Monday, July 25, 2016

Cosmic Trigger online reading group, Week 16!

British science fiction giant Arthur C. Clarke 

By Charles Faris, Cosmic Trigger reading group guest blogger 

Welcome to week 16 of the RAWIllumination Cosmic Trigger Reading Group. As I am writing this post I note that we are one day past the mid-point of Sirius’ journey “behind” our Sun, one day after Bob’s “July 23 experience with Sirius,” and that this week we pass through the exact halfway point of the book, which point is marked in the new Hilaritas edition with John Thompson’s illustration of “Space Travel is Time Travel,” which contains an image of a journey with an obvious halfway point—all of which brings to mind this bit from T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets:

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”

T.S. Eliot

This week, starting on page 121 (Hilaritas) And/Or page 120,  we are covering The prospects for immortality and Stopping the biological clock, both of which beg the question of how Bob could get so much so right while simultaneously getting so much so wrong. Only his metaprogrammer knows for sure, and I think it might have something to do with prognostication being a risky business at the best of times, and even more so when we are emotionally involved with the subject of our predictions.

The driving force for Bob’s interest in life extension and immortality appears to be Dr. Timothy Leary, at the time sitting in the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, theoretically serving a 30 year sentence which in his case would have been Life, if he hadn’t negotiated himself out of jail. (Ironically, Leary died in 1996, exactly 30 years after that sentence was first handed down.)

More irony—of all the predictions of imminent immortality that Bob pulls out for these two chapters, only that of Arthur C. Clarke has yet to be proven false, A. C. being clever enough to offer a prediction for immortality (end of the 21st century) far beyond his own expected lifespan (Clarke died in 2008).

Of course, there are still plenty of folks in the immortality game, mostly tech giants from Silicon Valley, and the conversation doesn’t seem much changed from 1977 when Cosmic Trigger was first published. Time traveling back to where we began?

That said, I must say that in the decade after I first read CT, 1979-1989, I was much convinced and enthused by Bob’s line of reasoning, at one point writing a paper for my favorite philosophy professor (in a class covering quite a few of Bob’s favorites (Nietzsche, Husserl, James, etc) taking contemporary philosophy to task for failing to deal with our eventual immortality, an idea my professor deemed “insane.” At the time I considered him hopelessly out of touch.

In the intervening years, as the predictions continued to fail, and my understanding of the statistical underpinnings of life expectancy increased, I began to notice more of Bob’s blind spots, and now hold a view that immortality “is” both unlikely and undesirable, for psychological, evolutionary, economic, and ecological reasons. Then again, in a hundred years I may be proven wrong, although like Arthur C. Clarke I won’t be around to find out.

Craig Venter, CEO of Human Longevity Inc., and one of the first to sequence the human genome

Continued irony—just a few days ago, on July 8, the oldest person in the US died at 113, and the next day the oldest person in the UK died at 113. Then on July 12 the oldest person on the planet died in Vietnam at age 123.

Timothy Leary lived to be 76. Bob died at 74.

Any thoughts on longevity, life extension, and immortality? Please chime in!

Next week, we will be reading 4 short chapters, beginning with Appearances and Disappearances (131 Hilaritas, And/Or 130) and finishing with Nikola Tesla, secular shaman. Until then, keep on making the most of the dog days.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Coming attractions: Adam Gorightly

Adam Gorightly, very slightly younger than he is now, with Robert Anton Wilson. 

Fresh from his triumph in snagging last Monday's guest post from British author John Higgs, one of my favorite writers, Cosmic Trigger guest blogger/Chapel Perilous guru Charles Faris has now landed your favorite Discordian historian, Adam Gorightly.

Adam wrote some wonderful pieces for the Illuminatus! online discussion, providing insight on the Discordian origins of that work. As the author of Caught in the Crossfire: Kerry Thornley, Lee Oswald and the Garrison Investigation, plus a separate Kerry Thornley biography, The Prankster and the Conspiracy, he is the best qualified person on the planet to provide background for Cosmic Trigger readers on the Garrison-Thornley feud that Robert Anton Wilson references.

Look for Adam's piece when we get to Week 18, August 8, I think.

In the meantime, please continue to join us as Charles serves as our faithful guide to Chapel Perilous.

More on Adam here and here. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Kevin Williamson on belief systems

Kevin Williamson 

In the middle of a column about libertarianism that I thought was correct in parts and a bit confused in places, Kevin Williamson writes some good sentences about belief systems:

The complexity of the real world exceeds what can be adequately addressed by our ideologies, and the variety of real human beings — and real human experience — means that there are real differences in basic, fundamental values. Most people do not want their values to be tolerated — they want their values to prevail. 

There'a also an archive of his columns (he is conservative but generally interesting).

Incidentally, I noticed that Twitter yesterday was an example of belief systems swinging into action. When news broke about the latest gun massacre in Munich,  my timeline was full of Tweets from leftist sure that the killer was a fascist, and Tweets from right wingers sure that he was an Islamist. Few people seemed to be willing to wait and see what the facts revealed. They were more interested in their imagined enemies than the "complexity of the real world."

Friday, July 22, 2016

Convention notes

Peter Thiel

I've just finished helping to cover the Republican convention in Cleveland for my newspaper (I live in metropolitan Cleveland). Most of my coverage is not particularly germane to this blog, but a couple of notes:

(1) I interviewed Lucy Steigerwald about; my piece is here.

(2) I never heard back on my request to interview Peter Thiel. No doubt he'll feel terrible when he hears he missed his chance to be interviewed by Probably because I work for a small newspaper in Sandusky, I didn't do that well with my interview requests. I did get an interview with Lucy, but my requests to talk to Thiel, Gary Johnson and the governor of Oklahoma were not answered. I thank Lucy for talking to me and helping me publicize

I did watch Thiel's speech last night, and I liked this bit:

Instead of going to Mars, we have invaded the Middle East. We don’t need to see Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails: her incompetence is in plain sight. She pushed for a war in Libya, and today it’s a training ground for ISIS. On this most important issue, Donald Trump is right. It’s time to end the era of stupid wars and rebuild our country.

Whoever wins this fall, I hope her or he will "end the era of stupid wars and rebuild our country." In fact, I liked most of his speech, except for those "vote for Trump" bits. Among other things, he said he was proud to be gay and criticized culture wars nonsense, such as arguing over who can use what bathroom.

My "campaign promise" to you is that for the rest of the election, I will try to avoid writing about partisan politics. RAW's political ideas and ideas he's interested in, such as basic income, will likely be addressed, but I'll try to avoid the current campaigns.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Nick Herbert on Saul-Paul Sirag

For an explanation of the photo, see Nick Herbert's blog post. 

If Saul-Paul Sirag is a name that should be familiar to many of the readers of this blog. He's the guy who wrote the afterword to Cosmic Trigger. He was friends with Robert Anton Wilson and fellow "hippie physicist" Nick Herbert.

Herbert and Sirag are still chums, and Herbert has just posed a nice piece about his friend on his blog, Quantum Tantra, "Saul-Paul Sirag's New Math Book."

The math is pretty much over my head (as in, 99.9 percent over my head) but there are lots of lovely anecdotes about Sirag, such as this one:

Energized by 1960s Berkeley, Saul-Paul moved to New York City where he reviewed books, wrote and acted in plays at La MaMa in the East Village, participated in an Andy Warhol Fashion show and, by his own account, inspired a Broadway hit: "Jerry Ragni, who wrote Hair, told me that he got the idea while watching me dance to the Grateful Dead in the East Village." Ah, Saul-Paul Sirag: woolly-headed icon of the Age of Aquarius.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Greetings from Cleveland and the RNC

These satirical signs were the most amusing thing I saw at the Republican National Convention Tuesday. When I asked what the group was, a young woman told me it's a show for Hulu. It's probably not a surprise that fake reality is better than the "real thing." My son says this may be a Kevin Smith project.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Synchronities and the land of Oz

When I read about Horus in Cosmic Trigger, it reminded me of the exhibition on ancient Egypt that I saw a few weeks ago at the Cleveland Museum of Art. I didn't photograph many of the objects exhibited there, but there was one statue I really liked. When I read the CT passage, I thought, "Wait a minute. That sounds familiar."

The falcon god Ra-Horakhty, whose name can be translated as "Ra-Horus of the two horizons," symbolizing the union of Ra and Horus. 

Oz Fritz is interested in synchronicities, too. See his new post, "Atomic Love Bomb and Other Synchronicities."