Walker Percy Wednesday 80


You should be interested! Such a quest serves God’s cause! How? Because the Good proves nothing. When everyone is wonderful, nobody bothers with God. If you had ten thousand Albert Schweitzers giving their lives for their fellow men, do you think anyone would have a second thought about God?

Or suppose the Lowell Professor of Religion at Harvard should actually find the Holy Grail, dig it up in an Israeli wadi, properly authenticate it, carbon date it, and present it to the Metropolitan Museum. Millions of visitors! I would be as curious as the next person and would stand in line for hours to see it. But what difference would it make in the end? People would be interested for a while, yes. This is an age of interest.

But suppose you could show me one “sin,” one pure act of malevolence. A different cup of tea! That would bring matters to a screeching halt. But we have plenty of evil around you say. What about Hitler, the gas ovens and so forth? What about them? As everyone knows and says, Hitler was a madman. And it seems nobody else was responsible. Everyone was following orders. It is even possible that there was no such order, that it was all a bureaucratic mistake.

Show me a single “sin.”

One hundred and twenty thousand dead at Hiroshima? Where was the evil of that? Was Harry Truman evil? As for the pilot and bombardier, they were by all accounts wonderful fellows, good fathers and family men.

“Evil” is surely the clue to this age, the only quest appropriate to the age. For everything and everyone’s either wonderful or sick and nothing is evil.

God may be absent, but what if one should find the devil? Do you think I wouldn’t be pleased to meet the devil? Ha, ha. I’d shake his hand like a long-lost friend.

The mark of the age is that terrible things happen but there is no “evil” involved. People are either crazy, miserable, or wonderful, so where does the “evil” come in?

There I was forty-five years old and I didn’t know whether there was “evil” in the world.

A small corollary to the above: Is evil to be sought in violence or in sexual behavior? Or is all violence bad and all sexual behavior good, or as Jacoby and Merlin would say, life-enhancing?

If one is looking for evil, why not study war or child-battering? Could anything be more evil? Yet, as everyone knows, mothers and fathers who beat and kill their children have psychological problems and are as bad off as the children. It has been proved that every battered child has battered parents, battered grandparents, and so on. No one is to blame.

As for war, the only time members of my family have ever been happy, brave, successful, was in time of war. What’s wrong with war?

Look across the street. Do you see that girl’s Volkswagen’s bumper sticker: Make Love Not War. That is certainly the motto of the age. Is anything wrong with it?

Yes. Could it be possible that since the greatest good is to be found in love, so is the greatest evil. Evil, sin, if it exists, must be incommensurate with anything else. Didn’t one of your saints say that the entire universe in all its goodness is not worth the cost of a single sin? Sin is incommensurate, right? There is only one kind of behavior which is incommensurate with anything whatever, in both its infinite good and its infinite evil. That is sexual behavior. The orgasm is the only earthly infinity. Therefore it is either an infinite good or an infinite evil.

My quest was for a true sin—was there such a thing? Sexual sin was the unholy grail I sought.

It is possible of course that there is no such thing and that a true sin, like the Grail, probably does not exist.