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« A quote for the end of the January sales | Main | Robert Anton Wilson is dead »
Friday
Jan262007

Robert Anton Wilson reduced to an essence

Last entry, I recommended some books by the late Robert Anton Wilson. But who the hell has time to read books? CERTAINLY NOT ME. This is the Inter-Web-Cyber-Net, baby. We are Futuristic, Highly Stressed, and Time-Starved. Our Hair Is Falling Out. So here's the vital essence of all the books of Robert Anton Wilson, condensed, filtered, distorted and traduced through my consciousness, with added Faulty Memory Mangling:

We don't experience the world. We experience tiny, tiny hints and glimpses of incredibly limited and local aspects of the world. And even those hints are viewed down a Reality Tunnel of prejudgements (evolutionary, cultural and personal) that blocks out most of what we're potentially capable of seeing and hearing. Our Reality Tunnel tries, in particular, to block out any information that would conflict with our view of the world.

This has consequences. For example, a US, Yale-educated, Protestant, neo-conservative female politician sees a different world to the world seen by, say, an Iraqi, Karbala-educated, Shiite, conservative male cleric. They live in different realities. Their private universes are quite different. And communication between those private universes is difficult, because each has a set of unspoken assumptions that the other does not share. (Wittgenstein would say that, when they talk, they are playing different language games: many of the words they use have quite different meanings in each language game, therefore communication is not really happening. A guy is playing tennis against a guy playing golf.)

If they don’t even realise that they are not really communicating when they speak, that they are neither understanding nor being understood; well, the misunderstanding can get very messy very fast.

(Wilson would also say that all that I have written is essentially meaningless, because I'm using big abstract words ["conservative" "Protestant" “male”] that don't map onto specific things or actions in the real [objective, outside-us, difficult-to-know] world. And I'm using the "is' of identity ["He is black" "I am rich" “She is crazy”], and such statements are never true.)

Given that all beliefs are based on faulty and inadequate information, we should not give too much weight to them. In particular, we should not mess other people around, or kill them, on the basis of our beliefs.

We should question all beliefs, including our own belief in questions.

And given that we are prone to look at life through an ever-narrowing tunnel, it’s good to try to see the world through other people’s reality tunnels now and then. Read a newspaper from the other end of the political spectrum to your own. If you’re pro-life, browse a pro-choice website, and vice versa. Check out a different religion occasionally. Read some economics. Sit up a tree and pretend to be a bird. People’s (radically different) world-views work for them. There’s often something useful there, that you can use to broaden your tunnel, to see a little more of this astonishing universe.

But don’t fall in love with any world-view. Even Robert Anton Wilson’s.

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Reader Comments (2)

Currently listening to Toasted Heretics first album, and finding out about you.
RAW seems to be fantastic, E Prime could be the way forward maybe,
:P
November 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPatrik - Sixmilewater
Yeah, RAW rocks. Glad you like what you hear. He's a zero-bullshit philosopher, great guy.
November 11, 2008 | Registered CommenterJulian Gough

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