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Subject: Percy-L: Literary, Religious, Scientific, and Philosophical Discussion of Walker Percy

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  • From: "Steve Dye" <sldye AT>
  • To: "Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion" <percy-l AT>
  • Subject: Re: [percy-l] New reader
  • Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2004 15:31:05 -0400

Point well taken although in the south, the term "redneck" can be
controversial, many of us use the term affectionately and is NOT meant in a
derogatory manner...Percy was certainly not from "humble" origins but easily
navigated both worlds. In "Love in the Ruins" his "ear" for dialects is at
its sharpest. Like most :"Southern writers", he wrestled with the "old South
(with all of the stereotypes) and the "new" South issue...
----- Original Message -----
From: "Karl M. Terrell" <kterrell AT>
To: "Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion"
<percy-l AT>
Sent: Tuesday, June 29, 2004 2:33 PM
Subject: RE: [percy-l] New reader

* * This communication is CONFIDENTIAL * *

Although, with respect to "southern redeneck imagery," Percy always
identified himself as an inhabitant of the so-called "New South,"
distinct from the South depicted by Faulkner, He wrote somewhere
(paraphrasing): "My earliest memories are of a golf course."

Moreover, Percy came from, and wrote about, the patrician South, not so
much the redneck South. If one is interested in this aspect of Percy's
background, "Lanterns on the Levee" by his uncle Will Percy, written
somewhere around the 1920s or so, is a must-read. (foreword by Walker
Percy in the recent paperback edition).


-----Original Message-----
From: Steve Dye [mailto:sldye AT]
Sent: Tuesday, June 29, 2004 12:57 PM
To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion
Subject: Re: [percy-l] New reader

Off the top of my head, one of the many other things I enjoy about percy
and particularly "Love in the Ruins" is what I call Percy's "southern
redneck imagery" that is always lurking....peckerwoods, kudzu, pin oaks,
Early Times, et al....I guess you do have to be a southerner to truly
appreciate the wit and humor in is often a remarkable
juxtapositon of such "serious" philosophical themes layered over the
southern imagery and often in a bunker of a golf course or behind a
levee...when I read "Love in the Ruins" I alternate between laughing out
loud and being awestruck by his sensitivity and compassion for
----- Original Message -----
From: <Robert_Pauley AT>
To: <percy-l AT>
Sent: Thursday, June 24, 2004 7:06 PM
Subject: RE: [percy-l] New reader

While no atheist, I understand Hitchen's attack on Gibson. I've always
found Gibson an enjoyable actor but I suspect that politically and
religiously he is, as Hitchen's asserts, a "thug." In any case, "The
Passion" was thuggish. One can find traces of sado-masochism in most of
Gibson's films. The anti-semitic charges are arguable and inferential.
On this basis, one could also say Zefferilli's film was "anti-semitic."

Thanks for the reminder. I must read Love in the Ruins again.

-----Original Message-----
From: percy-l-bounces AT
[mailto:percy-l-bounces AT] On Behalf Of Steve Dye
Sent: Thursday, June 24, 2004 9:25 AM
To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion
Subject: Re: [percy-l] New reader

I agree with your comments regarding Hitchens. Whatever your politics, I
found his "defense" of the Iraq invasion to be somewhat "heroic", but
definitely thoughtful and studied, unlike the more emotional and
reactionary debates elsewhere. I also recently saw him on a panel
discussion on CSpan and he held his ground nicely among a panel of more
"liberal" commentators in a discussion of the Iraq situation. He has a
unique approach to an amazing array of topics (including smoking!). I
also agree that Percy would have liked him.

As to this web site, I have been somehat surprised that "Love in the
Ruins" is almost never mentioned. It is easily my favorite of Percy's

----- Original Message -----
From: <Robert_Pauley AT>
To: <percy-l AT>
Sent: Wednesday, June 23, 2004 6:38 PM
Subject: RE: [percy-l] New reader

As a great admirer of both Percy and Hitchens, I tend to think each
would have found something in the other to appreciate. Hitchens is a
free-thinker who, like Percy, is capable of surprising us. As for
Shadroui's piece, he slightly misrepresents Hitchen's charges against
Mother Teresa (which were more thorough and convincing), and gives short
shrift to Hitchen's eloquent and brave heterodoxy on the terrorism
issue. To hear Hitchens in person debate the best and most vituperative
on the Left is a stirring experience, and one would be hard-pressed
coming away from it not at least sensing in the acidulous Brit a
Christian spirit. Who knows what time will tell about the possibility of
this development. Anyway, I cannot help thinking Percy would find
Hitchens a man and voice necessary to our times and worth regarding.

Rip Pauley

-----Original Message-----
From: percy-l-bounces AT
[mailto:percy-l-bounces AT] On Behalf Of marcus AT
Sent: Tuesday, June 22, 2004 6:21 AM
To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion
Subject: Re: [percy-l] New reader

Yes, welcome to the list.

Here's an article that might stir us out of our doldrums. Shadroui uses
Percy to beat up on Christopher Hitchens' atheistic attack on Mel
Gibson's The Passion. I think Shadroui takes Percy's language theory
much further that Percy ever did and I have trouble with anyone who
describes Joe Scarborough as a "fair-minded host."

I am always cautious about invoking Percy in the culture
wars (because Percy had a way of taking unusual approaches), but here it

Marcus Smith

Christopher Hitchens and the Issue of Faith
by George Shadroui
22 March 2004
Christopher Hitchens' criticism of The Passion strikes one
as the rhetorical excess of someone predisposed to disdain Christianity.

Christopher Hitchens, observed one critic recently, is a foul-mouthed
man of little faith obsessed with homosexuality. One can appreciate this
response to the apostle of atheism, but it misses a great deal as well.
Hitchens has always gleefully sought to puncture the beliefs of those
who in his mind hide nefarious motives behind sanctimonious claims.

This is why he skewered Henry Kissinger. How is it, Hitchens asked, that
a man whose policies led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of
people, who acquiesced to the violent overthrow of a legitimately
elected government, and who lied about much of it, could be so honored?
(Bear in mind I am presenting Hitchens' case, not agreeing with his

Likewise, Hitchens went after Mother Teresa, a saintly woman
by virtually all accounts, but who nevertheless had to walk
the same hard landscape as the rest of us. It was simply unconscionable
to Hitchens that she might keep company with corporate CEOs who behaved
sinfully. No saint was she, argues Hitchens, but rather a scam artist.
At this point, I do not think it would be unfair to suggest that
Hitchens would have likewise chided Jesus for supping with the tax
collectors and for claiming to make blind beggars see.

And so we come to Mel Gibson, and his movie about the final hours of
Christ. Hitchens walked quite willingly into the lion's den on
Scarborough Country over a week ago when he threw not only the kitchen
sink at Gibson, but the entire inner furnishings of his rhetorical
warehouse. Gibson, so spoke the apostle of atheism, is an anti-semite
and the film he made about Jesus' final hours is nothing more than a
piece of pornography specially wrapped for those who love to watch men
flogged as an exercise in sexual depravity.

Joe Scarborough, a fair-minded host, gave Hitchens all the
time he needed to enflame an already grossly over-reacted to cinematic
moment. In addition to attacking Gibson, Hitchens, no doubt remembering
his lessons in Marx, labeled faith in transcendence infantile. Defenders
of the film called Hitchens an outrageous anti-Christian bigot. Peggy
Noonan later in the show called the uproar about the film a miracle of
sorts. Better to debate this issue than the latest absurd actions by
this or that celebrity. A silver lining in a gray sky, to be sure.

I have not seen the film, but I must concede that the scenes widely
shown on television, tempered my enthusiasm. Even those who have praised
the movie have volunteered that the violence is difficult to take. My
own taste for religious films runs more along the lines of Jesus of
Nazareth, the remarkable epic made in the mid 1970s that depicts Jesus
as a man of wit, compassion and strength of character whose mystical
appeal was rooted both in earthly presence and divine grace.

Hitchens is a paid provocateur who has trouble, from time to time,
governing his tongue and his pen. He is nevertheless a man of great
rhetorical skill and intellectual insight. And he was not alone in
finding the film offensive. I doubt anyone would confuse Bill Buckley's
religious commitments or his political affinities with those of
Hitchens, but Buckley, too, found the film gratuitously violent in

"It isn't only the interminable scourging, which is done
with endless inventories of instruments. The Bible has
Christ suffering the weight of the cross as he climbs to Golgotha, but
that is not enough for Gibson. He has stray soldiers impeding Christ
every step of the way, bringing down their clubs and whips and scourges
in something that cannot be understood as less than sadistic frenzy."

That Gibson might have overdone the violence would make him, well, like
a great many others who direct films. But to suggest, as Hitchens does,
that the film was anti-semitic pornography? This strikes one as the
rhetorical excess of someone predisposed to disdain Christianity.

And Hitchens is precisely such a person. He is totally
immersed in a materialist worldview, which explains his infatuation with
socialism and his disdain for anything smacking of religious insight. He
fancies himself, also, the debunker of scams and the savior of
modern-day lepers - homosexuals receive an inordinate amount of his
sympathy, though, to be fair, he has been outspoken as well about the
afflictions of slavery and imperialism and the ruthless practices of

Hitchens caused a stir a while back when he came out in
support of the Bush administration's war on terror,
leaving his long-time leftist allies angry and bemused, or
some combination of both. Bear in mind, of course, that for Hitchens
this is a war against religious fanaticism, which partially explains his
enthusiastic reaction. He is right about Islamic fascism, but even so,
for a man of deep critical skills, Hitchens, we fear, has not seriously
explored the issue of faith. Let us try to escape the confines of his
Darwinian world for a few moments.

C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien, two giant intellects who
embraced faith, offered this: faith may well be a metaphor,
but metaphors unveil truths that would be otherwise hidden
in the forests of every-day parlance. That is why poetry can move us.
Metaphors are not always literal, yet they produce images remarkable for
their power and insight. Does this make them less or more true? Language
can be a mystery almost as deep as life itself.

Walker Percy, in his essay, The Fateful Rift: The San
Andreas Fault in the Modern Mind, suggested that language is
a triadic exercise, while other forms of knowledge in our natural world
are dyadic. (He borrows this idea from Charles Pierce, the pragmatist
philosopher.) The human capacity to form language enables us to address
not only our everyday needs, but also to frame grand conceptual
questions about existence and the universe itself.Percy sought to refine
Descartes. The fundamental formulation isn't "we think, therefore we
are," but rather we communicate therefore we are more than dust. Our use
of language requires the interplay of creator, audience and thought
itself. It is one of the great mysteries, Percy argues, and it carries
us back to a truism that the paths to God are infinite. His own
expression of his religious views was whimsical and yet somehow more
profound than Hitchen's easy atheism.

"This life is much too much trouble, far too strange, to
arrive at the end of it and then be asked what you make of
it and have to answer, `scientific humanism.' That won't
do. A poor show. Life is a mystery, love a delight.
Therefore, I take it as axiomatic that one should settle for nothing
less than the infinite mystery and the infinite delight; i.e. God. In
fact, I demand it. I refuse to settle for anything less. I don't see why
anyone should settle for less than Jacob, who actually grabbed ahold of
God and wouldn't let go until God identified himself and blessed him."

G. K. Chesterton and Malcolm Muggeridge, who were Hitchens sorts in
their early years, found themselves circling always back to the
realization that truth emerged not from the hustle and bustle of human
beings caught in the material web, but from words - words spoken 2000
years ago. Muggeridge, about whom Hitchens has written some nice things,
suggested that faith leads us to a glimpse of eternity and that doubt is
integral to faith. Only atheists are certain, Muggeridge suggested,
which claim Hitchens proves.

And yet, men and women far greater than Hitchens have
concluded that if there is divine truth available to human discovery, it
is certainly revealed in the Sermon on the Mount. We can stack up the
genius of a hundred generations and not come to the insight of a single
parable spoken by Jesus. His metaphors remain light-shedding guides and
they are open, with all respect to my fundamentalist brothers, to
critique, interpretation and layers of mystery. And yet the deeper you
explore in humility and grace, the closer you come to inspired

How ironic that Hitchens, who would claim to be at least partially a
child of the Enlightenment, cannot see that the mission of Jesus came to
fruition not in the medieval mind, but precisely in the Enlightenment he
celebrates. That each individual has value in the eyes of God was a
notion that began to shape the political context only when Enlightenment
thinkers successfully challenged the notion that God worked directly
through a single man - whether he be Ceasar, the Pope, or a given
Monarch. God lives in everyman, and men should not be entangled in the
yoke of bondage.

It is not the teachings of Jesus that have caused the repression so
obvious in Christendom and other religions, but the failure of human
beings to allow their faith to transcend human passion, ego and
tribalism. The record of my faith is mixed, generosity, compassion and
love on the one hand, schism and sin on the other. Even so, whatever the
sins of Christians, it remains soberly true that the most atrocious
killing machines in history were run by modern-day atheists.

Percy and other great Christian writers were on to
something, I think, when they argued that language, the tool
of Hitchens' trade, offers a glimpse at the eternal even
if it does not guarantee human wisdom. Should Hitchens, wit
and writer that he is, ever entertain a moment of doubt, he might yet
find himself reading with renewed insight this
sentence: in the beginning was the word...Thus does a
different kind of journey begin.

George Shadroui has been published in more than two dozen newspapers and
magazines, including National Review and

----- Original Message Follows -----
From: JHForest AT
To: percy-l AT
Subject: Re: [percy-l] New reader
Date: Tue, 22 Jun 2004 05:59:58 EDT

> In a message dated 6/22/2004 5:48:42 AM Romance Daylight Time,
> billjee AT writes:
> >
> > I am a new subscriber to the list. I first read Lost in the Cosmos
> > in college a few years ago and was hooked. I hope to learn more
> > about the man and his thinking
> through this discussion forum.
> Welcome to the List! It has in fact been a rather quiet
> list lately -- the end of the school year, etc.
> What Percy books have you read since Lost in the Cosmos?
> Jim Forest
> * * *
> Jim & Nancy Forest
> Kanisstraat 5 / 1811 GJ Alkmaar / The Netherlands
> Jim's e-mail: <jhforest AT>
> Nancy's e-mail: <forestflier AT>
> tel: (+31-72) 511-2545 / fax: (+31-72) 515-4180
> Orthodox Peace Fellowship web site: Jim &
> Nancy Forest web site: * * *
> --
> An archive of all list discussion is available at
> Visit the Walker Percy Project at
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