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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Pretty good interview

Bobby Campbell wrote to me the other day, pointing to this interview with RAW, "23 Questions with Robert Anton Wilson." He asked if it was one I hadn't seen, and I pointed out that it's on and that I'd read it before.

I re-read it, though, and it's a good interview. I particularly like this section, where Wilson discussed three of his ideas that he hoped would catch on:

It seems a lot of your writings have really connected with people, and perhaps even influenced their thinking and activities. Because of this effect on your fan base, some have suggested you to be a "cult figure." To make a clever little RAW-like slide here, this seems appropriate, given your early participation in the Discordian Society and your many writings on the Illuminati (a secret cult that may or may not exist.) Surfing the web one may find Discordian groups and references to Eris, golden apples, the Law of the Fives, the number 23, as well as other related ideas. Memes you sent out into the world twenty, thirty years ago continue to thrive and flourish. How do you feel about this legacy of having seeded such a diversity of eclectic memes? 

 It's both pleasing and flattering, of course, but I'll feel much happier when Maybe Logic, the Snafu Law and the Cosmic Schmuck Law get seeded just as widely, or even more widely.

Let's seed them more widely right here! Can you explain to our readers what (Maybe Logic, the Snafu Law and the Cosmic Schmuck Law) are?

Maybe Logic is a label that got stuck on my ideas by filmmaker Lance Bauscher. I decided it fits. I certainly recognize the central importance in my thinking -- or in my stumbling and fumbling efforts to think -- of non-Aristotelian systems. That includes von Neumann's three-valued logic [true, false, maybe], Rappoport's four-valued logic [true, false, indeterminate, meaningless], Korzybski's multi-valued logic [degrees of probability.] and also Mahayana Buddhist paradoxical logic [it "is" A. it "is" not A, it "is" both A and not A, it "is" neither A nor not A]. But, as an extraordinarily stupid fellow, I can't use such systems until I reduce them to terms a simple mind like mine can handle, so I just preach that we'd all think and act more sanely if we had to use "maybe" a lot more often. Can you imagine a world with Jerry Falwell hollering "Maybe Jesus 'was' the son of God and maybe he hates Gay people as much as I do" -- or every tower in Islam resounding with "There 'is' no God except maybe Allah and maybe Mohammed is his prophet"? The Snafu law holds that, the greater your power to punish, the less factual feedback you will receive. If you can fire people for telling you what you don't want to hear, you will only hear what you want. This law seems to apply to all authoritarian contraptions, especially governments and corporations. Concretely, I suspect Bozo knows factually less about the world than any dogcatcher in Biloxi. The Cosmic Schmuck law holds that [1] the more often you suspect you may be thinking or acting like a Cosmic Schmuck, the less of a Cosmic Schmuck you will become, year by year, and [2] if you never suspect you might think or act like a Cosmic Schmuck, you will remain a Cosmic Schmuck for life.

Incidentally, in one of those coincidences that delight RAW fans, I glanced at Arthur Hlavaty's blog while I was working on this and found this quote, from the same interview.


michael said...

From the day it first appeared, I've enjoyed this interview and have frequently returned to it.

Campbell seems to be too rare a breed: an artist with a high level of verbal literacy.writing ability. He asked good Qs, the kind of Qs an artist might ask.

I agree with Tom: getting RAW to delineate Maybe Logic/Cosmic Schmuck/SNAFU was a real service. I have some not-too-hip extended family and a few friends, and when they've asked me who was the Wilson guy? (Me: some sort of "social philosopher"), and what did he write about? I've learned to talk about Maybe Logic/Cosmic Schmuck/SNAFU and it seems to get through.

I've learned not to mention his friendship with Leary or conspiracy theories, for reasons maybe most of you can guess.

Anonymous said...

Hey! I live in Gulfport, right West of Biloxi! :P

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

It's funny that you say that Michael -- I was just thinking yesterday that if I did a blog post on RAW at my "day job" blog, focusing on these three ideas, perhaps some people in the audience would get the point.

I sometimes think the emphasis on RAW as the "Last great hippie" is misplaced ... I'd like to hear a little bit more about RAW as the guy who studied quantum mechanics and applied that study to his personal philosophy. Obviously, people have been unfairly conditioned to have a negative image of Timothy Leary, but you have to work with people as they are, I guess. I remain convinced that RAW could enjoy a much wider audience. I love the comment he made once that he always wanted to get his ideas on TV.