbing. We equate sanity with a sense
of justice, with humaneness, with prudence, with the capacity to love
and understand other people. We rely on the sane people of the world
to preserve it from barbarism, madness, destruction. And now it
begins to dawn on us that it is precisely the sane ones who are the
most dangerous. It is the sane ones, the well-adapted ones, who can
without qualms and without nausea aim the missiles and press the
buttons that will initiate the great festival of destruction that they, the
sane ones, have prepared.... No one suspects the sane, and the sane
ones will have perfectly good reasons, logical, well-adjusted reasons,
for firing the shot. They will be obeying sane orders that have come
sanely down the chain of command." [Thomas Merton, Raids on the
Unspeakable (New York: New Directions, 1966), 45-53.]

Of course we regard ourselves as sane, not to mention good and
decent and even God-fearing. In the Hollywood movie we make of
ourselves, we're never the bad guys.

Jim Forest

* * *
Jim & Nancy Forest
Kanisstraat 5
1811 GJ Alkmaar
The Netherlands
personal web site: www.incommunion.org/forest-flier/
*recently published:
"Silent as a Stone," a children's book about a community of rescuers in
Nazi-occupied Paris:*
*another new book:
"The Road to Emmaus: Pilgrimage as a Way of Life":*

* * *
Nancy and I have been keeping a journal that follows our recent kidney
transplant. A blog has
been set up for this purpose -- A Tale of Two Kidneys. See:
* * *
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