I needed to read this today to remind me of the precious value contained in the souls of my kids. BW 101209
I first heard about Walker Percy ten years ago and was excited about reading some of his work. I'm a little slow sometimes. I just finished reading my first novel by him. I wasn't reading it the entire ten years mind you but used a gift card at Borders last week. So, I was slow to buy, quick to read.
Second Coming was a wonderful read about Will Barrett, a retired, rich, widowed, fifty year-old lawyer searching for meaning in his life. At the end he seeks out unremarkable, Father Weatherbee who had been a missionary in the Philippines for fifty years. He intuitively knows that Weatherbee knows something that he doesn't. Will wants to believe in something, but isn't really sure about anything to do with Christianity. He corners and cajoles the timid old priest and intimidates him into spilling these profound beans,
How can we be the best dearest most generous people on earth, and at the same time be so unhappy? How harsh everyone is here! How restless! How impatient! How worried! How sarcastic! How unhappy! How hateful! How pleasure-loving! How lascivious! Above all, how selfish! Why is it that we have more than any other people, are more generous with what we have, and yet are so selfish and unhappy? Why do we think of nothing but our own pleasure? I cannot believe my eyes at what I see on television. It makes me blush with shame. Did you know that pleasure-seeking leads to cruelty? That is why more and more people beat their children. Children interfere with pleasure. Do you hate children? Why can't we be grateful for our great blessings and thank God? He then whispered, "Why is it that Americans who are the best dearest most generous people on earth are so unhappy?
The scene continued...
There is a tiny village in Mindanao near Naga-Naga on the coast which I was able to visit only once a year. They are as poor as any people on earth, yet how kind and gentle and loving they are to each other! And happy! When I would come to the village little children would run out laughing with joy to see me, take me by the hand and lead me around the village to visit the old and the sick and the blind--and they were even happier to see me than the children! They believed me! They believed the Gospel whole and entire, and the teachings of the church. They said that if I told them, then it must be true or I would not have gone to so much trouble . During my absence betrothed couples remained continent and cheerful of their own volition.
Skipping forward a bit we are ushered into Will's thoughts,
Will Barrett thought about Allie (a young 'mentally ill' woman who he had encountered, who cared for him when he was ill and who had taken his heart) in her greenhouse, her wide gray eyes, her lean muscled boy's arms, her strong quick hands. His heart leapt a secret joy. What is it I want from her and him, he wondered, not only want but must have? Is she a gift and therefore a sign of the giver? Could it be that the Lord is here, masquerading behind this simple silly holy face?
Good questions. Questions are good. Questions lead to growth. Questions lead to discovery. Where is God? When and where does he show up? How am I selfish and so, so American? What parts of the Gospel don't I believe?