Thursday, August 9, 2012

Walker Percy Expounds On An Important Theme

From Fr. Placide's conversation with Bad Catholic Dr. Tom More in The Thanatos Syndrome. Fr. Placide plays the role of questioner:

"Do you think it is possible that words could be deprived of their meaning?"

"Deprived of their meaning. What words?"

"Name it! Any words. Tom, USA, God, Simon, prayer, sin, heaven, world."

"I'm afraid I don't understand the question."

"Here's the question," he says in a brisk rehearsed voice. Again, for some reason, he reminds me of a caller calling in to a radio talk show. He almost raises his eyes. "If it is a fact that words are deprived of their meaning, does it not follow that there is a depriver?"

"A depriver. I'm afraid-"

"What explanation is there?" he asks in a rush, as if he already knew what I would say.

I always answer patients honestly. "One explanation, if I  understand you correctly, is that a person can  stop believing in the things the words signify."

"Ah ha," he says at once, smiling as if I had taken the bait. "But that's the point, isn't it?"

"What's the point?"

"Don't you see?" he asks in a stronger voice, eyes still lowered...

"Not quite."

"It is not a question of belief or unbelief. Even if such things were all proven, is the existence of God, heaven, hell, sin, were all proved as certainly as the distance to the sun is proved, it would make no difference, would it?"

"To  whom?"

"To people! To unbelievers and to so-called believers."

"Why wouldn't it?"

"Because the words no longer signify."

"Why is that?"

"Because the words have been deprived of their meaning."

Such is the result when we forget the essences of things.

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