A Message in a Bottle for 2023
In the mid 1970’s Walker Percy published a series of essays which he had written over the years in a book entitled, The Message in the Bottle: How Queer Man Is, How Queer Language Is, and What One Has to Do with the Other. The quote below is taken from the first chapter which was one of the last of the essays written and seems to have been intended as an overview or guide on how to read/interpret the others. The term ‘alienation’ was quite in vogue in those days both from psychoanalytic and Marxist perspectives. It seems quaint in retrospect, but I think we get the idea…
The experience of alienation was thus not a symptom of maladaptation (psychology) nor evidence of the absurdity of life (existentialism) nor an inevitable consequence of capitalism (Marx) nor the necessary dehumanization of technology (Ellul). Though the exacerbating influence of these forces was not denied, it was not to be forgotten that human alienation was first and last the homelessness of a man who is not in fact at home.
The Judeo-Christian anthropology was cogent enough and flexible enough, too, to accommodate the several topical alienations of the twentieth century. The difficulty was that in order to accept this anthropology of alienation one had also to accept the notion of an aboriginal catastrophe or Fall, a stumbling block which to both the scientist and the humanist seems even more bizarre than a theology of God, the Jews, Christ, and the Church. So the scientists and humanists got rid of the Fall and reentered Eden, where scientists know like the angels, and laymen prosper in good environments, and ethical democracies progress through education. But in so doing they somehow deprived themselves of the means of understanding and averting the dread catastrophes which were to overtake Eden and of dealing with those perverse and ungrateful beneficiaries of science and ethics who preferred to eat lotus like the Laodiceans or roam the dark and violent world like Ishmael and Cain. Then Eden turned into the twentieth century.
Now almost fifty years on, these observations appear prescient as our enlightened progressive elites double down on every failure to lead the human race into what they imagine are ever more perfect permutations of economic, social and political arrangements.
Gil Bailie has often used the metaphor of ‘a message in a bottle’ for the work he has been toiling at for the past forty years. Starting out with in person seminars recorded on cassette tape, then on compact disc, and now on streaming media podcasts, with each new round of technological options our hope has been that the message about who man is and where his true home might be found will reach those in need of receiving it. Yet, as we have always known but often forget, the best ‘bottle’ for holding this message is not the latest technology – but the original one God created out of the dust of the earth, the human being kneeling in worship before his creator, who serves his neighbor in truth, love, and justice. Those of us who work alongside Gil Bailie – Alex Lessard, Rico McCahon, and Randy Coleman-Riese – are dedicated to helping each other and all those who find our work of value to become vectors for the Gospel’s message. 2023 will bring new challenges and new hands to meet them as Alex and Rico take over Randy’s executive director position. We ask for your prayers and support as we explore new avenues to bring our work into schools and homes in the new year.