Friday, February 15, 2008

The Cold Fury of Saturn

The sex and violence in Western life, especially American life, are commonplaces.  But the important questions do not have commonplace answers.  For example:  What is the relationship between the two?  Are they merely, as one so often hears, the paired symptoms of a decaying society like the fifth-century Roman Empire?  Or is there a reciprocal relationship?  That is to say, is a thoroughly eroticized society less violent and a thoroughly violent society less erotic?

Or, the more ominous question:  Suppose the erotic is the last and best recourse of the stranded self and suppose then that, through the sexual revolution, recreational sex becomes available to all ages and all classes.  What if then even the erotic becomes devalued?  What if it happens, as Paul Ricoeur put it, that, "at the same time that sexuality becomes insignificant, it becomes more imperative as a response to the disappointments experienced in other sectors of human life?"

What then?  Does the self simply diminish, subside into apathy like laboratory animals deprived of sensory stimulation?  Or does the demoniac spirit of the self, frustrated by the failure of Eros, turn in the end to the cold fury of Saturn?

It is no longer open to Clint Eastwood to do what Cary Grant did.  In fact, Eastwood's character, Dirty Harry, doesn't like girls.  But he has his .44 Magnum.
— from Lost in the Cosmos (1981), by Walker Percy.   Chapter 18; THE DEMONIAC SELF: Why it is the Autonomous Self becomes Possessed by the Spirit of the Erotic and the Secret Love of Violence, and how Unlucky it is that this should have Happened in the Nuclear Age

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