[percy-l] [External] Re: Slomo Etc

Karl M. Terrell kterrell at stokeswagner.com
Sat Jul 12 17:49:28 EDT 2014

Very interesting.  Thank you.  It is sobering that Slomo, to the extent he participates in the narrative of his celebrity, loses some of his Self and self-awareness.  But so it goes.  This is the world we live in.  This is why Warhol's phrase -- 'In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes' -- captured everyone's imagination in 1968, as we found ourselves racing mid-way up the ramp into the modern-media world we know.

I think Slomo gives a pretty fair description, though, of what he's up to in the film.  I would note, first, that he doesn't condemn everything from the life he had before.  He says nothing negative about his former profession, and in fact says he enjoyed, early on, a progress which was 90% spiritual and 10% financial.  Not bad.   

But then time passed, those numbers were reversing, and he found himself in despair.  He found himself having been cut loose - but, from what?  Upon first embarking into Slomo-world, he most likely wasn't able to say - The dude just likes to rollerblade.  But, I'm willing to bet he knew he was "onto something," as WP put it: "The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life.  To become aware of the search is to be onto something.  Not to be onto something is to be in despair."

I too felt my 'inner Nurse Ellen,' while watching and thinking about the film.  But, I think there's more to Slomo, more to what makes him interesting, beyond the narrative of what he left behind in the middle class context. 

We can't all be Slomo, at least not all of us all at once in the present, and even Slomo couldn't be Slomo all the time.  At the basic level of day-to-day life, we the ordinary people, as we head past the age of "eleven and a half" -- the age of consciousness to which Slomo says he aspires -- have to begin the life process of providing for ourselves.  If we choose a family (a good choice, for most), we have to provide for others.  

Perhaps a tragedy separates you from this life process of having to provide, and sends you on the search.  Or, perhaps you're simply wealthy, or perhaps you truly care not for material possessions in excess of the basic needs, and thus -- either way -- you have the means to set aside the urgent need to provide, and at least have the opportunity to examine the fact of being stuck in your everydayness, and maybe even the insight to do something about it.  Whatever may have been the case, in Dr. Kitchins' life, is interesting to think about, but is only (to me) of passing interest.  

What is truly interesting to me, is this: Regardless of what may have been his catalyst, we're witness to the story of an actual life (albeit, based only on the little we can actually know) of someone who appears genuinely engaged in the search which Percy wrote about.  Percian fiction come to life, if you will.  From Slomo's few comments, we can hear that he had become (Percy's words) "sunk in the everydayness of his own life."  As Slomo puts it, he was on the track of "working himself into oblivion," was "shoveling shit," and had become "what Americans call an asshole."   He identifies the enemy, so to speak, as the "rational world," which had driven him into this state.  He was lashed by the whip, and thought he could ease the pain by writing checks to pay for the BMW, the Ferrari, the mansion, etc.  

What is interesting is the large way -- the refreshingly radical, and quite dramatic way -- in which Slomo has embarked upon the search, and that he does appear to have recaptured the spiritual consciousness of an "eleven and a half year old boy."  He claims, genuinely I believe, to now "experience myself like a tip of a great iceberg of consciousness."  I would be skeptical of most who would say such a thing (I wouldn't believe my own self, if those words were to tumble from my mouth), and yet in his case it appears genuine.  It seems safe to say that he remains a thoughtful person, and has achieved a sense of  ease within this world -- a flying happiness -- which very few in this "deranged age" will ever know.

"You live in a deranged age, more deranged than usual, because in spite of great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing" -- WP.   

Slomo, it appears, has at least some faint idea.


-----Original Message-----
From: Percy-L [mailto:percy-l-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Plemmons, Gregory
Sent: Saturday, July 12, 2014 2:22 PM
To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion
Subject: Re: [percy-l] [External] Re: Slomo Etc

Slomo is an interesting parallel, yet I'm not sure I put him on the ledge next to Dr. More, at least in the manner in which he's depicted. In a way, Slomo's story is only interesting to us in the upper-middle-class context of what he's seemingly left behind: a successful career and education, his native South, and the decision to pursue what he wants--a decision, it appears, that still required some sort of external catalyst, or event. As I take it from the video, he developed a neuropsychiatric condition which leaves him with the ability to recognize other people's faces, or prosopagnosia, which was brilliantly described by Oliver Sacks in The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat (I can only dream of the conversations those two might have had). It's Slomo's choice, that seems most interesting. One wonders if there hadn't been an event (or a disease) how much longer Slomo would have continued to "shovel shit" and "remain an asshole." He's lauded as a celebrity because somehow a  n external event outside his control has somehow managed to unsheath and demystify his gleaming purpose, and he transcends what the rest of us long for--to do what we want. But what we want, as pointed out earlier, distracts us from what we are.  

For me, at least, one of Percy's essential struggles, and questions, has been one of mindfulness: how do we access the Gift? There's a quote attributed to Chekhov, "Any idiot can face a crisis, it's the day-to-day living that wears you out"--that's always summed up for me what Percy is trying to access. 

Binx, and More are propelled to go on their Search after some tragic event, and it's a natural human reaction--purpose gives meaning to tragedy. Slomo has found his meaning in rollerblading, on the sun-drenched Zen coast of California. More, at least from what he tells us so far, does want to help humanity with his lapsometer. It may be far-fetched, or theoretical, the work of a madman, but it seems there's intention. As I watched the Slomo video, I could steadily hear my internal Nurse Ellen, prodding him to snap out of it and get back to work. Slomo loses some of his self-awareness the moment he becomes part of the larger narrative constructed by the film-maker (what would Percy think about selfies?)--to quote Percy, the thing is no longer the thing. I guess More loses some of the Self, as well, simply by telling us his story, in the constructed narrative of LiTR. I guess that's why I still enjoying reading much more than film. 

Thanks to everyone for all the interesting discussion and ideas so far! I've really been enjoying this campsite...

Gregory Plemmons

From: Percy-L [percy-l-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] on behalf of Wade Riddick [wriddick at usa.net]
Sent: Saturday, July 12, 2014 12:11 AM
To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion
Subject: [External] Re: [percy-l] Slomo Etc

"Do what you want" => fulfill your desire (the Mallification of the American South; the reduction of worshippers to consumers - or, perhaps, their transformation into worshippers of Mammon)

>"And he came to himself". THUS: "Do what you are".

=> What you are is not what you want.  What you want distracts you from what you are.

This is Kierkegaard's rotation and repetition at work.

We are all prodigal, in this sense, because we don't know what loss is.  We don't even understand what the gift is.  I'm thinking here of the lessons of Epictetus on loss and jealousy in the Prodigal Son.  Jealousy seems a rather useless emotion in a world destined for nothing but loss.

Can we not quote the entirety of other comments?  It rather rapidly fills up our inboxes.

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