It was going to be the best day of my life. My family had finallyagreed that we needed to visit the beach. I recall my father tellingmy mother, “The children deserve a tour one of this days, I thinkwe should plan a visit to the beach soon”. I had heard so manystories about how people enjoy swimming and walking around the beach.It seemed that everybody I knew had already had the privilege ofvisiting the place. On many occasions my friends would come back toschool on weekends and narrate to me their experiences. Some wouldsay “It is very different to swim in a beach as compared to aswimming pool”. I guess the most absurd thing I had was one of myfriends saying “the water is really blue”.
Finally the day had come. “Wake up children, we do not want tostart our day late”, my mother shouted. “You need to get readyand remember to pack your costumes”. Then, suddenly my fatherjoined in as though they had rehearsed, “it is going to be a greatday, hurry up children”. By now, I was already excited. I couldalready see myself running around the “blue waters”, going deepinto the waters and walking on hot sand. When my mother walked intomy room as I was preparing myself, she laughed and told me that therewas no need to wear any makeup. She continued to explain that therewould be too much water that would wash away the makeup instantly.
These comments only seemed to enhance my curiosity, and I could nothelp but ask her, “Mother, do you have a picture of the beach”?She smiled and hurriedly left for her room, and within a minute shewas back to my room with a picture album. She showed me so manypictures she had taken on her numerous visits to the beach, some withher friends and others with our father. They looked so happy, and shereassured me that the experience would me magical. I could onlyrespond by saying “let us hurry up and go”. Within no time, wewere all ready to leave, my father, mother, brother and myself.
The journey was long, or maybe it is because I longed to be in aplace I had heard so much about. Finally, we arrived, and “alas”it was magical. The waters were actually blue, there was sand allover. The first thought that came to my mind was that “truly theplace does not look like a swimming pool, I can walk on sand and atthe same time be in water, and the sand is just as hot as I hadimagined”. After we had secured a spot on the sandy beach, mybrother and I hurriedly rushed to our respective changing rooms andcame dashing back in our swimming costumes. I thought it was obviousthat having known how to swim in a swimming pool, it would not bedifficult to swim in a beach.
It seems that my parents were comfortable just sitting on the sand,but because there were so many people, they asked as to ensure thatwe did not go far from their sight. I held hands with my brother andwe started jumping up and down in the water. “This is so much fun”,I recall my brother saying. I responded by telling him “everythingis magical, just like mother and my friends had told me”. We triedto swim, but realized that we had to go a bit deeper in the waters toenjoy the experience.
Before we could even move an inch deeper into the water, we hadscreams. “Help! Help! My son is drowning”. A woman rushed fromthe water screaming. Suddenly, I noticed that there were life guardsas they rushed towards the scene to rescue the child. As I looked atmy mother, she beckoned on us to get out of the water and rushtowards her. It was all confusion and chaos. Some people were runningout of the water, others stood still and some were capturing themoment using their phones. None of my friends had ever told me ofsuch an encounter. I was delighted that, being my first time in thebeach, I had something more interesting to tell my friends about.
Luckily, the boy was rescued and the necessary first aidadministered. We continued to swim, but the experience was not thesame as prior to the accident. My parents could not allow us to godeeper into the water for fear that we would drown. Hence, I did notgain the experience of swimming far away from the shoreline. At last,the day came to an end and we had to head back home. I was happy thatI had finally visited the beach and had a different and interestingstory to narrate to my friends. At the same time, I was unhappy thatI did not swim deeper in the waters.
Upon reflecting on my experience, I realize that it relates to someof the examples and ideas from Percy’s essay, “The Loss of theCreature”. The essay explains how our thoughts are very powerfuland have the ability to obliterate the probability of realexperiences. The author urges people to liberate themselves frompreconceptions to be able to enjoy life and gain new experiences. Heexplains that it is impossible for someone to enjoy visiting a place,when he or she has already heard and formed ideas about the place.
Reflecting upon my experience, I agree with Percy’s thoughts. Inthe essay, Percy begins by comparing the experiences of the firstindividual to discover the Grand Canyon to a tourist or sightseer.The explorer was able to enjoy the sight because it was somethingnew, something that nobody had ever discovered. But, the tourist andsightseer are unable to witness such an experience because “theGrand Canyon, the thing as it is, has been appropriated by thesymbolic complex which has already been formed in the sightseer’smind” (Percy 1). By symbolic complex, Percy means that the placehas already been formed in the mind. Recounting back to myexperience, I connect to Percy’s argument. This is because, I hadalready heard about the beach and seen it on pictures. Hence, uponarrival I could only see what I had preconceived, for instance thatthe water was blue. I did not even question the possibility that thewater was not blue.
The essay continues to explain that during my visit to the beach, Ilost my sovereignty. I can compare myself to the sightseer, who onlysees what has been captured about the Grand Canyon in a postcard.Just because the place looks like the image, the sightseer agreesthat the place is beautiful and is satisfied. Hence, he or she lacks“the sovereign discovery of the thing before him it is rathermeasuring up of the thing to the criterion of the preformed symboliccomplex” (Percy 2). Likewise, I had a preformed idea of the beach,despite the fact that I had never visited such a place.
This explains why upon my arrival, I see sand and water and isdelighted about the place. I lacked sovereignty because, I could onlysee what others had said about the place, and did not discoveranything new on my own. Another illustration of my lack ofsovereignty is that, despite the fact that I did not swim dip in thewater, I still continued to hold the perception that it would be fun.This is because, as a sightseer, my mind was congested withanticipations as well as an inability to actualize my expectations.Upon reading Percy’s essay, I now question my preconception thatprobably I would have had a different experience.
Percy’s suggestion is that, when we accept ideas concerning a placeprior to having our own experience about it, the place cannot matchthe ideas we get. This means that we never see a place for what itis, but we see it as it has been told. Thus, we surrender to theconceptions of other people. As a result, Percy wants the reader toquestion how he or she can recover sovereignty. Instead of conformingto the ideas of a planner, or expert, that is people who know about aplace, people should “leave the beaten track” (Percy 2). Thismeans, avoid listening to what others say about a place, or expectingto have the similar experience from visiting a place, like otherpeople.
For instance, when referring back to my experience, Percy impliesthat the most interesting aspect about my first beach experience waswitnessing somebody drowning. Although, I was not happy about theaccident, I was able to enjoy the visit because I saw something thatother people had not told me about. As such, I was able to recover mysovereignty, by becoming a sovereign explorer. Percy explains that“the symbolic machinery by which the experts present the experienceto the consumer” was broken down (Percy 3). Since nobody had toldme of the likelihood of someone drowning, I seized to become asightseer of an already created symbol of the beach, and was able toexplore something new.
In conclusion, Percy teaches that people should stop losing theirsovereignty to experience things or places, by wanting to learn aboutsomething before seeing it. This means that individuals shouldendeavor to be spontaneous, by doing the unexpected. Hence, itbecomes impossible to conform to people’s symbolic complex. Whenvisiting a place, one should ask himself or herself what he or sheexpects to see, instead of asking others.
Percy, Walker. The Loss of the Creature, (n.d): 1-13. Web. 4Aug. 2016. http://boblyman.net/engwr302/handouts/Loss%20of%20the%20Creature.pdf