Tuesday, February 18, 2014

From A Certain Point of View...

You know what they say, "perception is reality". By "they" I mean the modern age and by "perception is reality" I mean one of the most misunderstood cliches in the modern lexicon. There is a certain worldview that surrounds this catchphrase that believes because our minds are the only means we have of interpreting the world around us and the nature of our own lives, then therefore only the individual can justify himself by his own terms of his own actions, which equals freedom. On the other hand, it is widely argued that this catchphrase both ignores the possibility of objective reality, be it God or otherwise, and also enables people to commit any number of atrocities because they refuse to behold themselves to other people's opinions; in other words, perceived self-reality equals solipsistic madness. This, of course, is comprehensive of nothing in particular except my own failings to understand the nuances of human perception, which have been resolved somewhat by our study of Flannery O'Connor, who manages to reconcile these two arguments by perceiving a new way to look at the issue.

For O'Connor, "perception is reality" basically means that each individual person has preconceived ideas about himself and the world around him that are built primarily on his finite senses, memory, and to some extent his heritage. More often than not this is merely a matter of pride but can also extend into the realms of racism and classicism, as evidenced by The Artificial Nigger and Revelation. The thing about perception and reality, though, is that a person's perception is always flawed and full of holes, requiring a significant shift in fortunes and an injection of grace to cure, which is the primary plot device employed by O'Connor throughout her catalog. Even so, as in the case of Hazel Motes and the grandmother, one's certainty in the nature of his world is fatally tinged with doubt, chained to Reality by something beyond their perceptions and thus highlighting the ultimate absurdity of human perception; this is what she calls the grotesque. At the same time that she does this, however, she also allows her characters to experience incarnational grace, a word which here means grace that is both totally divine (otherworldly) and rooted in time. What Tarwater and Hulga both receive is something beyond their own devices yet experienced in a way that speaks to their humanity and is individual to each of them, personally. Thus, grace breaks through the stony walls of their obdurate self-deceptions and entices their senses in a way that is entirely new, endlessly eternal, and finally within their grasps if they are simply willing to clutch.

Perhaps what people are really afraid of, as they rightly should be, is not that perception is reality but that reality is perception. Yes, but perception IS reality, and whether or not that's something to be afraid of is a personal matter.

1 comment:

  1. perceived self-reality equals solipsistic madness--love it. Very Hunter-esque