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.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Walker Percy anyone?

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of The Moviegoer, I'll pay someone to read it with me.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Jumping in on Lewis

Well, I would rather wait and let someone else lead the conversation on Till We Have Faces, but I finished it on our recent trip to Texas and am already forgetting some of the thoughts it inspired. I had read the book before (maybe 10 years ago?) and remembered the plot but not the nuances. I commented to my sister on the phone thatI like this book, but it’s not on my list of favorites, and I have a hard time putting my finger on why I don’t LOVE this book, because I love the idea of it and I love the ideas in it. On the other hand, I didn’t love CS Lewis’ space trilogy either, so maybe it is that his fiction, aside from the Narnia books, doesn’t have the luminosity of his apologetics and memoirs. Maybe it’s the dream sequence at the end that seems like an artificial appendage. Maybe it’s just my taste buds.

Even though I don’t have this one on my all-time fave’s list, I did like it better this time around, especially reading it right after my recent review of world lit. Orual’s complaints don't seem quite so farfetched this time around. She’s so bristly and self-defensive that she is difficult to like as a heroine, and I think when I read this book the first time her faults seemed less excusable through the lenses of my own idealism. Her selfishness in her treatment of Istra/Psyche is so obvious to the reader that it’s hard to sympathize with her when she blackmails Psyche. Nonetheless I had more empathy for her this time, maybe because it’s so tempting to see yourself as ugly and unloved, the injured or aggrandized party, and to waste emotional energy contemplating how others have failed or abandoned you. I can only guess as you get older, you gain more and more experience in the shortcomings of human love. You would think that loving others would get easier with practice, but it’s easy to imagine how Orual doesn’t want to grant the people she loves the freedom to leave her. I didn’t want the Fox to leave her either. I fear that my own brand of love tends dangerously toward the devouring variety, also.

And what heartbreak to learn at the end of your life how much your selfishness has hurt others when you thought you were loving them. It’s hard to imagine that Bardia would’ve lived his life differently if his queen and his wife were less jealous of each other, but maybe he would have suffered less if they were more generous in allowing him freedom to divvy up his time between them the way he saw fit.

I’m still unclear about what to think about Ungit -- and how much of the pagan world is Lewis representing as figures for Christian faith? Is she supposed to be a fearsome pagan earthy fertility goddess to be abandoned, the Eternal Feminine, or some allegorical figure for the desire for fruitful rituals and faith? What does Psyche’s trip to the underworld to get Beauty for Ungit mean? That Psyche’s figurative death and resurrection out of love for Orual make Orual beautiful and worthy of standing before the god?  It's tempting to read this as allegory, but then the characters don't fit in a neat box, like the Fox who seems to represent the rational view of life, but he loves poetry and the girls and seems to want to believe in something.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Because You Care...

I solved my wedding shoes problem by wearing black pumps with this dress instead:

Except my dress was navy blue and looked better on me than it does on the model, because I fill it out nicely. Take that, ten-year-reunion.

And I read Till We Have Faces! But I'm still chewing on it. I was struck by Orual's refusal to allow herself to be joyful in any circumstance -- she's so shut into herself and her own loves that she can't open herself to happiness.