There is no such thing, strictly speaking, as a literature of alienation. In the re-presenting of alienation the category is reversed and becomes something entirely different. There is a great deal of difference between an alienated commuter riding a train and this same commuter reading a book about an alienated commuter riding a train. (On the other hand, Huck Finn’s drifting down the river is somewhat the same as a reader’s reading about Huck Finn drifting down the river.) The nonreading commuter exists in true alienation, which is unspeakable; the reading commuter rejoices in the speakability of his alienation and in the new triple alliance of himself, the alienated character and the author. His mood is affirmatory and glad: Yes! That’s how it is!–which is an aesthetic reversal of alienation. (Walker Percy, The Message in the Bottle, chapter 4–”The Man on the Train”)
(I suggest you watch the whole clip before reading on)
This clip really hit home. I plan to purchase the full movie when I can. I was going to just leave the quote by Percy and this clip alone here, but I began to reflect on one of the lines said by the knight.
Why is God a mocking reality that cannot be gotten rid of?
The answer is complicated or perhaps very simple, but nevertheless it is something that is true. It is easy to find it on disillusioned/fallen-away/apostate Catholics. Heidegger, James Joyce, and Umberto Eco have some kind of Catholic element in their works. They may have left God and His Church, but God had never left them.
Dare I refer to the indelible mark from baptism?
Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. (CCC 1272)
But we may refer to someone more orthodox and died a practicing Catholic: Flannery O’Connor. Being a hard-core Catholic, she was very sensitive to the mysteries of grace and sin. In her short story, Wise Blood, the notion of a person haunted by God is prevalent, a man who wants to be rid of God, but is thwarted by grace.:
…he saw Jesus move from tree to tree in the back of his mind, a wild ragged figure motioning him to turn around and come off into the dark where he was not sure of his footing, where he might be walking on the water and not know it and then suddenly know it and drown. (Wise blood)
There is also the experience of seeing something and it changes your entire outlook on life. Now that you know this particular thing, your life can never go back to the way it was. In a similar way, the Incarnation, true or not, has changed the whole of humanity:
“Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead,” The Misfit continued, “and He shouldn’t have done it. He shown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it’s nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness,” he said and his voice had become almost a snarl. (A Good Man is Hard to find, Flannery O’Connor)
But this understanding goes farther back. Way back.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:67-68)
Even the Apostles were met with this reality. They had seen and heard something that completely changed everything. Life would never be the same again, but then Christ was killed. All hope and belief was scattered to the winds, and even St. Thomas the Apostle became an embittered, sarcastic a-hole. Christ’s death was a humiliating and mocking defeat–a stumbling block for the Jewish believers and foolishness for Gentiles (1 Cor 1:23). Here was a man who preached the words of eternal life and yet He died.
Did that not make Him a hypocrite? Did that not make Him a liar? Did He not then merely convince idiots to follow Him, making a fool of Himself and everyone around Him?
I would not be shocked to know that any of the Apostles thought these. However it was God who had the last mock, if you will. The God of Life gave Himself to death, and He had the last, eternal laugh with his resurrection. Then to drive the point home, he nagged that a-hole Apostle: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:27)
Even now God continues to mock and nag us. He mocks our ways, showing that His ways are superior than anything we can imagine, and he nags us until we will come to believe.