Loss of the Creature - Walker Percy Essay

We put an immense amount of trust into others experiences and furthermore allow it to dictate our own. I have not done a lot of traveling, but I know that there is a desire to see something new, to make a revolutionary finding. We allow ourselves to use the internet when travelling, to find specific destinations but not knowing that our own discoveries and findings, are what we make of our true experiences. Percy explains a loss of sovereignty in this world and how one has lost an experience through various “symbolic complexes” and by the means of trying to achieve that experience.

I, myself can relate to the experience of the man from Boston, taking his family to see the Grand Canyon but not actually seeing the sight for what it really is. Sometimes all we get to see is what has been approved and not what the real “thing” is, therefore leaving a person to see what everyone else is seeing because we will not be able to actually see beyond the approvements due to what an expert may tell us what is expected of the experience.

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My family and I had not done a lot of traveling but during the summer of 2008, we were off to see the Niagara Falls for the first time ever. Prior to leaving, i was told various experiences from friends and family and had even seen pictures about how their trip had went, and it made me think that maybe my experience would be just as great. After reading Walker Percy’s essay on “The Loss of the Creature”, i soon realized that my experience of visiting the Niagara Falls might have been lost through various symbolic complexes.

Percy explains the example of the “the Grand Canyon, the thing as it is, has been appropriated by the symbolic complex which has already been formed in the sightseer’s mind (Ways of Reading, Pg. 482)”, and that i may be seeing and viewing the Niagara Falls from others experiences. However, the next day upon our arrival we were off to see the Niagara Falls, as we arrived i had noticed that almost everyone had a tour brochure in their hand. As it being our first time at Niagara Falls, my family and I were also lured into the tour guides, not being able to really see “it” for what the falls really were.

Perhaps if it were Sunday, and all the tours were shut down, and the crowds had gone home for the day, maybe then my family and I could really experience the falls. Now looking back on my trip, I feel as if the hotels, restaurants and all the lights distracted everyone from really seeing the falls for what it is and I also feel as if everyone was blinded by the tour brochures which made it just seem like an ordinary trip where they went on tours of the place and saw everything for what the experts think they should see.

My overall experience of the Niagara Falls was not that bad, the main attraction was pretty impressive even though the tour experts were telling us tourists what the experience is or should be – in this case, that one should ride the “Maid of the Mist” boat tour across the harbour in order to fully experience the falls. When i come to realize it, the one thing that was missing was my own sovereign experience, “it”. Percy offers several suggestions, but the one that fits my experience occurs as “a consequence of a breakdown of the symbolic machinery by which the experts present the experience to the consumer (Ways of Reading, Pg. 83)”. In the end i’ve come to understand that i had already seen the Niagara Falls because of the image i already had in my mind that was formed before my trip and how i would never be able to actually see the falls before it had been approved. My family and I going on a trip was obviously planned out to see the Niagara Falls but as Percy explains it, “the measures taken are measures appropriate to the consumer: the expert and the planner know and plan, but the consumer needs and experiences (Ways of Reading, Pg. 92)” which clearly means that my family and I went to see the falls as an experience we could look back on. With all the roaring rapids and clouds of mist in the square mile of Niagara Falls, the one thing that stood out the most to me in Niagara was the “crystal beach waterfront”. I felt as if the crystal beach hadn’t been talked about and that it was something totally new to me that i didn’t know anything about.

There were no tourist guide experts telling my family what the experience is or should be like while at the crystal beach and there were no postcards or pictures, along with stories that i had heard of. Being there and having a camcorder in hand was a good investment because we had recorded many videos of the Niagara Falls and the crystal beach, along with many other things because you just can’t capture the motion or the sound of the water in still images. I believe that i can relate my trip to he American couple that visited Mexico because I, myself went to see the Niagara Falls but left with a different experience not being that of the falls but of something totally different. For example Percy noted, “It is given expression by their repeated exclamations that “this is too good to be true,” and by their anxiety that it may not prove to be so perfect, and finally by their downright relief at leaving the valley and having the experience in the bag, so to speak-that is, safely embalmed in memory and movie film (Ways of Reading, Pg. 86)”. This particular quote stuck out to me because My family and I left with video’s of our trip, and we left back home telling our experience to others about our trip to the crystal beach that almost seemed “to good to be true”. The scenery, the view and the sunset made my experience worthwhile because I had never seen anything like it before, it was an experience that i had not expected, it was an experience that had not already been formed in my mind.

From my trip, i can surely understand Percy and what point he was trying to make in understanding that “seeing the canyon under approved circumstances is seeing the symbolic complex, head on. The- thing is no longer the thing as it confronted the Spaniard; it is rather ‘that which has already been formulated-by picture post- card, geography book, tourist folders, and the words Grand Can- yon (Ways of Reading, Pg. 482)”.

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