Walker Percy Wednesday 46

When he woke, it was very cold. He lit the propane panel ray and, as he waited for the cabin to warm, caught sight of his own name in Sutter’s casebook.

Barrett: His trouble is he wants to know what his trouble is. His “trouble,” he thinks, is a disorder of such a character that if only he can locate the right expert with the right psychology, the disorder can be set right and he can go about his business.

That is to say: he wishes to cling to his transcendence and to locate a fellow transcender (e.g., me) who will tell him how to traffic with immanence (e.g., “environment,” “groups,” “experience,” etc.) in such a way that he will be happy. Therefore I will tell him nothing. For even if I were “right,” his posture is self-defeating.

(Southern transcenders are the worst of all—for they hate the old bloody immanence of the South. Southerners outdo their teachers, just as the Chinese Marxists outdo the Soviets. Did you ever talk to a female Freudian Georgia social worker? Freud would be horrified.)

Yes, Barrett has caught a whiff of the transcendent trap and has got the wind up. But what can one tell him? What can you tell him, Val?

Even if you were right. Let us say you were right: that man is a wayfarer (i.e., not transcending being nor immanent being but wayfarer) who therefore stands in the way of hearing a piece of news which is of the utmost importance to him (i.e., his salvation) and which he had better attend to. So you say to him: Look, Barrett, your trouble is due not to a disorder of your organism but to the human condition, that you do well to be afraid and you do well to forget everything which does not pertain to your salvation. That is to say, your amnesia is not a symptom. So you say: Here is the piece of news you have been waiting for, and you tell him. What does Barrett do? He attends in that eager flattering way of his and at the end of it he might even say yes! But he will receive the news from his high seat of transcendence as one more item of psychology, throw it into his immanent meat-grinder, and wait to see if he feels better. He told me he’s in favor of the World’s Great Religions. What are you going to do about that?

I am not in favor of any such thing. We are doomed to the transcendence of abstraction and I choose the only reentry into the world which remains to us. What is better then than the beauty and the exaltation of the practice of transcendence (science and art) and of the delectation of immanence, the beauty and the exaltation of lewd love? What is better than this: one works hard during the day in the front line and with the comradeship of science and at night one goes to La Fonda, where one encounters a stranger, a handsome woman. We drink, we two handsome thirty-five-year-olds, she dark-eyed, shadowy of cheek, wistful in her own transcendence. We dance. The guitar makes the heart soar. We eat hearty. Under the table a gentle pressure of the knee. One speaks into her ear at some length. “Let’s go.” “But we ordered dinner.” “We can come back.” “All right.” The blood sings with voluptuousness and tenderness.

Rita says I do not love anyone. That is not true. I love all women. How lovable they are, all of them, our lovely lonely bemused American women. What darlings. Let any one of them enter a “room and my heart melts. You say there is something better. Ich warte.

Where he probably goes wrong, mused the engineer sleepily, is in the extremity of his alternatives: God and not-God, getting under women’s dresses and blowing your brains out. Whereas and in fact my problem is how to live from one ordinary minute to the next on a Wednesday afternoon.

Has not this been the case with all “religious” people?