Boethian Religious Ecstasy

John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces:

‘Ignatius pulled his flannel nightshirt up and looked at his bloated stomach. He often bloated while lying in bed in the morning contemplating the unfortunate turn that events had taken since the Reformation. Doris Day and Greyhound Scenicruisers, whenever they came to mind, created an even more rapid expansion of his central region. But since the attempted arrest and the accident, he had been bloating for almost no reason at all, his pyloric valve snapping shut indiscriminately and filling his stomach with trapped gas, gas which had character and being and resented its confinement. He wondered whether his pyloric valve might be trying, Cassandralike, to tell him something. As a medievalist Ignatius believed in the rota Fortunae, or wheel of fortune, a central concept in De Consolatione Philosophiae, the philosophical work which had laid the foundation for medieval thought. Boethius, the late Roman who had written the Consolatione while unjustly imprisoned by the emperor, had said that a blind goddess spins us on a wheel, that our luck comes in cycles. Was the ludicrous attempt to arrest him the beginning of a bad cycle? Was his wheel rapidly spinning downward? The accident was also a bad sign. Ignatius was worried. For all his philosophy, Boethius had still been tortured and killed. Then Ignatius’ valve closed again, and he rolled over on his left side to press the valve open.

“Oh, Fortuna, blind, heedless goddess, I am strapped to your wheel,” Ignatius belched.
“Do not crush me beneath your spokes. Raise me on high, divinity.”
“What you mumbling about in there, boy?” his mother asked through the closed door.
“I am praying,” Ignatius answered angrily.
“Patrolman Mancuso’s coming today to see me about the accident. You better say a little Hail Mary for me, honey.”
“Oh, my God,” Ignatius muttered.
“I think it’s wonderful you praying, babe. I been wondering what you do locked up in there all the time.”
“Please go away!” Ignatius screamed. “You’re shattering my religious ecstasy.”’

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