Copyright Ross F. Lockridge, Jr., 1947, 1948 / All rights reserved Selected Writings From Raintree County The Perfessor stopped and took a drink....
...a sacred Other...
Ross Lockridge, Jr.,
Raintree County, pp. 928-30.
The Perfessor stopped and took a drink. A faint glare of fire was on the western wall of the night. The singing from the Revival Tent had lapsed and begun again.
--As for this god, the Perfessor went on, he has all the characteristics of a crazy person. He has a god-obsession. He's being constantly annoyed and persecuted by other imaginary gods that shall not be had before him. He wants everything to redound to his personal credit. Nothing for others--but all only for him, so that he may be glorified forever and forever. He falsifies the history of the world as an act of self-justification. He wields unlimited power like a despot and brags of his triumphs. Whatever he wills is good, and whatever is against his will is evil. He attributes his own faults to others, attacking Satan for wanting to rule in heaven and charging the Hebrews for being a stiff-necked people. Isn't this the picture of a thoroughly unpleasant old man and a thoroughly unpleasant universe?
--Yes, it is, Mr. Shawnessy said. But it was better than what went before. At least the Hebrew God was the product of a strong moral sense. Later, in the Christian ethic of the Golden Rule, this moral sense went beyond the tribal stage.
--The pagans were closer to divinity than Christ was, the Perfessor said. At least they frankly recognized the miracle of sex and procreation. They showed a healthy appetite for life itself, which is more than we can say for the immaculate Nazarene.
--The pagans recognized the divinity of process, Mr. Shawnessy said, but not of personality. And as far as I can see, human life is people. It's even simpler than that. It's Oneself, a simple, separate person. But Oneself exists by virtue of a world shared with other selves. Our life is the intersection of the Self with the Other. In the intense personal form this intersection is love, and in the ideal, general form it's the Republic. Jesus gave us the moral shape of this Republic--the Sign of the Cross.
Mr. Shawnessy heard a commotion in the bushes. The Perfessor's place on the swing was empty, and the Perfessor's head was just disappearing over the side of the verandah.
--I'll be back later, he said. Be good children, and don't eat any apples.
--It's getting quite dark, Mrs. Brown said, her voice low and musical.
She sat beside him on the swing, her hair bound up leaving her neck bare all around in the fashionable way, her hands folded in her lap, her face and figure in piquant profile.
He was thinking of her universe. It was, he knew, a rather brave, hopeful, lovely universe. He understood this universe, liked it, lingered uneasily at the threshold of it. He was thinking of the long, long way that had led from female to feminine, from Woman to Eve. Billions of lost souls had labored to perfect this slight creature and her universe of feminine values. Two hundred thousand years had been necessary to tailor her modish dress out of a figleaf. Billions of dead hands had put stone upon stone to erect the curious monument of the house. Like a sound of ocean was the murmur of dead tongues that had struggled to speak so that her mouth might make musical words about the rights of women and the finer things of life, so that her bookcase might be full of gilded volumes. This woman, too, was Eve, a sacred Other. There was, he knew, a sense in which he approached her through the precise formulations of her lawn, and as he did so, garden and house dissolved; pagan adornments were overcome by bark and leaves. He had entered a grove of danger and decision. There was a sense in which he found her there, forever waiting, naked, with gracious loins, an anguishingly beautiful young woman whose body wore perhaps some curious blemish as a sign of her mortality. There was a sense in which he was always reaching out his hand toward her in this place and touching her face as it looked up into his. There was a sense in which the face was that of the woman he had married, and also of some other women whose faces had been turned up toward his. There was a sense in which this face of the archetypal woman was forbidden, untouchable, divine. In this excitement, there was a sense in which he became lost: he lost his name, his selfhood, his oakleaf garland, and even his own private republic, and achieved a wonderful unity-- which was immediately relinquished.
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