Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A sad anniversary

Today is the fourth anniversary of the death of Robert Anton Wilson, on Jan. 11, 2007, in Capitola, Calif.

In his farewell message on his blog, Wilson wrote:

Various medical authorities swarm in and out of here predicting I have between two days and two months to live. I think they are guessing. I remain cheerful and unimpressed. I look forward without dogmatic optimism but without dread. I love you all and I deeply implore you to keep the lasagna flying.

Please pardon my levity, I don't see how to take death seriously. It seems absurd.

The New York Time obit interpreted the lasagna remark thusly: "Mr. Wilson contended that people should never rule out any possibility, including that lasagna might fly."

I've never really quite understood the lasagna reference, although of course I've seen it elsewhere, too, so I asked Michael Johnson to explain, and with his usual generosity he wrote back to me with an interpretation I found rather more plausible:

RAW read and enjoyed a popular neuroscience book released in 1986 that contained "the latest" in neuroscience, The Three Pound Universe. It was written by Judith Hooper and Dick Teresi. From what I recall reading that book, a description of the appearance of the human brain either said explicitly that it looked like lasagna, or something close to it, with its color and convolutions. I have seen letters from around 1987 that contain the "keep the lasagna flying" riff.

I'm not 100% sure, but RAW's 1992 screenplay/book Reality Is What You Can Get Away With, was the first time he used the term in one of his books. See page 9, with photo of a plate of lasagna hovering over a suburban landscape like a UFO.

The Nobelist Charles Sherrington called the brain an "enchanted loom" circa 1920; RAW's friend and fellow writer Bernard Wolfe called the brain a "hive of anarchy" (RAW quotes Wolfe w/this term in Sex, Drugs and Magick), and then, late 1980s, "lasagna," which seemed to fit RAW's surrealistic philosophical style well.

So "Keep the lasagna flying," was code for "keep your brain alive" or "keep thinking and using your imagination." Something like that.


Oz Fritz said...

"Keep the lasagna flying," seems a cleverly whimsical, if somewhat obscure, reference to what Qabalists call the Great Work. Another example of Wilson's genius.

Batty McDougall said...

It's strange. I was the first to comment on the post 'RAW Essence' announcing the passing of Mr. Wilson. It was a head trip of a day; I just woke up, felt that something was different, checked RAW Data and seen that the post had just been put up. It was a very tough moment. One that I will never forget.

Oz Fritz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Oz Fritz said...

'Keep the lasagna flying' functions as a cosmic trigger.

Deleted the last comment, same as this one, because I couldn't edit a typo out of it.

Illiaminated said...

I wonder if the founder of Pastafarianism was a RAW fan?