Author James Wasserman posted this image on Facebook last week and noted:
Laura Wiggers sent me this photo of Robert Anton Wilson in Gurney’s apartment (1986) for the post-lecture evening described on page 216 of In the Center of the Fire when a certain Nancy Wasserman drove me half crazy, probably in collusion with Laura if memory serves. Not that anyone was drinking in those days!
In trying to figure out a regular angle for my third resolution, it dawned on me the other day how many Robert Anton Wilson (RAW) books — particularly his novels — I still had not read. Maybe for my excerpts for funny PJ Lifestyle Bookshelf recommendations I should highlight his jokes? Hence today’s excerpt from Schrodinger’s Cat: The Universe Next Door.
As with many countercultural and spiritual wanderers of the past 40 years, one of my most cherished guides and influence was RAW, a comedic philosopher-intellectual and novelist most well known for his mind-bending memoir Cosmic Trigger I: Final Secret of the Illuminati and The Illuminatus! Trilogy (co-authored with Robert Shea.)
The idea uniting Wilson’s books is one that I still sympathize with but no longer embrace: radical agnosticism. Wilson sought to provoke his readers to learn to always question their perceptions and assumptions, to strive to look through other people’s “reality tunnels.” As a general principle this is still a sound cause to triumph. But I understand now, having imbibed a few more glasses of painful life experience, that this as an overarching ideology cannot sustain itself.
Recognizing a multiplicity of potentially valuable, useful reality tunnels is one thing. But figuring out how to value one as more effective than another is something else entirely. And looking back now across Wilson’s work I see how he failed to do that. His list of influences runs across the gamut from the genuinely brilliant to the malevolent charlatans. And his storyteller and raconteur’s gifts then apply to help popularize both. Perpetually doubting and always striving to see from another’s perspective means that when the time comes to really stand strong on an important principle it can be very hard to do. Insist long enough that we live in a world of endless shades of gray and someday you’ll stumble into a darkness far bleaker than anything imaginable. And doubt can stand against it?
No, but laughter can. And just because Wilson couldn’t realize that some of the ideas and authors he trumpeted were better than others it doesn’t me that we cannot.
For Wednesday’s humorous blogging I’m going to start going through my old RAW books and highlighting what I discover now through my more seasoned, less naive eyes. I want to try and figure out what Wilson got right and where he went off the rails. Which of his 11 novels and 18 nonfiction books merit inclusion on the Counterculture Conservative book list?
But I’ll still try and stick to the New Year’s Resolution and offer up some humor too and not just dwell on the darkness that he and so many of his generation and many since chose to escape confronting.
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
Related at PJ Lifestyle:
Most novelty duets don’t last past the song’s three-minute mark, and with good reason.
(Exhibit A: This “American classic” that nobody really listens to.)
It’s not that the performers involved aren’t talented, but bringing them together is shallow musical stunt casting. The pairing is an ill-advised mutation, a doomed chimera.
When Dennis Prager and Adam Carolla first started appearing together onstage, unimaginative types didn’t “get” it.
Why would a distinguished, highly educated Jewish author go on the road with a foul-mouthed atheist comedian from the wrong side of the tracks?
To fans like me, this duet actually made good sense.
On his podcast, Carolla had repeatedly expressed his admiration for Prager, both as a fellow Los Angeles broadcaster and as a man whose values so closely jibed with his own.
Another fan, R.J. Moeller, made it his mission to bring the two men together to talk about politics, religion, and values.
Thanks to Moeller’s efforts, Prager joined Carolla on the air, and it was obvious to everyone within earshot that the two men were a natural team:
I read the article in the New York Times entitled “Taking a Stand for Office Ergonomics” (thanks to the reader who sent it to me):
But a closer look at the accumulating research on sitting reveals something more intriguing, and disturbing: the health hazards of sitting for long stretches are significant even for people who are quite active when they’re not sitting down. That point was reiterated recently in two studies, published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine and in Diabetologia, a journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.
Suppose you stick to a five-times-a-week gym regimen, as I do, and have put in a lifetime of hard cardio exercise, and have a resting heart rate that’s a significant fraction below the norm. That doesn’t inoculate you, apparently, from the perils of sitting.
The research comes more from observing the health results of people’s behavior than from discovering the biological and genetic triggers that may be associated with extended sitting. Still, scientists have determined that after an hour or more of sitting, the production of enzymes that burn fat in the body declines by as much as 90 percent. Extended sitting, they add, slows the body’s metabolism of glucose and lowers the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol in the blood. Those are risk factors toward developing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
“The science is still evolving, but we believe that sitting is harmful in itself,” says Dr. Toni Yancey, a professor of health services at the University of California, Los Angeles.
It seems like everything we do these days is harmful. I’m just waiting for the government to demand that all offices come equipped with something like this FitDesk. Don’t get me wrong. I actually have this FitDesk and use it occasionally but you can bet that contrarian that I am, if someone told me to use it, I might just stop. Sitting might be bad for you, but so is a constant barrage of negativity from the media telling you that everything you do is somehow bad for you and then using the information to implement policies that restrict people’s individual choices.
All through the 1980s, feminists called men pigs, leftists called conservatives racists, and columnists openly compared right-wing politicians to Hitler. Then Rush Limbaugh came along and started fighting back, and all of a sudden we started to hear about the lack of civility in public discourse! Civility only became an issue when the left started taking it on the chin.
Likewise, getting offended and demanding apologies has for a long time been the default mode of the left. If you said “Obama’s policies hang over America like a black cloud,” there was a collective gasp. You used the words “black” and “Obama” in the same sentence! You must be racist. Talking while conservative was like being locked in a room with one of those Woody Allen characters who hear the word “Jew!” embedded in the most innocent remarks. The idea was to silence and hobble right wingers by making them worry about everything they said.
Well, sorry, now we have the internet, where we conservatives can point out that the hatefulness and violent anger spewed by the left against anyone who disagrees with them, especially women and blacks, are megatons worse than anything coming from the right. And what do you know? Suddenly, being offended is out of style!
Here’s Bill Maher, writing not long ago in the New York Times: “Let’s have an amnesty — from the left and the right — on every made-up, fake, totally insincere, playacted hurt, insult, slight and affront. Let’s make this Sunday the National Day of No Outrage. One day a year when you will not find some tiny thing someone did or said and pretend you can barely continue functioning until they apologize.”