Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Uncertain Life, finale

So, Maybe Logic:
"I have learned more from Robert Anton Wilson than I have from any other source."
-George Carlin

"Belief is the death of intelligence."

Just saw the first quote for the first time in my life. It's nice to know that two of the men I admire most appreciated one another's thinking. The second quote, from Ol' Bob himself, gave me fits when I first read it several years ago. Just what the hell is that supposed to mean?
But the more I've lived and thought about the quote, the more true it seems. Holding to any belief with unfailing certainty and credulity --whether it's the belief that aliens are abducting white folks and sticking probey things up their hoo-hahs, or that Darwin was right (or wrong)-- is just dogmatic belief to the exclusion of other possibilities. Now, for the continuation and/or maximization of materialistic existence, acting as if certain things are truer than true, 100% of the time, is a good thing. For instance the belief that if I walk out into traffic and get struck by a bus that I am going to die: all my experience in the past and all evidence presented by others suggests unfailingly that this is the most likely outcome. So, in the system of Maybe Logic, I'd give that supposition a "10". On the other hand, the idea that little grey men from Venus are going to take me out of my bed in the middle of the night: I'd give it a "2". The idea, as is probably obvious, is to rate the probability/possibility of things being 'true' on a scale-- whichever scale you choose.

Uncertainty leads to keeping an open mind about all things, no matter how absurd and illogical they may at first seem. It's a comfort to me in this post-modern age, because all I see most days is dogmatic belief and rigid, unbending thinking. Not only in religious people, but in folks who put their faith in a political party or process, in science and materialism, in the belief that the government is out to get us (or out to help us). This kind of thinking irritates me to no end. I, of course, am as guilty as anyone of holding on to certainty at times. But I generally am able to catch myself and look at things from a truly skeptical point of view. It's not hard to do once you get the hang of it. A good clue is if you feel your heart rate and blood pressure climbing at the sheer stupidity of what you just read/heard. Which happens all the time on the interwebz....

Thursday, August 25, 2011

RAW and the Uncertain Life (Pt 3)

Okay, I'm back in action. Sorta. Thanks for all the 'get well' wishes.

So-- Robert Anton Wilson (or Ol' Bob, as he is known to his fans) had some brilliant thoughts on reality, our perception thereof, and the ways in which we communicate about it. He also grabbed some ideas from various and sundry people, like Tim Leary and semanticist Alfred Korzybski, and ran in his own direction with those ideas. The ones that really speak to me are the interlocking ideas of  'reality tunnels' and 'maybe logic'.

The idea of a reality tunnel is basically that we all live in our own perceptual universes, separate from but (hopefully) somewhat related to each others' universe. Whether there is some definite, ultimate, objective, rock-solid Reality out there is really a moot point. We each perceive whatever there is through our own sets of filters. What our senses tell us about what's outside of us-- our computer screens, the chair you're sitting in, the weather, what have you -- is only one part of the collective filter. Our prejudices, the way we've been brought up, even very early childhood experiences, have all played a part in determining how our minds color the sensory input we receive.

So, following Ol' Bob's line of reasoning, it only makes sense that we should take everything with a grain of salt. Literally everything. Question each thing that you believe you 'know'. How do you 'know' this? What are the possible 'filters' determining how you perceive the information that causes you to 'know'? If you're so sure that what you know/believe/feel is RIGHT and TRUE, what about people who 'know' something different? Are they all deluded, or mad, or mistaken, or what?

Now, this is where the Maybe Logic comes in. And the whole idea of  the uncertain life.....

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Temporary Hiatus

Ugh. Summer cold. Maybe summer pneumonia. I will return shortly for more of those pointless ramblings you all love so much. For now, while I go steal some old man's oxygen tank and find someone to chop down two pecan trees and burn them with fire, I leave you with this:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

RAW and the Uncertain Life (PT 2)

...So, where were we?
Oh, yeah. So, anyway, I'd found RAW, was very impressed by his resume. I put down the first book of his which I'd been reading (Prometheus Rising) and went over to his Illuminatus! Trilogy. To be honest, "Prometheus" was getting a bit overwhelming, and I felt I'd got as much as I could out of it by just reading without actually doing the exercises in the book.
SO-- I pick up "Illuminatus", and start to r---- What. In. The. %&@#??? The book jumps from 1st person, to 3rd person, and back again with no warning or segue; a flashback for one character may turn into a present-day narrative for an entirely different character right in mid-sentence. Not to mention the subject matter itself is more than a bit esoteric at times.
But, I persevered. Hell, I had little choice- for some reason, I couldn't put the book down. Despite the confusing, brain-juggling manner in which it was written, it was a story which drew me in instantly. When I eventually did put the book aside, it was to read more of RAW's ideas (and his expounding on the ideas of others). As I did this, things began to get a bit clearer.
Next time: Reality tunnels, 'Maybe' Logic, General Semantics, and who the hell is reading this book, anyway?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

RAW and the Uncertain Life

I don't remember just how I came to fall in love with the writings and ramblings of the late, great Robert Anton Wilson. I do know it was about 2 years ago that I first came across his name, on some random online forum I happened to be browsing, in connection with the equally great and bleedin' demised Aleister Crowley.
Of course, my present opinion of Crowley was as-yet unformed, and like most of the great unwashed I thought he was only a perverted, drug-addicted Satanist of yore.... but I digress, more on Mr. Crowley later.
Anyway, as I'm searching for info on Crowley, I come across some reference or another to this fellow Robert Anton Wilson (who always seems to be referred to by all three names like some serial killer) in connection with re-programming one's brain, and a book he had written on the subject entitled Prometheus Rising.

I took a peek at the book online, and knew I had to get it in my dirty little paws. What I read, after finally managing to get my hands on a copy, blew my mind-- literally. The book is a sophisticated mash-up of psychology, sociobiology, various "magickal" ideas, and assorted other inspired (and surprisingly effective) nonsense, all basically built around Timothy Leary's "8 Circuit" model of human consciousness.
To say the least, I was hooked. Novel approaches to life, reality, and all our perceptions thereof  are something that I value very highly and find endlessly fascinating, even when I don't agree with those approaches.
So, I very quickly accumulated as much as I could of Wilson's writings, audio recordings of speeches and interviews, transcripts of lectures, and anything else I could get my hands on. Sifting randomly through this wealth of material, I soon learned that this inspired loon had had his finger in many pies, from being an editor for Playboy magazine to co-editing The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences.  Wilson was also a well-known writer of science fiction, his best-known work being The Illuminatus! Trilogy, co-written with Robert Shea.

(to be continued...)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

...And the Hits Just Keep Coming....

Well, I thought that perhaps once I got back from vacation, I would be able to post more regularly. I had hoped so, actually, as I have discovered that I really enjoy writing these posts and wish I had more time to spend on them.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case. Since I returned, my youngest daughter has been fairly ill from her asthma. Seems that the ungodly-hot weather, combined with sitting in a bone-chillingly cold movie theater to watch 'The Smurfs', then back into the heat, caused her asthmatic little lungs to seized up a bit. So it's been breathing treatments every 2 hours, day and night, night and day.
If one is unfamiliar with the joys of trying to get a rowdy 6-year-old girl to sit still long enough to breath in a few milliliters of albuterol (while said albuterol is acting on their system in a manner roughly akin to low-grade meth), then one should consider themselves lucky.
But, as in all things, I try to find the brighter side. Which, in this case, is further instructing my child to be as wonderfully weird as her father; namely getting her to quote "Lord of the Flies"-- "Sucks to your ass-mar."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Home Again, Home Again....

It's really true -- there's no place like home.
I started this blog while on a sort of vacation, which is why it's been a bit spotty with me getting new posts out.
Well, "vacation" may be a bit too strong a word for it. The wife and I took our two kids out of town to visit my wife's best friend and her 3 rug rats for several days, and while vacations should be relaxing, this was anything but. As you could probably surmise from the forgoing description.
Now, it should have been relaxing, as my wife's friend has a huge home in the country, complete with jacuzzi tubs in every bedroom. Instead, it was a 5 day marathon of teens and pre-teens watching the #$%! Disney Channel for hours on end in the living room, the 12-foot plasma screen (okay, so I exaggerate a bit) blaring at top volume the pablum-pop of the Jonas Brothers, Selena Gomez, and various other spawn of His Infernal Majesty.
And did you know that if Jacuzzi bathtubs aren't used often, the water which accumulates in the jets will breed algae, resulting in a mungy brown foam which makes one think they may be bathing in beef stew? Me either. You live, you learn.  (By the way-- household tip #312: Run your tub full of hot water, add 1/2 cup of white vinegar, jets on full for 15 minutes, drain, repeat with cold water/ no vinegar, all clean).
So, after the aforementioned cleaning of the jets (sounds vaguely ritualistic) and learning to keep to the guest room during Disney viewing hours, things did improve and become a bit more relaxing. But how to entertain oneself? This is where the true horror comes in, as I must regretfully confess to having indulged in a vice so sickening as to mark me a social pariah forever more. I have descended into the turgid abyss of World of Warcraft.
That's right. A 5-day vacation, and what've I got to show? A Jonas-scarred psyche and a level 20 Druid.
Come at me, bro.