OGB Podcast #33 – The Loss of the Creature
How is that it that in prosperous times, people can be so miserable? Walker Percy’s essay “The Loss of the Creature” delves into how preconceived ideas about experiences cause us to overlook their essence. We are constantly overlooking the joy in things. In the essay, you’ll be introduced to Percy’s ideas surrounding the “symbolic complex.” He writes, “Impossible to see: the thing as it is, has been appropriated by the symbolic complex which has already been formed in the sightseer’s eye (47). Percy uses the example of the Grand Canyon as a prime example of a symbolic complex. He starts by discussing the expectations and hopes one might have as they plan a visit to the Grand Canyon. Before even setting foot on the site, a person limits themself to a tour and “approved circumstances” of the thing, becomes seduced by the symbolic complex, and lose their sovereignty almost entirely.
How do we get around Percy’s “symbolic complex” of a book or a place, and find a way to experience the thing in itself? Can we be sovereign in our engagement with the world?
- Walker Percy’s background
- Percy’s run in with Tuberculosis
- History of the Grand Canyon
- Karl’s experience visiting the Grand Canyon
- Introduction of the symbolic complex
- The problems with hipsterism
- Scott talks about the beauty of stumbling upon something
- The difference between consuming a product verses an authentic experience
- Karl talks about the subversion of the efforts of the planners
- Scott talks about putting yourself in suprising positions to encounter delights
- Scott talks about the ghostly role of consumer verses the sovereign person
- Walker Percy and Shelby Foote’s friendship
Resources/Articles/People Mentioned In the Podcast:
- “The Loss of the Creature”
- Shelby Foote
- Lanterns on the Levee
- Angela’s Ashes
- Jimmie Rodgers song, T.B. Blues
- Van Morison song, TB Sheets
- The San Andreas Fault in the Modern Mind Speech, Walker Percy
- Plato’s 7th letter
- Blacks Reader’s Service Books
- Christopher Marlowe
- Arizona Battleship Memorial
- George Carlin
- Elijah Craig
- Shawshank Redemption
- Lagavulin 16
- Love in a Dry Season
Scott Hambrick: I am Scott Hambrick on the podcast again with Karl Schdut, I never want you to go away, Karl.
Karl Schudt: You can’t quit me.
Scott Hambrick: And today we’re going to read one of our favorites, “The Loss of the Creature” by Walker Percy. One of the finest names, ever. Like it’s just a good name, Walker Percy.
Karl Schudt: That’s like Mayflower name.
Scott Hambrick: Good southern name.
Karl Schudt: Do you know any of his backstory?
Scott Hambrick: A little bit. He’s neighbors with Shelby Foote?
Karl Schudt: Right.
Scott Hambrick: Another great name, by the way.
Karl Schudt: There’s a senator in his family tree. I believe William Alexander Percy is his cousin or uncle who raised him. Who, was also an author, and wrote a book called Lanterns on the Levee and he also had a whole lot of suicides in his immediate family
Scott Hambrick: Southern Gothic.
Karl Schudt: Grandfather, father, mother, father when he was 13, I believe with a shotgun. He writes about it. One of the things that you see in this, Percy’s writing, is this puzzle. How is it that in prosperous times, people can be so miserable? He was going to be a doctor, a psychiatrist, he was at Belview in New York and caught tuberculosis which was a good thing because it gave him an excuse to quit.
Scott Hambrick: Right.
Karl Schudt: So he went up and stayed in the sanatorium and read Dostoevsky and Thomas Aquinas and changed his life. Had a religious conversion, got married, did all of the good things that he should do. And, started writing novels to work out this problem. Why is it that we have more prosperity, what is our number one health problem in the poor?
Scott Hambrick: Over-eating.
Karl Schudt: Obesity. We’re fat, we should be happy. And yet we’re not. And so, if you take a dog, and you give a dog enough food, and enough water, and enough space, the dog will be happy. Right? The dog is not experiencing existential angst. A dog goes to sleep. And cats, well cats are evil we don’t know what they do.
Scott Hambrick: I’ll let that slide.
Karl Schudt: Are you a cat person?
Scott Hambrick: Ya i’m a cat person. We have 2 cats.
Karl Schudt: Do they every wake up in the night and wonder whether or not they exist?
Scott Hambrick: They probably wake up and wonder if I should exist.
Karl Schudt: Right. Well, the answer is no, but they’re not going to kill you today. They’re going to wait. It’s like the dread pirate Roberts from Princess Bride. I’ll probably kill you tomorrow.
So where do you find the problem? It might have to do with this very strange thing that we do, which is human’s talk. Humans think. We have meaning. And so, a lot of it is about this. We’re reading this essay “Loss of the Creature”
Scott Hambrick: I want to talk about TB. My mother’s dad died of Tuberculosis when she was 13. Probably 1958-59, something like that. He couldn’t do anything about that stuff, really. He was in a sanatorium i guess they call it in South Eastern Oklahoma and just terrible stuff. You know, you were talking earlier you didn’t want to read Angela’s Ashes because you didn’t want to read about the suffering of the Irish people. Tuberculosis weighs on me like that some. Like I never knew the guy, but just the mention of it is just horrible to me. You know, there’s a Jimmie Rodgers song, T.B. Blues. Jimmie Rodgers is a country singer from the late 20s, early 30s and he died of tuberculosis. Just heartbreaking and there’s a Van Morison song, TB Sheets. Where he goes and visits an old girlfriend and she’s in the sanatorium. And… this stuff wrecks me.
Karl Schudt: Well i’m sorry-
Scott Hambrick: And percy’s got it. And it gave him a chance to change his life and stop doing the corporate medical thing.
Karl Schudt: It’s not a good thing to get tuberculosis but it might be a good thing to reconsider what you’re doing with your life.
Scott Hambrick: Reorganize priorities.
Karl Schudt: I got to see him in person. I love this essay. I gotta see him in 1989. I had no idea who he was. It was in college, and he got an award and gave a speech and who’s Walker Percy? I had no idea, I was bored out of my mind. I was playing in the band. But then 4 years later, I’m introduced to him when I was living in Columbus and a guy handed me one of his novels and I read it and gobbled up everything else that he’s written. And, I went to North Carolina and went to the archives and pulled out the speech so I could read what he wrote that I should have listened to when I was there. It’s a nice speech, I can send it to you. The whole idea of getting meaning out of the despair of the modern world, he’s got this one thing. Is this it? Listening to Kronkite and the Grass growing? Jesus Christ! That same writing. Is that it? Is that the sum total of why we exist and are prosperous, to sit there? That’s a problem.
Scott Hambrick: In spite of him having those struggles, he’s not a nihilist. “Loss of the Creature”, wrote this essay in ’54. I’ve looked and looked, and I don’t know where it was originally published. John Pascarella could tell us. But he wrote beautiful, 13 page essay called The Loss of the Creature. You want to give the beats?
Karl Schudt: It starts with a visit to the Grand Canyon.
Scott Hambrick: Just sums it up, couldn’t be better.
Karl Schudt: I was rereading it today, and I confess I did exactly the same thing. So, you have to picture this guy goes to visit the Grand Canyon and what’s the reaction. The theory is only the first person to discover it ever actually got to see it.
Scott Hambrick: Ya I think that’s where we start. He starts out García López de Cárdenas who discovered the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon is not a mountain. It’s a hole! And so you can stumble upon the thing. Pikes Peak they could see it on the horizon for probably a day before you actually got to the darn thing. The Grand Canyon’s not like that. The Guy stumbles on it and he has no idea he’s going to see it. And he emerges from the brush, mesquite, and he sees this thing just played out before him. and he has this completely authentic, untainted experience of the Grand Canyon.
Karl Schudt: Ya. Have you ever been to it?
Scott Hambrick: I haven’t.
Karl Schudt: I wonder if you’ll be able to do it right.
Scott Hambrick: That’s one of the reasons I haven’t gone with.
Karl Schudt: You don’t want to do it like everyone else. Ya, I went with my current wife, my only wife, um, but we weren’t married yet. No, ya we were married. This is after we were married. And so we were living in Arizona for 6 months and we drove north from Phoenix and you go into the highlands of Arizona and there might actually be snow on the ground. It was cold, it’s the high plains. You’re more than a mile up. And then, you see this thing and my reaction was “I’m sorry, Walker Percy.” Wow! this looks exactly like the postcard!” So, rather than me saying, you know whatever reaction i was going to have to it, my reaction was filtered through how it’s been presented in coffee table books, postcards, and in “come see the Grand Canyon billboards, and so I did exactly what he companies about. I did not do what García López de Cárdenas did. I viewed it prepackaged. Went to the lodge, went to the observation post, we made it halfway down, but Melissa’s knee was hurting before we drained. And it’s a long way down, it’s a mile down. It’s amazing you should go, but I don’t know you should go.
Scott Hambrick: Right, are we communicating the problem? I can imagine what that would be like walking up to this thing.
Karl Schudt: Let’s communicate the problem.
Scott Hambrick: Now, I think I already think I know something about it. My uncle showed me a slide, you look it up in the encyclopedia britannica when you’re a kid. We already have in our mind a symbolic complex built around the idea of the Grand Canyon. and then when you go to see the Grand Canyon, you turn off where there’s a sign that says Grand Canyon this way. Then you go to the scenic turn off, then you go to the ranger station and you get the little brochure, and you go out of the balcony and look out the binoculars and it tells you what you should look like and there’s a handrail and the whole thing is spoon fed to you in a particular way. did you see the Grand Canyon, or did you experience the theme park ride Grand Canyon ride?
Karl Schudt: Right. Grand Canyon World. I was thinking about this, when we did the 7th letter, Plao was talking about the same problem. You have the reality of this great big hole in the ground. And then you have what we experience, how close can you get to the realty? If I go there and look at it, if I’m already looking at it with somebody else’s concept, I think that’s a problem. I m not going to get the thing. Let’s talk about Shakespeare. The best way to do Shakespeare is not to do it in English class, it’s to do it in Biology. You know? Have somebody put a sonnet on your dissection notable. now the context has been skewed and the sonnet you can actually look at it. If somebody is going to read Shakespeare, especially in high school, this great literature we’re going to read but we’re going to read it already in categorize and maybe we’re going to read it in terms of gender roles in Elizabethan era, maybe we’ll read The Taming of the Shrew and we’ll read it that way.
Scott Hambrick: You’re darn sure going to read it for the test.
Karl Schudt: You’ll read it as a chore. how can you not like Shakespeare if you’ve actually experienced Shakespeare?
Scott Hambrick: He talks about if somebody actually found in alexus xxl’s new world, if they found Shakespeare in the rubble. Sit down on a burning chair, and read the thing. That they would have this experience of just finding Shakespeare and really liking it. And I’ve actually found books that I found out later on that were supposed to be great books and I was a 12 year old and bought some books. I bought a set of Blacks Reader’s Service books, beautifully bound with gold leaf and a little ribbon bookmark in each book like sewn into the binding. They were fairly inexpensive, I think we probably paid 50 for this set of these books in 1985 or something like that. Hell, I didn’t know. And I just started reading them, and I was like man I kinda like the Tolstoy guy, Vergers river’s bottoms in Wagoner County Oklahoma.
Karl Schudt: You’re probably better off not knowing. I think Christopher Marlowe, my brother Joe, he’s never going to listen to this, he had a copy.. you know why he won’t listen? He’ll know it’s his brother on the podcast, and he already has a symbolic complex about me. And I’m his goofy younger brother. He’s already going to be turned off on it. He was taking an AP english class and he had his books in the car we were on the way to Florida, 22 hours. He had Plato, and he had Marlowe. And I remember reading Foust and it was awesome. You know? This is a lot of fun. This is good stuff In school, school is like distend to make you hate it. It’s designed to package it for you. Did it succeed Scott?
Scott Hambrick: Ya i think so. There was some stuff I liked. You’ve got a timeline, you’re reading for the test, there’s also giving you notes about the thing. He talks about it in terms of the Grand Canyon. If’ you’ve already seen the postcard and the days a little cloudy, you’re going to feel cheated. You have to be aware of having your levels set before coming into one of these books.
Karl Schudt: Can you flesh that out?
Scott Hambrick: If you see a postcard of the Grand Canyon that was probably done by a professional photographer on the best possible day, then they have manipulated the print somewhat, “photoshop” applied some filters, whatever, and the think is glossy and beautify and they sold it to you and it’s a postcard. Well you go there it’s hazy, the humidity is high, you can’t see all the way at the bottom People jostling around, it’s not the same as the postcard. and instead of looking to the canyon and experiencing it, you end up comparing it to the postcard. You end up comparing it to what somebody may have told you about the Grand Canyon. Gosh this isn’t as great as what everybody told me. Everyone told me to come here, it’s a pain in the ass.
Karl Schudt: If you saw Grace Kelly and she was picking her nose. That’s not Grace Kelly!
Scott Hambrick: That would make me feel better actually.
Karl Schudt: Do you think she ever did it?
Scott Hambrick: Oh of course.
Karl Schudt: She didn’t have people to do that for her?
Scott Hambrick: My wife Charity tells me about going to the Arizona battleship memorial in Hawaii and how the tourist there ruined it for her. She couldn’t do it because she couldn’t do it whatever it is. She couldn’t experience whatever it was because of the hustle and bustle. and I think that happens. Percy goes on and talks about the kind of person that I hate a lot. This is the kind of person that “tries to..”
“For example, after a lifetime of avoiding the beaten track and guided tours, a man may deliberately seek out the most beaten track of all, the most commonplace tour imaginable: he may visit the canyon by a Greyhound tour in the company of a party from Terre Haute—just as a man who has lived in New York all his life may visit the Statue of Liberty. (Such dialectical savorings of the familiar as the familiar are, of course, a favorite stratagem of The New Yorker magazine.)”
I just hate that! I hate that guy that drinks PBR for the irony. I hate the guy that goes on that basic tour of the Grand Canyon for the kitch. Right? There are a lot of people that save up, because that’s what they want to do. I hate the guy that observes them like it’s a person zoo.
Karl Schudt: Ya, but I want to try to save it. This is hipsterism that you’re complaining about it. I can’t listen to that band, too many people listen to it. I can’t drink that beer, it’s too good. There’s something percy will help you understand: things have a symbolic complex which makes it impossible to enjoy. can you enjoy the Beatles?
Scott Hambrick: Never have been able to.
Karl Schudt: Well in theory, if there was something good about the beatles. I know they got a movie coming out, where the whole world has forgotten the Beatles existed.
Scott Hambrick: Sounds awesome.
Karl Schudt: Except the one guy remembers and he starts playing the songs. So, you have to imagine you are on a desert island you’ve been marooned, you don’t know anything about anything but you’ve got a record player made it’s one of the ones you wind up. And then you sergeant pepper washes up on the shore. Maybe you could enjoy it then instead of having them be the supposed greatest rock band ever that you have to like.
Scott Hambrick: I had that experience, once. When I was a kid, I found two cassette tapes of the parking lot of the grocery story just laying on the ground.
Karl Schudt: What were they?
Scott Hambrick: One of them had no label whatsoever, and the other one said Van Halen 2. And I hadn’t heard van halen before and it was Jesus Christ. It was amazing! And the other one was hilarious. it was a comedy album and it was hilarious. I didn’t know who it was. And I didn’t know who I was for years. It was George Carlin. It was dubbed cassette tape with no label on it. it was just a super smart funny guy
Karl Schudt: And the first time you heard it, you didn’t know this guy was supposed to be funny. George Carlin is somebody everybody should laugh with, I think he’s too subversive to be that kinda guy. Pick a name out of a hat, somebody now, I don’t know the comedians.
Scott Hambrick: Joe Coe, I don’t know.
Karl Schudt: I’m going to sit down and watch this funny person. I’m going to laugh. Whereas you had a pure experience of George Carlin, that’s great! Well so I actually have an argument with Walker Percy here. Maybe. Can you come at a book without a symbolic complex? Scott and I were having a conversation with a man who believed you couldn’t do it. You can’t come at these books without reading Fuoco and knowing how to read them. You’re not in Elizabethan england! Everybody knows Shakespeare, there is a symbolic complex around it, people have read these books forever. There’s operas around it. How do you get back to the thing itself and is it even possible? So I wonder if this is just a guy complaining ?
Scott Hambrick: Well no, I think at the end of the essay what some of these authentic experiences can be like and then giving us examples of what those could be like. We can try to pursue those kinds of experiences on our own, those authentic experiences on our own.
Karl Schudt: Well what would that look like? Let’s say you do go to the Grand Canyon. And, you want to have an authentic experience. I can imagine a bad tour guide and a good tour guide. And the bad tour guide be the one who gives you the canned speech about whatever the national park service wants to emphasis this month and takes you through it pre packaged and doesn’t give you room to think about it. Doesn’t give you any room to contemplate it. Just, talks at you the whole time.
Scott Hambrick: Well what is somebody going to say about the Grand Canyon? It’s a beautiful hole in the ground! Do you need a guide? What would the good experience of it be? Well we already know where it is, so you can’t exactly stumble upon it. but maybe you take 10 days and you go to this extreme of the thing. And you just walk the rim of the thing for 10 days.
Karl Schudt: Well maybe you don’t even have 10 days but I think you could do it better. So the tour guide says, ok so the Grand Canyon this is where it is. He might give you a parking tip, you know. If you want to park, park here. There’s the bathrooms. I’m here if you have any questions. Maybe I can answer something but just go look at it. I think there’s a parallel to the way that I try to do seminars. When I run a seminar, this is the thing. I don’t care, I really don’t care what you end up thinking about the thing. I care that you think about the thing. I care that you see it. Right?
Scott Hambrick: It’s there for you. You’re not for it. What’s he going to say about the Grand Canyon. If he’s going to say anything, He’s going to say it after you’ve seen it. You need to go look at it, for however long you need to look at it. And then you need to turn around and say park ranger, how far is it to the other side and how deep is it? Have you ever been down there? And you shouldn’t say anything until you’ve looked at it at least, what would he say?
Karl Schudt: He needs to back off and let you experience the thing.
Scott Hambrick: Now there’s another problem here that he talks about. When you see these things and there are all these people around here, he says looking is like sucking. The more lookers there are, the less there is to see. That’s so good. But like Charity has told me, the battleship Arizona thing several times, and there’s just a bunch of people there. And our friend Nicky Sims went to Omaha beach last week and I just texted back and forth a little about it, and he’s like “there are people out there swimming.” You know, just freaked her out. And I was like, well swimming has got to go on. And she’s like, ya thank god. And maybe that is part of the experience now seeing Omaha beach is the wars over, the obstacles are gone, the mines are gone, the machine gun quoted, and people can swim now.
Karl Schudt: Well that’s the way it is. That’s the way she experienced it. That’s omaha beach. not the way it is in the book. He has this line, “the person who visits the Grand Canyon, instead of looking at it he photographs it.” and i know you go to concerts, and I’ve been to a few, and I got to see Lake Street Dive.
Scott Hambrick: I’ve heard of them
Karl Schudt: I’m sorry that your concert got washed out. I confess, I don’t know the names of anyone else. You know them all. And there would be people taking video on their phone and looking at the concert through the video on their phone. And here’s this marvelously talented band, just for you, this whole experience is out there just for you and you can’t experience it. You have to experience it a step back. You know? Or maybe you need to experience it in order to fit on Instagram.
Scott Hambrick: They’re collecting the experience maybe.
Karl Schudt: You’re consuming as a product, I don’t know like Doritos, rather than. I like the word contemplation. You’re near something beautiful and you just hand out with it. You don’t have a purpose. It’s the opposite of purpose. You have the experience because the experience is good. Not because you get to brag about it, not because it ads to your income, just because it’s good. that’s the best way to experience this stuff. that’s the height of it. experiencing it for use “i’m going to go look at the Grand Canyon so I have a good story to tell.” that’s no good. Go because it’s the Grand Canyon.
Scott Hambrick: He talks about the dialect that takes place between the thing and the observer. I like that. The dialectic of sight seeing. “This dialectic of sightseeing cannot be taken into account by planners, for the object of the dialectic is nothing other than the subversion of the efforts of the planners. The dialectic is not known to objective theorists, psychologists, and the like. Yet it is quite well known in the fantasy-consciousness of the popular arts.”
Karl Schudt: I had that marked as well. The subversion of the efforts of the planners. There are people that have a way that they want you to experience stuff and I think you ought to be working to smash those efforts to break through them. I always think about Plato, there you are in the cave, there are people behind you presenting images. there’s a way they want you to view the world. this is part of it. The Grand Canyon is one example, Shakespeare’s sonnet is another example, the dogfish, you know? This tribe is a particular example of this sort of thing.
Scott Hambrick: So he tells a story about a couple that want to do a car trip to Mexico and they go and see all the sights that you’re supposed to see. maybe they got to a small town at some point, they get lost. Like really lost for a couple of hours, they are in trouble. And they drive into this little village and terrible road maybe, super remote, and they’re in there having some weird corn god rain dance thing. Nobody speaks any english and they hand out there a little bit, this is it. These are authentic Mexican folk ways, there’s nothing kitchy about it. this is not a tourist trap, this is it. And they hang out for a couple of days and they just can’t believe it. and then they go back, they got a friend who studies these things. and they’re like man, I just wish hat Karl could be here. I wonder what Karl would think of this.
Karl Schudt: Ya well if hypothetical karl is any good at this, he’ll just shut his mouth. But they want their experience validated. Did we experience this in the right way? That really struck me. So, why is it that pole want to surrender? Percy calls it an ever surrender? Why do we want to surrender our experiences to the way other people want us to experience it? World event happens, you flip on your favorite news network to see what you’re supposed to think about it. He talks about sovereignty.
Scott Hambrick: When you ask for certification of the experience, you surrender your sovereignty, he says.
Karl Schudt: Right, so you are lord of creation, you are a knower, you are a sovereign individual. You can have an experience of the sonnet. You don’t need to read what academics with PHDs say about it. In fact, if you do that you probably won’t experience it. You’ll experience it in the wrong way. That’s what the hypsersts are trying to do. they’re trying to experience something, they’re just being annoying about it
Scott Hambrick: They’re carrying type writers around.
Karl Schudt: ya. I picked up my moms’, my grandmothers typewriter. I brought it home. I think Sarah might use it. Maybe she could actually write on an anent bit of technology that doesn’t work very well
Scott Hambrick: Pencils are pretty good. These people see this tribe these local people shaving their little festive whatever it is, “we’ve found it! this is authentic, rural, mexican folk way. WE found it. And as soon as they get back to town, home, they have to talk to the anthologist. You’ve got to come. And when they come back with their friends, they just keep looking to him. “didn’t we tell you, this is it?” we told you. and he says, what has taken place then “is a radical loss of overnight…the anthologist.” who gives a shit what that guy thinks!
Karl Schudt: If you start thinking of what’s authentic, I think you’re already screwed. Who cares if it’s authentic? It’s an experience. enjoy it, you know. You don’t have to have the right kind. So I was thinking about it again, to pick a fight with Walker Percy. Wait a minute, I run seminars. What am I doing? You know, am I giving people my experience of the thing? Or am I helloing them. So, let’s imagine somebody buys a small batch of Elijah Craig and opens it up opens up a coca cola full sugar. and then mixes them together. And puts ice in it. Scotts making faces right now. And drinks it, and this is how this person drinks Elijah Craig barrel proof small batch. Is there something wrong with that? is that not an authentic experience of bourbon? Has he screwed up? Should we help this poor man.
Scott Hambrick: Actually wouldn’t and I haven’t. but i wouldn’t have him put coca cola in mine.
Karl Schudt: There’s room for that. you know there’s another way to experience that.
Scott Hambrick: Why before you put that coke in there, why don’t you take a swig of it first because it’s pretty good
Karl Schudt: You can drink your bourbon that you pay for however you want, it’s ok. but, let me show you a neat way to do it. You can come to any conclusion about the Grand Canyon I don’t have one ready for you, however, look over there isn’t that cool. why don’t you go over there and just wait for 20 minutes and let it hit you.
Scott Hambrick: We probably are screwed up if we say isn’t that cool or isn’t that good, we’re probably screwed up.
Karl Schudt: Ya, well, I’m drawing on the essay. He talks about two ways you can do this. Two ways that you can have an authentic experience even maybe in school. And the first one is the dislocation. To see something in a weird way. when you get lost and you find the place, the other one is to have a good teacher. But there’s a particular kind of teacher the one that is humble towards the thing that he’s teaching. Ok, so if you have somebody that says “this is what Shakespeare means “ or this is what socrates means, I’ve mastered it. I think this is unlikely to be a good experience for you. you’re just going to come out of it with whatever the professor thought. But if somebody says this is really neat. I think you can say that? Otherwise you wouldn’t present it. Here this is Elijah Craig this is good stuff
Scott Hambrick: It wouldn’t be wrong for you to say, I really like this.
Karl Schudt: Maybe you’ll like this too. And maybe you point out some reasons why you like it.
Scott Hambrick: You ever drink lagavulin 16.
Karl Schudt: 16 i don’t know. I’ve had some at your house
Scott Hambrick: It’s super stinky scotch. and people when they typically drink that, they don’t like it. but I have found that if somebody wants to try it and I tell them, when you drink this think seawater. they go, hmmm and then they want a little bit more. but did I overlay a symbolic complex on lagavulin.
Karl Schudt: Well you know there’s no way to get rid of all symbolic complexes, unless you become the first man on early or the first woman but even then probably not. So I want to read the bit that he talks about his, “the second way, “the first way is to get lost on a deserted island.
by apprenticeship to a great man, one day a great bill …drops into the pelvis.” The genuine teacher is humbled before the thing. Isn’t this neat? Look at this little bit here? In other words, he’s contemplating the glory of the thing, of reality. but he’s not saying to you, this is the specimen. It’s not abstract, in other words, look at this neat thing I’ve placed in front of you. I like that, I think that’s what I try to do.
Scott Hambrick: To be a keen observer, and share a delight in the thing.
Karl Schudt: Right, and maybe ask questions. there’s a quote towards the end I had to look up the word “miutick” the highest role of education is “ but as a sovereign individual…” and so I don’t want to tell you how to experience this thing, but maybe you ought to experience it. it’s really good. but you have to look and I’m going to get out of the way and let you look at it a little bit. I remember my youngest boy, he’s doe this a few times. We’ll go see something, a museum, and he’ll do whatever he wants. he’s 8, he’ll do whatever he wants to do. and I’ll ask everybody not the way home “what was your favorite part?” Oh I liked the steam engine that was really neat. I like the lego display, and my little boy might say something like “I really like the gravel in the parking lot.” that was what fascinated him. We’ve got all of these things that we’re supposed to look at and he doesn’t care about that. and he goes to the ground, there’s cool rocks in the gravel. so he might have had a more authentic experience of the museum than I did.
Scott Hambrick: Well, that’s interesting. His experience poraby met his needs to a large degree but maybe this is where the good expert teacher is there like “Jon, you’re looking where the ground is. Got a lot of quarts in it and I saw a fossil but let’s get our gaze up because there’s this other thing.” Maybe that’s appropriate to do.
Karl Schudt: But what’s not appropriate is to say you stupid! we’ve got a syllabus to follow, conform! telling people how they ought to experience something makes me angry. I don’t know if you can hear it. I want you to experience it, I don’t have a way that I want you to experience it.
Scott Hambrick: I think he describes several differences accidentally ways to experience things, that’s just my favorite. We talked about finding Shakespeare and reading it, or finding George Carlin. He talks about the girl and the heart is a lonely hunter. Where a girl hides in the bushes to hear Beethoven being played in the house. Perhaps she was the lucky one. Think of all the unhappy souls in side who see the record player who worry about the record player and worry if they’re getting it. But she’s just out there eavesdropping in the azalea bush.
Karl Schudt: What would it take to get Beethoven-
Scott Hambrick: To get it? To obtain mastery?
Karl Schudt: I don’t want to obtain mastery, I want, ok, the romantic era of music- these pieces that get played on the boarding station that nobody listens to-
Scott Hambrick: You can donate your car and keep that station going though.
Karl Schudt: I listen to it al the time so I could. I know not to may people listen because they’re always asking for money. If you could experience how good this music was, you’d never want to listen to anything else. or at least you wouldn’t have time to listen to the bad stuff. but this was such passionate music that there would be riots at the premier of things. the stravinsky, I wrote a little thing on this, the rite of spring, there was a riot at the premier. Can you imagine carrying enough about classical music to start punching people?
Scott Hambrick: Sounds awesome.
Karl Schudt: Ya? But it’s become classical music, it’s boring, intellectual people listen to and therefore I can’t experience it. There’s a scene, I know you’re not big on movies, Shawshank Redemption, there’s a scene where they’re all out working on the yard, and they’re stuck in prison. and then all of a sudden somebody puts Mozart on the piety. And this little bit form what of the operas, it’s in the movie. That would be the way to experience Mozart. That would be a way, you know? there you are stuck in jail for the rest of your life, sweating in the hot sun, and there’s this angelic beauty coming through. Rather than finding on the shelf of your school library of classical music.
Scott Hambrick: He talks about the deathly ill, and waking up and your hands are right in front of your face. Have you ever taken a nap on the couch and you wake up and you’re like what is this? And you’re like oh it’s my foot. You get confused about where everything is. Those surprising moments, if we can somehow put yourself in the bushes where beethoven might be playing. maybe not go to prison, but put ourselves in positions where we can encounter some of these things, that’s the best thing we can do-
Karl Schudt: I actually think that’s the reason there’s so many end of the world movies. People know that they’re not quite getting it. But if you wake up, and the whole world has turned into zombies, I didn’t watch much of that sow, but there’s a zombie show, the beginning is cool though. And he’s in the hospital and he’s unconscious and he wakes up and everything is zombies. And he doesn’t know what’s happened. I bet you the world looked pretty interesting to him right? I bet he could read Shakespeare. he’s got a shotgun in one had and he’s blowing away a zombie and then he’s sitting down to get to the end of the sonnet-
Scott Hambrick: I hate that shit by the way
Karl Schudt: What zombie movies?
Scott Hambrick: Ya it’s not how people act. They build a fort and then they found boons burrow and they plant crops, and they rebuild. That’s what they do. they don’t real and run on their heels and react for all their days. You know? I don’t like what it says about people.
Karl Schudt: So that’s why you should only watch the first 10 minutes of these movies. And then you can stop.
Scott Hambrick: Except light of the living dead, I think that was a good book. Percy says, “if you’re going to recover this thing from this symbolic complex, “a student may simply be strong enough.. and the educational package.”
We get these pictures from people who work with us at Online great books where there like sitting on a pipe on an oil field reading this stuff, or it’s on the dash of their truck, or whatever, and they are just amazing.
Karl Schudt: I was thinking about that too. I bet you that the person that is saying I’m not sure I’m going to get all this reading done and he’s reading on the subway or his construction job, or the mom is reading in between all 6 of her homeschooling kids and she’s trying to get a few more lines of Plato, I bet they’re reading it better. I know there are, I talk to them a couple of times a week. I know they’re reading it better. I think that this essay is fantastic, he’s had a big role in my life and the way that I think about things. I’m reading all of this stuff, I was listening to this stuff. A lot of Karl, a lot fo me, is Walker Percy. I think I need to read it again and reclaim me because a lot of the ways I think about things is because of him.
Scott Hambrick: One last little image that I thought was wonderful. I think this is what a lot of people in the complex worry about, He says, “the tourist who carves his initials in a public place…ghostly role of consumer” He’s saying I’m not a ghost after all, I’m a sovereign person.
Percy writes beautifully, Percy is one of the very few humans that have been out there and never knew him but I miss him.
Karl Schudt: Ya me too. But I need to return, ya. Read these books again.
Scott Hambrick: I get why. Percy lived on the same street as Shelby Foote. when they were kids, shelby wrote “love in a dry season” and most famously the giant civil war narrative and was the guy with the van dyke and the great accent and Ken Burns civil war. And they were lifelong friends, and there are some videos of them together. You can find them on youtube. But just those guys talking on some interview shows, there are some interviews of shelby foote talking about percy. And talking about being at his bedside when he died. Those guys are a big deal. They knew how to live. And they knew how to be good to each other and to the rest of us too. They are both gone now, and it’s not good.
Karl Schudt: I saw one thing, i think tie as on C SPAN they were interviewing shelby foot and they asked about Walker Percy. And it had been a while since Percy died, he died in 1990. Foote had just said how much he missed Percy, and how much it hurt, and the interviewer said well do you think with the passage of time that this pain will ever go away? And shelby foot just looked at her and glared and said no. I don’t want the hurt to go away. Because I miss him. He was my friend.
Scott Hambrick: Those gentlemen knew how to live and do things and percy writes about tit in loss of the creature. percy was dying and he went to his bedside to suffer through the whole thing with him. unmediated. and just great guys. that’s the loss of the creature. short, it’s 13 pages you should read it, it’s all over the internet. that has been a big influence on me too. I came upon it much later than you did, but our friend John Pascarella says this thing has great bearing on the things we do at OGB. this is one of the readings we do at the bootcamp where we train seminar hosts, at least to audition. he writes so beautifully about these problems. we’ve beaten our listens over the head with these problems, so go have a look at it. if you’re a homeschool parent who learns things you’d be well served to spend 15-30 minutes it takes to read this.
Karl Schudt: Yup. absolute, let us know what you think. can they let us know what they think?
Scott Hambrick: Email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know if there’s something you think we should read and talk about on here. if you have any questions about percy or if you want to argue about percy, that’d be a good place to do it. also, please go to Itunes and give us some reviews. And pass this show on! We’re trying to grow this baby show, the best way is for you to give it to somebody you like. maybe tell one of your buddies to go read Walker Percy’s Loss Of The Creature, hash it out, and then after you’ve read it, have your friend listen to his show too. Thanks so much for listening and go to onlinegreatbooks.com and join our waiting list we would love to have you join us as readers one day too. Thanks for listening.