Archive for March, 2012

This write up will simply entail my thoughts on the book rather than comprehensively review it. The first thing that came to mind after completing the book was that it should have ended a few chapters earlier than it did. Dick finished the more interesting story line and then spent the remaining two chapters on some of what I felt were the weaker elements of the book. Of course this is a subjective opinion and there are PKD fans and critics all over the world that would heartily disagree with me.

The second thought that came to my mind was a realisation of just how brilliant Asimov and Clarke were. Here is PKD at what may have been his best, yet compared to all of the Asimov and Clarke I’ve read it just seemed shallow and unconvincing. There just wasn’t the same feel of universal completeness or intelligence in comprehension that I’ve come to love in Asimov and Clarke’s writing. Possibly though – Asimov and Clarke (of whom I am a big fan) have ruined me for a lot of other sci-fi simply due to their brilliance.

However, ideas are the medicine on which I depend to make my life more than a repetitive, existential procedure, and PKD put some great ideas in this novel:

1) Mercerism: a new order of religion. Technology and psychology combined and synthesised – Technopsychology/Psytechology is what I call it. Based upon some transient being called Wilbur Mercer who in a Buddhist sort of way helps all humans to come together to share their pains and joys using their ‘Empathy box’ in the accent unto true enlightenment. There are a few interesting thoughts on sacrifice in here too. This surreal part of the society in PKD’s book is worth a look.

2) The Mood Organ: Here is a truly interesting and surrealistically succinct commentary on the human experience: this mood organ. When connected up, the mood organ introduces whatever mood one desires into one’s Psyche. Coupled with being an alarm clock, this piece of technology is truly brilliant. Simply set it for setting 481 “Awareness of the manifold possibilities open to me in the future” and 5am and you wake up to this mood even at so early an hour. This whole idea really got me thinking – especially in light of the Stoicism I recently wrote about. What happens to a world in which everyone only ever feels what they want to feel? Is this Utopia or does it turn to Distopia when the balance of good and bad in the universe tries to correct itself?

3) Organic Androids without Empathy: PKD’s androids are organic contraptions with a life span of 4 or so years. The engineers of the time had conquered all scientific and biological aspects in the creation of these beings except for cell reproduction – meaning that the organic machine would simply wear out, break down and fail after around 4 years. The other interesting part of PKD’s androids is their one major disability – a complete lack of empathy. This disability becomes all the more contrasting and important in the age of Mercerism – a religion based upon the experience of empathy.

4) The name of the book: In a world where almost all animals have died it has become a social imperative for people to keep and take care of animals (animals like sheep for example) with which they can practice their empathy. This has become such an integral part of people’s lives that people even dream of having an animal of their own if they don’t already have one. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep then? No, I don’t think they do.

The book reads quite easily and I did enjoy it the whole way through, I also respect and admire PKD and was very pleased to finally read this iconic book that I’ve heard references to so often.

Brilliance of prose: 6/10
Ideas and ability to inspire: 6/10
Comprehensiveness: 5/10
Storyline: 6/10
Value to vagabond doctrine: 7/10
Total: 60%

Athens. Greece. Philosophy. Socrates. The Areopagus.

Do any of these words illicit interest? For me, ever since I was a small boy, these words have held interest with me. It began when my mom read me bed time stories from a book of Greek myth. The stories of Zeus and the Olympians, Heracles and the acts he had to perform to become a god. Minotaurs and Centaurs, Icarus, his wax wings and his genius father the inventor.

I was reading a little bit of the book of Acts in the bible this morning and came across a fascinating little section of the book narrating the time that Paul was in Athens, atop Mars Hill. The Hill renowned in Greece for it’s religious profundity. Atop this hill was another place called the Areopagus. This was my kind of place. This was a place where people would come together to do nothing other than to tell or hear some novel, new thing. According to verse 21 those that went there were accustomed to hearing new things and speaking of new ideas. They also served coffee and had a wide array of books on philosophy, theology, apologetics, science fiction and fantasy.

They didn’t have the coffee or books in reality, but if this place was around today it certainly would. The Diogenes club from the Sherlock Holmes books. The Exclusive books and attached coffee shop. A place for intellectuals to meet where ideas were held in higher regard than almost anything. A place where intellectual soliloquies were the currency and wealth was in the mind/imagination.

These were the people that hung around in the Areopagus. People well versed in the ideas of the time and the philosophies of the day. Two of the philosophies represented here when Paul arrived were the Stoics and the Epicureanists.

Stoicism: In this philosophy the perfectly reasonable intellectual person will never suffer emotional hurt because all emotional hurt is due to not thinking correctly about something, making unreasonable rationalisations. The perfect Stoic would use his intellect to avoid all emotional pain.

Epicureanism: In this philosophy, ultimate meaning and purpose is similar to hedonism but with the additional desire of reaching an existence of physical painlessness.

I think that we find a lot of Stoicism in our world still today, especially among Thinkers: Scholars, academics, intellectuals. I have realised that I was a Stoic long before I knew there was a system of thought called Stoicism. This system of thought holds that if someone where to attain perfect intellectual judgement when considering all things in the act of introspection, this someone would never be subject to emotional hurt and pain.

What do you think of this?

Here are my thoughts:
1) I believe it to an extent, however, I am a cynic in that I do not think anyone can actually achieve this state of perfect intellectual judgement.
2) I actually believe that experiencing hurtful and painful emotions is part of the human experience. I read a lot of Isaac Asimov and the one aspect that often highlights the difference between human and robot is our subjectivity to emotional influence. He who feels no pain is simply not human.
3) I believe that sometimes the correct thing to do is to feel emotional pain. I believe that it may be unpleasant but truth is avoided when emotional pain is avoided. Sometimes the truth is painful and one has not fully grasped it if one has not felt the pain of it. Poverty or violence to a loved one: if there is no emotionally painful response to this – something is wrong. In fact one might realise that this person has not truly experienced the truth of real love.

Historically the Stoics and the Epicureanists were strongly opposed to each other. In the story in Acts, the Epicureanists and the Stoics both oppose Paul and seek to hear his arguments for his belief system. Many years later most of the followers of Stoic thought and Epicurean thought would be persecuted and destroyed through the unholy work of the ‘Christian’ ruler Justinias I. In the story, Paul did not try to destroy or persecute them, he simply raised his objections with their thoughts and proclaimed his own thoughts. Many, the bible says, were convinced and converted to Christians that day, and the others, Paul left in peace for God to deal with in grace, hope and love.

These were my thoughts this morning.

In the quest to develop a vagabond doctrine: an all-inclusive and honest set of beliefs and philosophies with which to view the world, one must make use of many other people’s already well developed thoughts and discoveries.

I have said before that all of us, every conscience person on the planet, must in the end subscribe to someone else’s views and teachings. Even if the person whose teachings are followed didn’t necessarily teach anything per say – for in this case the person’s actions were the teachings and the teacher’s world view and perspective are clear to those who would observe. The book of Ecclesiastes said it first when Solomon wrote that there is nothing new under the sun. I once read that the human mind is actually incapable of true creation from nothing. I read that when we dream, we in fact only piece together new things, situations, scenarios out of sliced up bits and pieces of things we have seen and touched, heard, smelt and tasted in our waking life. It is the same way with our philosophies and world views. No man has ever come up with something completely new all by himself. Though we may be presented with new theories – such as Freudian psychology or Lutheran theology – these theories themselves are merely bits and pieces of other’s philosophies and ideas sewn together into a new coherent whole.

We are all mosaic artists in reality. Creating a new picture out of innumerable others. Individual fragments may be so small that they are no longer even recognisable and can no longer be traced back to their origin, though when we look at a mosaic today do we doubt that each piece had a different home before they took their new place in this new picture before us?

Frankenstein Theology. This is why it can not be that someone simply follows their own beliefs and has no philosophical father whose example they follow.

It seems to me that most people only finally figure out what they actually believe at an advanced age. This is part of the reason that it is the elderly who usually have wisdom to speak into situations, the wisdom of experience that comes with age includes a well defined philosophy. It has been said before that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God. Another way to say this would be to say that the beginning of wisdom is a fully defined worldview (in the case of this saying the world view is a healthy fear of God). So if the first occurrence of a fully developed system of thought is usually only ascended to around one’s middle-age years what do we do up until this moment of illumination and enlightenment? For 20-30 years during which we have not developed our own beliefs fully enough to identify them truly as our own one will usually esoterically piece together a world view out of other people’s beliefs. Much care must be taken in this process however for when building up one’s worldview out of many other’s a real danger of contradictory thought arises. An esoteric compendium of thoughts that has not yet matured into wholeness will usually fall subject to the danger of combining something like Stoicism with Epicureanism, or Universalism with Calvanism – such that one cannot find peace or fulfilment in the satisfaction of one’s core beliefs due to the contradiction in life purposes proclaimed in each system of belief.

There is only one wise way to spend this time of premature philosophy so as to avoid the calamity of contradictory beliefs – to avoid an ugly and nonsensical mosaic (to build upon the metaphor): choose and depend upon a single source of philosophy.

What is my choice? I decided a while ago that Jesus Christ would be the single person I will follow. This does not mean that I do not maintain an open mind in my continual search for other sources of truth though. The search for other sources of truth should testify to the teachings (and teacher) you follow, either accrediting them (and the person who taught them) or discrediting them. It has been my experience that Jesus’ teachings have only ever been accredited by the truths I have found in other sources. Every thought that I have come to believe is truthful, I have subsequently, after careful study discovered within Jesus’ teachings, these truths having only been highlighted through someone else.

I believe that Jesus’ teachings are all inclusive of every true philosophical thought, but also that these truths are often hidden and only become visible through the ministry or teachings of someone else.

Frankenstein Theology. Except Frankenstein looks like Jesus.

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