Quotes from Lancelot

Walker Percy ·  257 pages

Rating: (2.3K votes)


“Have you noticed that the narrower the view the more you can see? For the first time I understand how old ladies can sit on their porches for years.”
― Walker Percy, quote from Lancelot


“Yes, interest! The worm of interest. Are you surprised? No? Yes? One conclusion I have reached here after a year in my cell is that the only emotion people feel nowadays is interest or the lack of it. Curiosity and interest and boredom have replaced the so-called emotions we used to read about in novels or see registered on actors' faces. Even the horrors of the age translate into interest. Did you ever watch anybody pick up a newspaper and read the headline PLANE CRASH KILLS THREE HUNDRED? How horrible! says the reader. But look at him when he hands you the paper. Is he horrified? No, he is interested. When is the last time you saw anybody horrified?”
― Walker Percy, quote from Lancelot


“The second I left my old life's cowpath, I discovered I didn't need a drink. It became possible to stand still in the dark under the oaks, hands at my sides, and watch and wait.”
― Walker Percy, quote from Lancelot


“In my new freedom I remember thinking: If one knows what he wants to do, others will not only not stand in the way but will lend a hand from simple curiosity and amazement.”
― Walker Percy, quote from Lancelot


“I stood up. Can a man stand alone, naked, and at his ease, wrist flexed at his side like Michelangelo's David, without assistance, without diversion, without drink, without friends, without a woman, in silence? Yes. It was possible to stand. Nothing happened. I listened. There was no sound: no boats on the river, no trucks on the road, not even cicadas. What if I didn't listen to the news? I didn't. Nothing happened. I realized I had been afraid of silence.”
― Walker Percy, quote from Lancelot



“In New Orleans I have noticed that people are happiest when they are going to funerals, making money, taking care of the dead, or putting on masks at Mardi Gras so nobody knows who they are.”
― Walker Percy, quote from Lancelot


“Looking at oneself in a mirror is a self-canceling phenomenon. Eyes looking into eyes make a hole which spreads out and renders one invisible. I had seen more of myself in that single glimpse of a ghostly image in the pier mirror, not knowing it was I.”
― Walker Percy, quote from Lancelot


“Is all niceness then or is all buggery? How can a man be forty-five years old and still not know whether all is niceness or buggery? How does one know for sure?”
― Walker Percy, quote from Lancelot


“We've spoken of the Knights of the Holy Grail, Percival. Do you know what I was? The Knight of the Unholy Grail.
In times like these when everyone is wonderful, what is needed is a quest for evil.
You should be interested! Such a quest serves God's cause! How? Because the Good proves nothing. When everyone is wonderful, nobody bothers with God. If you had ten thousand Albert Schweitzers giving their lives for their fellow men, do you think anyone would have a second thought about God?
Or suppose the Lowell Professor of Religion at Harvard should actually find the Holy Grail, dig it up in an Israeli wadi, properly authenticate it, carbon date it, and present it to the Metropolitan Museum. Millions of visitors! I would be as curious as the next person and would stand in line for hours to see it. But what different would it make in the end? People would be interested for a while, yes. This is an age of interest.
But suppose you could show me one "sin," one pure act of malevolence. A different cup of tea! That would bring matters to a screeching halt. But we have plenty of evil around you say. What about Hitler, the gas ovens and so forth? What about them? As everyone knows and says, Hitler was a madman. And it seems nobody else was responsible. Everyone was following orders. It is even possible that there was no such order, that it was all a bureaucratic mistake.
Show me a single "sin."
One hundred and twenty thousand dead at Hiroshima? Where was the evil of that? Was Harry Truman evil? As for the pilot and bombardier, they were by all accounts wonderful fellows, good fathers and family men.
"Evil" is surely the clue to this age, the only quest appropriate to the age. For everything and everyone's either wonderful or sick and nothing is evil.
God may be absent, but what if one should find the devil? Do you think I wouldn't be pleased to meet the devil? Ha, ha, I'd shake his hand like a long-lost friend.
The mark of the age is that terrible things happen but there is no "evil" involved. People are either crazy, miserable, or wonderful, so where does the "evil" come in?
There I was forty-five years old and I didn't know whether there was "evil" in the world.”
― Walker Percy, quote from Lancelot


“What nuns don’t realize is that they look better in nun clothes than in J. C. Penney pantsuits.”
― Walker Percy, quote from Lancelot



“Can good come from evil? Have you ever considered the possibility that one might undertake a search not for God but for evil? You people may have been on the wrong track all these years with all that talk about God and signs of his existence, the order and beauty of the universe--that's all washed up and you know it. The more we know about the beauty and order of the universe, the less God has to do with it. I mean, who cares about such things as the Great Watchmaker?
But what if you could show me a sin? a purely evil deed, an intolerable deed for which there is no explanation? Now there's a mystery. People would sit up and take notice. I would be impressed. You could almost make a believer out of me.
In times when nobody is interested in God, what would happen if you could prove the existence of sin, pure and simple? Wouldn't that be a windfall for you? A new proof of God's existence! If there is such a thing as sin, evil, a living malignant force, there must be a God!
I'm serious. When was the last time you saw a sin? Oh, you've seen quite a few? Well, I haven't, not lately. I mean a pure unadulterated sin. You're not going to tell me that some poor miserable slob of a man who beats up his own child has committed a sin?
You don't look impressed. Yes, you know me too well. I was only joking. Well, half joking.”
― Walker Percy, quote from Lancelot


“Tell me something. Why did I have to know the truth about Margot and know it with absolute certainty? Or rather why, knowing the truth, did I have to know more, prove more, see? Does one need to know more, ever more and more, in order that one put off acting on it or maybe even not act at all?”
― Walker Percy, quote from Lancelot


“Pascal told only half the story. He said man was a thinking reed. What man is, is a thinking reed and a walking genital.”
― Walker Percy, quote from Lancelot


“I cannot tolerate this age. And I will not. I might have tolerated you and your Catholic Church, and even joined it, if you had remained true to yourself. Now you're part of the age. You've the same fleas as the dogs you've lain down with. I would have felt at home at Mont-Saint-Michel, the Mount of the Archangel with the flaming sword, or with Richard Coeur de Lion at Acre. They believed in a god who said he came not to bring peace but the sword. Make love not war? I'll take war rather than what this age calls love.”
― Walker Percy, quote from Lancelot


“Unlike him I had been unable to escape into the simple complexities of science. All he had to do was solve the mystery of the universe, which may be difficult but is not as difficult as living an ordinary life...(How happy scientists are! Why didn't we become scientists, Percival? They confront problems which can be solved. We don't know what we confront. Does it have a name?)”
― Walker Percy, quote from Lancelot



“but we know in the South that the real purpose of manners is to make life easier for everyone, easier both to keep to oneself and to avoid the uneasy commerce of offense and even insult. Either one shakes hands with someone or one ignores him or one kills him. What else is there?”
― Walker Percy, quote from Lancelot


“All he had to do was solve the mystery of the universe, which may be difficult but is not as difficult as living an ordinary life.”
― Walker Percy, quote from Lancelot


About the author

Walker Percy
Born place: in Birmingham, Alabama, The United States
Born date May 28, 1916
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