The Silver Lining Of The Storm


Spencer Woodman consults Walker Percy to understand the calm that can come after hurricanes:

I had picked his second book—The Last Gentleman—off my shelf after I recalled its strange depiction of hurricanes as philosophically rich events that visit mass existential relief upon entire populations crushed under modern malaise. For Percy, the transformative power of a hurricane lies not just in the immediate excitement, the break in routine it brings, but more so in a storm’s capacity to limit the range of human choice, its ability to deliver a whole city from the chaotic realm of the Possible back the unquestioning mode of the Necessary.

Percy, on his "own intensifying spiritual journey," found himself overwhelmed by American abundance and the comforts of his privileged life. It takes a shock to the system to put one on what he called "the search":

To understand his take on hurricanes, one must start with his brand of malaise, one attuned to a distinctively American discontent. An overabundance of daily choice paralyzes the will of Percy’s characters. Minute decisions become indistinguishable from the major questions of how and why. For Percy, all options lurk about all the time and the soul recoils from this infinitely sprawling dichotomous key of doors ajar. Breadth of opportunity should make life colorful, but Percy’s overabundance causes just the opposite. His characters strive to do something, but, with their compass dials spinning dizzyingly, they can do nothing but fall into desiccated daily routine. Workaday blandness melds with torturous cosmic confusion.

(Photo of Hurricane Sandy by Brian Birke)