First, I am not at all capable of explaining this book. I think I have a small, tenuous grasp on part of it. Maybe 5%.
I don’t think I can go with my standard attempt to sum up the main point and meaning of a book. So I’m going to pull out some of my favorite bits (from the 267 highlights that I made, which seems like it must be pretty much the entire book).
“Our universe is not a fixed and frozen machine grinding out in entropy. It can always be what we have need of it to be.”
There is no “supposed to be” or “should.” No overarching plan or ultimate reality. There is what is, and here we are in it, and reality is what it is because we made it that way. If we open our minds enough to look beyond what reality is, and imagine (or orient towards, or think into, or some more meaningful term than the very weak-sounding ‘imagine’) then reality will follow our lead.
But we have to stick with it. Our direction, our vision, our aim of what reality can be has to be consistent or we don’t get anywhere.
“Non-ambiguity is the shaping force of reality.”
Ambiguity, then, is NOT a shaping force of reality. Ambiguity, indecision, uncertainty, passivity, scattered focus, and changing our minds all the fucking time: any of those things result in—more of what we’ve already got. Spinning in loops.
“Any path we choose is arbitrary, but in our choice we shape the world as it is for us.”
The key to having some sort of effect on reality—to shaping what reality is, rather than simply accepting it as is and making the best of it—seems to be making a choice and sticking with it.
“‘What do you want?’ is the only question eternity can ask of time, and it is our divine gift to answer by asking our own question. Desire, passion, curiosity, longing, novelty, daring, creativity, productivity, lust for life, ecstasy, joy, adventure, all these are the highest thrusts of life, the most divine of attributes, the most sacred of possessions.”
This is just…. Really good.
“To move against the certainties and energies of “the world” calls for an equally sure conviction and a concentration on balance of mind. To center all the forces on the restructuring of an ordinary event in a non-ordinary way calls for exceptional organization of self.”
I’m not really sure I know what this means, except there’s got to be a lot of self-trust. No room for self-doubt. There’s also got to be trust in the internal as a force which influences the external, rather than the other way around.
Also: ‘exceptional organization of self’ is a phrase that rings. That one’s sticking with me.
“And the terrible rumor from the front of the train is true: there are no tracks out there ahead. The mad machine throws its own down as it thunders murderously along.”
Reminds me of Zen and the Motorcycle Gang, or whatever the correct title is… the idea of being on the cutting edge, out in front, not depending on the path laid down for you through reality, or the explanations and expectations we are steeped in, but pushing into realms of the unknown, the as-yet unexperienced.
“And it is adventure that we need, that we must have. Not just the vicarious adventure shared with rare heroes exploring the planets, admirable as they are. Every man needs the personal adventure of finding the true depths of himself. Every man needs a way out from being only a cipher in a computer, a subservient cog in the machine.”
Yes, and every woman does as well. What is up with the men getting all the adventure?
Anyways, the big adventure available to all of us turns out to be more than conquering anything that already exists. Instead, it’s getting to that edge, moving mentally (emotionally? Psychically? Grammatically?) to the front of the train and deciding to be the one who throws down the tracks.
I mean, why not?
If that’s what is going on—just a crazy train of energy barreling along in some sort of space-time container—why not you and me deciding where the train goes next? Turns out nobody’s in charge of this thing, so everybody is. You have as much a right to determine Reality’s next direction as anybody else does.
And since most people will never want to think all the way to that edge, let alone put themselves out there, in it, at the front of the train, staring unblinking into the uncreated abyss (or open field of possibility, depending on how you look at it), it’s not a competition. There’s no crowding out there at the cutting edge because being there, at that edge, seems to require
- a good deal of comfort with being uncomfortable
- a good bit of willingness to throw out pretty much every solid idea you’ve depended on to create a sense of stability and meaning in life
- and a fuckton of confidence, or something more than confidence. I don’t think it’s about feeling confident. I think it’s about deciding to trust in your own authority even when (especially when) you don’t feel confident.
“Perfection is daring to embrace the universe itself as our true dimension, daring to steal the fire of the gods, to walk on water or fire unafraid, to heal, to claim plenty in time of dearth, to behold boldly that desired thing and become what we have need to be.”
- Why not everything?
- Why not now?
- Why not us?