Flannery O’Connor’s “Hazel Motes” and nihilistic materialistic “justification” through the “American Dream Machine”

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“Nobody with a good car needs to be justified!” (Brad Dourif as Hazel Motes)

Hazel Motes is the main character of Flannery O’Connor’s first novel, “Wise Blood,” from 1952.  Leon C. Wood, in his book on Flannery O’Connor says the following about the significance of Hazel’s car in his “religion”:

This broken-down car serves as the single sacrament of his nihilistic religion, the true viaticum for escaping everything that would lay claim on him. O’Connor was an early discerner, together with Walker Percy, that the automobile, even more than the movies and television, is the great American Dream Machine. It fulfills our fantasies of individualist autonomy, enabling us to strike out for the proverbial territories whenever the limits of social existence press in upon us. As Motes’s only sacred space, the car serves as both pulpit and residence, enabling him to incarnate his message in a life of perpetual isolation and vagabondage. (Flannery O’Connor and the Christ-Haunted South, p. 169)

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Flannery O’Connor

BMC @ Manifest Propensity, 2013

“Normal Person” by Arcade Fire and the “status” of normalhood

First things first: Another great song by Arcade Fire. I think it is one of their best more “traditional” type rock songs, vocally and musically.

Lyrically, I think it is, along with many of the songs on Reflektor, a song dealing with “collisions” happening in our society. I think the collision in this song is of people groups engaged in “culture war” battles that occur regarding who is entitled to the “status” of being considered “normal.” Continue reading

Bob Dylan’s “Grail”

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In “Chronicles” Bob Dylan writes of a search he undertook in the early 1960’s when he first arrived in New York City. He had been singing Irish Ballads but wanted to change his subject matter. Dylan says

“I was beginning to think I might want to change over. The Irish landscape wasn’t too much like the American landscape, though, so I’d have to find some cuneiform tablets-some archaic grail to lighten the way. I had grasped the idea of what kind of songs I wanted to write, I just didn’t know how to do it yet…

…In some ways the Civil War would be a battle between two kinds of time…The age that I was living in didn’t resemble this age, but yet it did in some mysterious and traditional way. Not just a little bit, but a lot. There was a broad spectrum and commonwealth that I was living upon, the basic psychology of that life was every bit a part of it. If you turned the light towards it, you could see the full complexity of human nature. Back there, America was put on the cross, died and was resurrected. There was nothing synthetic about it. The godawful truth of that would be the all-encompassing template behind everything that I would write.

I crammed m head full of as much of this stuff as I could stand and locked it away in my mind out of sight, left it alone. Figured I could send a truck back for it later.”

(Bob Dylan, Chronicles – Volume 1, pp. 83-4, 86) Continue reading

“Time in Babylon” by Emmylou Harris – (Are we “Doin’ time in Babylon”?)

A song written by Jill Cunnliff, Daryl Hall, and Emmylou Harris. (Video by “Heritage Church”)

Five-lane highway danger zone
SUV and a speaker phone
You need that chrome to get you home
Doin’ time in Babyion
Cluster mansion on the hill
Another day in Pleasantville
You don’t like it take a pill
Doin’ time in Babyion Continue reading

“Manifest Propensity” Explained

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“Manifest Destiny”

This painting (circa 1872) by John Gast called American Progress, is an allegorical representation of the modernization of the new west. Here Columbia, a personification of the United States, leads civilization westward with American settlers, stringing telegraph wire as she sweeps west; she holds a school book. The different stages of economic activity of the pioneers are highlighted and, especially, the changing forms of transportation.

The purpose of this post is to explain why this blog is called “Manifest Propensity.” I have said a few things in this regard, but have never offered a full explanation. The name comes from two sources. The first source you may have guessed due to the verbal similarity. Continue reading

“Aspirations for Leviathan” – Thomas Hobbes, Gentle Giant, and Jacques Ellul

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I admit that this is an odd post  – consisting mainly of three excerpts from the minds of men: 1) an excerpt from “Leviathan” by Thomas Hobbes that expresses the nature of his idea of a commonwealth of men materialized in a social contract under a supreme ruler; 2) a song called “Aspirations” by the early 70’s English progressive rock band Gentle Giant that poignantly expresses the desires for peace that compel men to conceive of, and covenant for, such societal schemes; 3) An excerpt from “The Betrayal of the West” by Jacques Ellul that effectively demonstrates that the pattern of aspiration/degradation has plagued every social construct and aspiration of mankind in the West. Lest we drown in despair, I conclude the post with some thoughts from elsewhere… Continue reading

A lesson from Heinrich Heine – How to prophesy the future by knowing the present

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Heinrich Heine, 1831

For Christmas 2011, I received a kindle from my wife. After I had downloaded more free public domain works than I will ever be able to read in my lifetime, I actually read “On the History of Religion and Philosophy of Germany” by Heinrich Heine. It proved to be a fascinating work from beginning to end. One of the most interesting parts was toward the end when he began to write as though he knew without a doubt, that some dark and foreboding world shattering event would transpire in Germany, in the future. Continue reading