“Something is wrong. I don’t mean with you or me or with any person. I mean in general." --Ragle Gumm

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Virtues of Rationality and Madness

I have read a lot of Ken Wilber. He is a genius. At one time in his life he read thirty books a day on all subjects and made as his life’s work the integration of everything he knew into elegant theories of life with new classifications and designs of reality that embraced the whole of human experience: science, religion, psychology, sociology, literature. Two of his many books are entitled A Brief History of Everything and A Theory of Everything.

Wilber established the Integral Institute as an institution of study and spiritual practice and has gathered followers who have contributed to the knowledge base of his intellectual designs. He is one of the greatest intellects to have walked the planet and can stand on the same platform as Aristotle, Plato, Thomas Aquinas, Newton, Einstein and many others. He is also a good man with an expanded consciousness, a compassionate heart, and a life based on being a whole human being. Looking at him, one is amazed, astonished, filled with respect and admiration, probably intimidated, and loved. I have been enriched reading his books and reading about him.

Philip K. Dick, on the other hand, was a sprawling disaster of a man, who wrote bizarre science fiction stories; letters, essays, and in his last years a sprawling, half-mad journal 8,000 pages long filled with passion, self-devouring thoughts on time and space, science, history, literature, theology, mysticism, spirituality, insanity, religious cults—anything his mind could grab hold of to enflame his quest for reality and explain the cracks in his mind that were dragging him into indefinable territory.

Dick was not a scholar. His knowledge of human explorations of life came from encyclopedias and a few obscure reference books, which were fuel to the flame of his fevered pursuits. He did not leave behind an elegant edifice of thought to be evaluated by philosophers and academic scholars. Indeed, he came to believe that his life resembled the fractured, sometimes terrifying, realities he depicted in his books. In his frantic pursuit of reality, he had fantastic visions, suffered from mental disorders, was consumed by paranoia, became hooked on drugs, married five times, and tried to commit suicide, all while breathing in the fire of life that eventually wore him out. His pursuit of reality took him way past the logical mind or even the imaginative mind into irrational realms from where he struggled to integrate the ungraspable experiences of his life into the bound conventions of human thinking.

He sold his first story in his early thirties (1951), gradually became famous for his short stories and novels amongst a few fans and other SF writers, and did not stop writing until he died in 1982 at the age of fifty-three. Within a few years after his death, he became a world-wide cult figure who generated not only amazement at what he wrote but also an almost morbid fascination with his personal life, which was raw to its core. He made his way into the mainstream spotlight through films made from his short stories and novels and has become for many one of the great literary geniuses of his age. His reputation continues to grow exponentially. With the help of his children, his editors, and those who loved him, most of his writings are now back on bookstore shelves, and Hollywood continues to pick through his works looking for movie ideas. He wrote forty-four published novels and approximately 121 short stories.

People love this man, some with professional collegiality, others as a kindred spirit, some with a passion so deep that they cannot imagine not having him as part of their inner landscape. He is loved because he makes no sense, because he is half-deranged, and because he grabbed his life with a ferocious passion that few in this world will ever know.