Human Beings are Not an Engineering Problem
On the re-publication of Robert Anton Wilson’s ‘The New Inquisition’
Robert Anton Wilson lived on the frontlines of the war for our reality. Like a latter-day Socrates by way of Paul Krassner, he was a revolutionary philosopher satirist who sought to preserve the wiggle room between human beings and our underlying assumptions about the world. Facts are fewer and far between than we have been led to believe. Death may be certain, but certainty is itself a kind of death.
I first met Bob after my very first book reading — more of a talk, really — at the Capitola Book Cafe. He was, of course, one of my psychedelic heroes, and by then he was already struggling with the painful onset of post-polio syndrome. Watching him endure a hard metal folding chair the front row all to hear me speak was both gratifying and humbling.
When I was done signing copies, he asked if I had time to come over for a beer. Imagine that. So we walked around the corner to his garden apartment condo, and I sat with Bob and his wife Arlen talking about James Joyce, psychedelics, space migration, and my own expertise, this new place called cyberspace. Our conversation was great, and yes it should have been taped. But what made it so remarkable was not the content we shared, but the context in which it took place.
This was enough: This sacred ritual of sitting together, just being together, and co-processing the sensory data we had accumulated over our respective lifetimes. Comparing notes and conclusions. Sharing our questions and unresolved dilemmas. Delighting in our respective paradoxes, and relating them across our various disciplines. What I saw in fractal geometry, Bob saw in Celtic quantum theory, and Arlen saw in Ancient Egyptian mythology. Where I was wrestling against early efforts to make the Internet addictive, Bob was working on the manipulative applications of neurolinguistic programming, and so on.
They say not to ever meet your heroes or you’ll be disillusioned. Bob was the exception to this rule.