Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Moviegoer

If anyone still wants to post on "Till We Have Faces," please do. And if anyone wants to post on something else entirely, please do. I'm going to go ahead with Percy.

In re-reading this, I keep thinking about my old La Leche League friends, a group of beautiful, creative, nice, generous, caring, self-styled sexy mamas who are also completely wack-a-doodle. Some of them would self-identify as Buddhist, a couple are Christian, but hip Christian, if you know what I mean, and the rest are completely anti-religion, but pro-love, and have hearts and stars surrounded by swirly marks tattooed on their forearms and lower backs.

In the past year, after extended breast-feeding, attachment parenting, home-schooling co-op style and eating about ten tons of scones, half dozen of them left their husbands and became lesbians. I'm not making this up.

And what does any of this have to do with the Moviegoer?

These are the kinds of doobies of disfunction that people roll when their personal definition of niceness and goodness are the only parameters they have for how to live.

I love the scene where Binx listens to "This I Believe" on the radio. (p108)

"I believe in people. I believe in tolerance and understanding between people. I believe in the uniqueness and the dignity of the individual--

Everyone on This I Believe believes in the uniqueness and the dignity of the individual. I have noticed, however, that the believers are far from unique themselves, are in fact alike as peas in a pod.

I believe in music, in a child's smile. I believe in love. I also believe in hate.

This is true. I have known a couple of these believers, humanists and lady psychologists who come to my aunt's house. On This I Believe they like everyone. But when it comes down to this or that particular person, I have noticed that they usually hate his guts.

…I believe in believing. This--I believe."

What does it mean to believe in believing? To value one's own opinion above any other-- to consider oneself beyond question, without flaw. "Belief" takes on its own authority, even if the object or subject of belief is ridiculous. How many times have you heard someone say, "Isn't it enough that I try to be a good person? I may not go to church every Sunday, but I care about others, yadda yadda…" So fine, it's good to be good. It's nice to be nice. Congratulations.

"Of my six living aunts, five are women of the loftiest theosophical panBrahman sentiments. The sixth is still a Presbyterian." (108)

Everyone Binx encounters is either good, nice, dead or Presbyterian, and not one of them cares what he has to say. He asks them questions, they ask him questions, but about one hundred percent of the time, Percy mentions that so and so wasn't listening for the response to his question.

"One hundred percent of people are humanists and ninety-eight percent believe in God, and men are dead, dead, dead…" (228) There's no questioning or informed decision making. The self IS the decision.

Binx won't pick a side between liberal and conservative, but in acknowledging the humanism that most people espouse, he has tacitly chosen to be "other."

"Though I do not know whether I am a liberal or a conservative, I am nevertheless enlivened by the hatred which one bears the other. In fact, this hatred strikes me as one of the few signs of life remaining in the world. This is another thing about the world which is upside-down: all the friendly and likable people seem dead to me; only the haters seem alive."

Binx has chosen to let his own opinions remain open to scrutiny. The sign of life is opposition, either to oneself or to others. Is he still selfish? yes. Is he still flawed? Yes. But he's not guilty of the kind of hubris that causes one to declare their life's work: "To make a contribution, however small, and leave the world just a little better off." (101) A life's "value" similar to those inspiring quotes by Rumi that my La Leche League friends love to put on their Facebook status--to change the world with a smile, to write love on their arms, to be the change you want to see. So self-satisfied. And so vague.

While Percy never makes a plug for Catholicism in The Moviegoer--for someone even marginally acquainted with the faith, he gives no choice. It's a question I ask myself sometimes, when I encounter people who seem to know exactly what they're going to do in life. They don't question or doubt their decisions, and I wonder, "How can you be so certain you are right? Why don't you question yourself--that it's the right thing to get a job, or get your tubes tied, or leave your husband?"

The cost of being so self-certain, of never doubting or learning from or listening to others, is death. You become immovable, uninterested. Or you become Kate, discovering that what she's been told all her life--that she's the authority on herself--is false. When she realizes she's not actually the authority--then what? She wants either to A) Die or B) be told what to do.

Hello Magisterium.

8 comments:

Otepoti said...

The librarian whose hair is sometimes dyed blue but today looked like roadkill said, happily ""Moviegoer", ah yes, classic fiction." She was less happy at the state of the two copies she brought up from stack. "I think I'll ask Them to get a new copy - it is a modern classic."

So there you are, Betty, like the bear that coughed at the South Pole so the man died in China, your choice has already made ripples beyond your sight. Perhaps, because a tiny part of the book budget went on Walker Percy, some less edifying title ("American Psycho",perhaps?) will go begging, and some impressionable kid will be the better for it.

(When I think of the moral relativism my youthful fiction reading exposed me to, I think there might be a case for re-introducing the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, if only it wouldn't have the opposite to the intended effect.)

Otepoti said...

Dear friends, please pray for me: I have seen that I might have to become a Catholic, leaving the small Reformed Protestant denomination I've belonged to for twenty-something years.


Thank you.

Jocelyn

Melanie B said...

Jocelyn, You have my prayers.

BettyDuffy said...

Jocelyn, You are very much in my prayers! Are you serious?

Otepoti said...

Yes, Elizabeth, I surely am. (Although I am weak and scared; that's why I told you guys: it's partly to bind me to my intent.)

This is what sparked it off: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/01/the-canon-question/

This is a site run by men who come from *exactly* my direction: (the OPC and PCA are two of the churches with which the RCNZ has sistership.)

These men, some already pastors, started asking themselves questions, beginning with the "Canon Question" (this essay is slightly wonkish, but not too bad) and ended up in the Catholic Church.

So now that I've seen that the canon of the Protestant Bible I've been reading from has serious problems, I *must* re-examine my position. To that end I have contacted a priest (the first priest I ever knowingly spoke to - and I'm fifty, imagine.)

So it's either Catholicism or Atheism for me.

Hope it won't be Atheism :-/

PS As I write, I hear there have been new earthquakes in Christchurch. Please pray.

Otepoti said...

Thank God, - just more of the same.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/christchurch-earthquake-2011/5105990/Quake-just-a-classic-aftershock

But people are on edge, because GeoNet has announced a 25% chance of a 7 pointer in Canterbury in the next year.

And the darling mokopuna (grandies) are there.

mrsdarwin said...

Jocelyn, you'll be in my prayers. And just for good Catholic measure, I'll say a rosary for you.

Otepoti said...

Thank you, Mrs D.

I appreciate prayers from you all, particularly as I remember how busy life is when you have a young family. You are very gracious.

I think I'll be making "Catechism of the Catholic Church" my July choice. You can all shout out your favourite bits :-)