Book: Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965 anthology)
Author: Flannery O’Conner (1925-1964)
Connection with ABC-TV’s LOST: The official LOST website apparently is not currently maintaining their LOST Book Club entries. However, an excellent fan site called Lostpedia has been keeping up with the books on the show. You can find the entry for this book here. The title is an apparent reference to a concept developed by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit priest and philosopher. “Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge.” The idea of everything progressing upward until the end is reminiscent of the conversation between Jacob and “the man in black” in the Season five finale. Man in black: “They come fight, they destroy, they corrupt; it all ends the same.” Jacob: “It only ends once. Everything else is progress.”
In the last episode of Season Five, Jacob is seen reading the book as John Locke falls from the window. The cover of the paperback book used (See picture.) is of a dove being shot by an arrow, possibly inspired by the the description of Julian in the story as “waiting like Saint Sebastian for the arrows to begin piercing him.” Saint Sebastian survived being shot by arrows only to be beaten to death later. Locke survives the crash through the window only to be killed by Benjamin Linus.
Review of the Book
This book is depressing. Frankly, it reminds me of things I’d rather forget.
Flannery O’Connor is not easy to read. It’s not that the vocabulary or the concepts are over my head – they’re not. It’s not just the fact that the “n” word is used more than I have seen or heard it in years – although it is. It must be the fact that she reminds me of deep prejudices that do not exist anymore, and that I would rather forget that time ever existed. We have progressed beyond that – haven’t we?
O’Connor died shortly before this anthology was published, and she is known for her candid and penetrating portrayal of the 1960’s South. The title story is about an “enlightened” son (Julian) who must deal with his prejudiced mother. He must ride the bus with her because she refuses to ride alone now that the buses have been racially integrated.
On the bus, the mother talks about her pride in her heritage as the granddaughter of a rich plantation owner, slave-master, and former governor. Even though she herself is no woman of means, she knows who she is: “You remain what you are.” She declares how “ridiculous” the new integration is, saying, “They should rise, yes, but on their own side of the fence.” Her concept is the opposite of the title of the story.
It is interesting to do a study through this short story of the occasions for the use of the word “rise” and its other forms such as “arise,” “arising,”and “rose.” The reason the mother is on the bus is so that she can go to a “reducing class” at the Y her doctor recommended because of her elevated blood pressure. The events of the story will cause her blood pressure to rise.
The mother will meet a black woman on the bus who is the mirror image of herself, including an identical hat, but the irony will be lost on her. The son is hoping to “show her a lesson,” but she will not learn.
In this story, as well as the other stories in this anthology, the main characters are white; the “Negroes” (O’Connor consistently use this word, commonly used at the time – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used the term himself.) are peripheral. And even though the more liberal-minded whites try to be friendly, most of their motivation seems to be to prove a point to their ignorant kin. The “Negroes” are but pawns in a generational chess game.
It is interesting that the ABC-TV show LOST has lost its black characters. Michael Dawson, his son Walt, and Mr. Eko are no longer part of the story. The only one left is Rose, who has mostly been a peripheral character. She and her husband, Bernard Nadler, seem to represent the ultimate bliss the survivors (and the whole world, really) are looking for – “ebony and ivory living together in perfect harmony.” But, if, for example, Juliet were black, would that have been too much for the love quadrangle (and the audience) to handle?
So where are we on the road from the plantation to Dr. King’s dream? Are we more like the 1960’s, or closer to the convergence?
This past decade saw the first black coach to win the Superbowl, and first black elected as President of the United States. On the surface, it would seem we have come a long way. Certainly we have come a long way toward racial tolerance.
But there’s the rub. Dr. King was looking for more than racial tolerance. He wanted us to love each other. (See my Examiner.com article Martin Luther King and racial intolerance.) It’s wonderful that, at least compared to the 1960’s, we are getting along better. But what King wanted was more than that. In his book Strength to Love, he wrote that only love can drive out hate. And that kind of love can only come from God.
Evil can be cast out, not by man alone nor by a dictatorial God who invades our lives, but when we open the door and invite God through Christ to enter. ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.’ God is too courteous to break open the door, but when we open it in faith believing, a divine and human confrontation will transform our sin-ruined lives into radiant personalities.” (Strength to Love, p. 126)
Good words to remember this month, and throughout the year.