Walker Percy Wednesday 128

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A RECENT POLL ASKED people what they feared most. A majority of respondents agreed in ranking one fear above all others, above fear of sickness, accidents, crime, war, even death. It is the fear of speaking before a group, stage fright.

Yet in the conventional objective scientific view, man is an organism among other organisms and a man should therefore not be terrified to be surrounded by his own kind, other like organisms who are not merely not hostile but by the very nature of the occasion well disposed, and to open his mouth and speak in a language he has learned from his fellowmen. A wolf howling alone in a wolfpack doesn’t get stage fright.

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(e) Is it because you know that what you present to the world is a persona, a mask, that it is a very fragile disguise, that God alone knows what is underneath since you clearly do not, perhaps nothing less than the self itself, and that if the persona fails, what is revealed is unspeakable (literally, because you can’t speak it),

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(h) It is better to seek help from a psychotherapist if the psychotherapist knows what not many psychotherapists know, namely, that the shy person may know something the non-shy person does not know, that your self is indeed unformulable to yourself, that you are entitled to your shyness, that, indeed, varying degrees of idiocy are required not to be shy, that the very unformulability of your self is the only clue you have to the uniqueness of yourself, that otherwise one will become yet another Ralph among a thousand Ralphs, or worse still, become an imitation of the psychotherapist.

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The actors also enjoyed their stay in the town and the attention they were getting. Even though they, the actors, were not held in the highest regard by the filmmakers—producers, directors, cinematographers, etc.—were in fact often referred to by the latter as “pieces of meat,” “talking faces,” “hollow heads” among other uncomplimentary expressions—they, the actors, found themselves playing enjoyable roles in the town. What roles? They were playing the roles of the superb human beings the town folk believed them to be. Everyone in town remarked what nice people they were. So they became nice. They became nicer than saints. One famous actress in particular, noted for her childish and difficult ways, became a very model of friendliness and graciousness, astounding even the film crew and the town folk by her small acts of kindness, such as inquiring after the health of a stagehand’s sick child, remembering the name of the A & P checkout lady.

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