Walker Percy Wednesday 90


The only time I knew what to do was when something bad happened to somebody. Disaster gave me leave to act. Between times I didn’t know what to do. Now I know.


How did it happen that now for the first time in his life he could see everything so clearly? Something had given him leave to live in the present. Not once in his entire life had he allowed himself to come to rest in the quiet center of himself but had forever cast himself forward from some dark past he could not remember to a future which did not exist. Not once had he been present for his life. So his life had passed like a dream.
Is it possible for people to miss their lives in the same way one misses a plane? And how is it that death, the nearness of death, can restore a missed life?


“The trouble is,” the man said, “there is no word for this.”
“For what?”
“This.” He held both arms out to the town, to the wide world. “It’s not war and it’s not peace. It’s not death and it’s not life. What is it? What do you call it?”
“I don’t know.”
“There is life and there is death. Life is better than death but there are worse things than death.”
“There is no word for it. Maybe it never happened before and so there is not yet a word for it. What is the word for a state which is not life and not death, a death in life?”
“I don’t know.”
“I wonder if it ever happened in history before?”
“I don’t know.” Where is the word, the girl in the greenhouse would say, and look around.