Walker Percy Wednesday 126

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Question: Is amnesia a favorite device in fiction and especially soap operas because
(a) The character in the soap opera is sick and tired of himself and his life and wants a change.
(b) The writer is sick and tired of his character and wants a change.
(c) The writer is sick and tired of himself and his life and wants a change.
(d) The reader or moviegoer or TV-viewer is sick and tired of himself and his life and wants a change—and the housewife is the sickest and tiredest of all.
(e) The times are such that everyday life for everybody is more or less intolerable and one is better off wiping out the past and starting anew.

(CHECK ONE)

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Thought Experiment: Test your response to vicarious loss of self by imagining amnesia raised to the highest power. Imagine a soap opera in which a character awakens every morning with amnesia, in a strange house with a strange attractive man (or woman), welcomed by the stranger, looking out a strange window with a strange view, having forgotten the past each morning and starting life afresh, seeing the window, the view, himself, herself, in the mirror afresh and for the first time. Does this prospect intrigue you? If it does, what does this say about your non-amnesic self?*

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Question: Why was not a single table designed as such rather than being a non-table doing duty as a table?
(a) Because people have gotten tired of ordinary tables.
(b) Because the fifty non-tables converted to use as tables make good conversation pieces.
(c) Because it is a chance to make use of valuable odds and ends which otherwise would gather dust in the attic.
(d) Because the self in the twentieth century is a voracious nought which expands like the feeding vacuole of an amoeba seeking to nourish and inform its own nothingness by ingesting new objects in the world but, like a vacuole, only succeeds in emptying them out.

(CHECK ONE)

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Thought Experiment: Try to imagine the circumstances under which the fifty non-tables converted to use as coffee tables would become less and less desirable until one would actually prefer an ordinary table constructed of four legs and a top. E.g., imagine you are an archeologist of the twenty-first century, exploring the abandoned beach cottages of Martha’s Vineyard and finding all manner of strange artifacts used as tables—pieces of driftwood, capstans, shark jaws— and that you need a good worktable and, not recognizing these objects as tables, you construct a simple and sturdy table from a plank of wood and four lengths of two-by-fours.

Thought Experiment (II): Consider to what extent an “antique” is prized because it is excellently made and beautiful and to what extent it is prized because it is an antique and as such is saturated with another time and another place and is therefore resistant to absorption by the self—just as a pine piling saturated in creosote resists corrosion by the sea—and thus possesses a higher coefficient of informing power for the nought of self.
If you say that a writing table made by Thomas Sheraton is of value because it is excellently made and beautiful, how would you go about making a writing table now that would be similarly prized as an antique two hundred years from now?
The real question of course is whether the twentieth-century self is different from the eighteenth-century self, both in its reliance on “antiques” to inform itself and in its ability to make a writing table which is graceful and useful and for no other reason. Was a well-to-do eighteenth-century Englishman content to buy a Sheraton writing table, or would he have preferred a fifteenth-century “antique”?

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