"Every explorer names his island Formosa, beautiful.
To him it is beautiful because, being first, he has access to it.
And can see it for what it is.
But to no one else is it ever as beautiful .
Except the rare man who manages to recover it,.
Who knows it must be recovered.".
The Loss of the Creature .
With this opening paragraph, Walker Percy concentrates the essence of an entire essay into two neat lines. But what does it mean? What does the title The Loss of the Creature mean? Walker Percy seems to ask throughout his essay how man can enrich his life, how he can truly, honestly enjoy and understand the surrounding world and all it has to offer.
He begins with an example of the Grand Canyon, how no one can truly appreciate it as its discoverer. He seems to believe throughout the example that there are some basic things that disallow men to fully appreciate the canyon; expectations, a need to preserve the "memory", the "improving" of the canyon, and even over observation.
Expectations are elicited from postcards, pictures, travel brochures, and the like. When one gets to the canyon, he has a prefabricated image which can lead to one of two ends. The first is false appreciation. If the sunset is just right, if the rocks are just the right color, if there is a sapphire sky with ashen clouds and a gilded sun, then he was there at "just the right time." Conversely, if the canyon is dark, or it is raining, or if the sun is overcast, he was there at the "wrong time." This misses the point entirely, as the canyon is the same no matter what the weather. The canyon doesn't change. The appearance compared with the picturesque presupposed appearance is the only thing that has changed. Even naming it the "Grand Canyon" imposes a premature expectation of grandeur not necessary to find its splendor.