Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Moviegoer

Last time I read -- and then wrote about -- Walker Percy's The Moviegoer (1961) was about two years ago. Before that, I hadn't read it since high school. In between the first two reads, Katrina struck. What I see now is  how much I've taken to heart Percy's existentialist idea of "the search." The search is about funding the now with meaning -- "significant moments," as San Antonio Bill would say, "energy exchanges." Social media conveys these sporadically, theatrically maybe. Theatre of the Absurd much of the time.

I should point out that I'm a Catholic convert, and very much dig Pope Francis for telling it like it is. Percy was a Catholic convert, too. You don't have to be Catholic to be an existentialist, though; you don't have to be religious at all. It's more like karma -- it's there and it works. The search. Not "finding oneself," more an active, open-ended, open-minded seeking, and finding of significant moments, exchanging "real" energy, not flagging half-ass energy. This can be done in solace, alone, or with another person or with other people -- strangers, friends, frenemies, guests, enemies, acquaintances, immediate family, extended family -- the quantity and specifics are less important than the momentous quality.

Percy: "The search is what anyone would undertake if . . . not sunk in the everydayness of [one's] own life . . . To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair" (page 13). 

One must be watchful of complacency and laziness, of losing one's sense of curiosity and wonder, of sinking or slumping into what Percy calls "everydayness" (a sort of "vegetable torpor," as Woody Allen once put it).

And so Binx Bolling notes later in Percy's novel:

"But, good as it gets, my old place is used up . . . and when I awake, I awake in the grip of everydayness. Everydayness is the enemy. No search is possible. Perhaps there was a time when everydayness was not too strong and one could break its grip by brute strength. Now nothing breaks it -- but disaster. Only once in my life was the grip of everydayness broken: when I lay bleeding in a ditch" (page 145).

The key is to keep searching, not for "the one key" but for (adopting a Stevie Wonder idea) "songs in the key of life." 

Today's Rune: Wholeness.  


the walking man said...

I am tired of searching. I have found a life I can bear the brunt and pain of. Once i came to this point I realized i can love whom I will, disregard anything else, sleep when I wish, touch whom I desire, long for them I wish to see at least one more time and yet I have nothing left within me that pines to understand more of existence than I already do. Look with open eyes and trouble will find you from the other direction.

Charles Gramlich said...

Another work I need to study.

Tom Sarmo said...

The search, the chase, reaching for the dangling carrot--whatever the term--is the life for me. And novels most often provide the questions, not the answers that self-help books seem to push. Give me quest and questions any day. Same with Catholicism; the mystery parts of it over the dogmatic parts.

jodi said...

Erik, that's one of my favorite album collections EVER!

pattinase (abbott) said...

This would be on my list of my top 25 favorite books.