On page 89, the book’s unnamed protagonist said “My brain hurts.” I thought to myself, so does mine.
God’s Debris is Scott Adams’ first non-fiction book (yes, that Scott Adams, the father of Dilbert.) Well – it might be fiction, it might be philosophy, or it might be a novella. Or maybe it’s something else. But it’s fascinating. And challenging. But short. It was tonight’s book (although the night is still relatively young so I’ll get started on the next one in a few minutes.)
This is not a religious book, nor is it a slam (or endorsement) of religion. It is, in Adams’ words, a thought experiment. One of the two characters is an old man who turns out to know everything. He explains, through a series of short chapters on different subjects, all of the great mysteries of life. While it’s easy to argue with some of his assertions, the old man (who turns out to be called The Avatar) explains things in a simple way that – while not bulletproof – is compelling. Some of the chapter titles give you a quick feel for what is going to be covered: Free Will, Science, Where is Free Will Located?, Genuine Belief, Delusion Generator, Reincarnation, UFOs, and God, Free Will of a Penny, Evolution, Skeptics’ Disease, ESP and Luck, Light, Willpower, Holy Lands, and Relationships.
When I finished it, I hopped on Wikipedia and discovered that Scott Adams wrote a sequel called The Religion War. I really want to read it on my Kindle but it’s only available in physical form so the atoms are now in the mail to me.
Oh goody, they are here. Every magazine, newspaper, and most of the online publications known to man are putting together their “2008 year in review” and their “2009 prediction” editions. What a fucking waste of human energy.
This has been one of my pet peeves for 20+ years. For a while I managed to ignore them completely. At some point I started getting asked for my predictions and succumbed to my ego for a few years and participated in the prediction folly. At some point I realized that there was zero correlation between my predictions and reality and that by participating, I was merely helping perpetuate this silliness.
The energy that goes into the “year in review” and “prediction” stuff seems to be significantly greater in “extreme” (both good and bad) times. The prognostications become stronger and bolder. The analysis by hindsight intensifies. I don’t think this benefits anyone.
Over dinner recently, I was having a discussion with a friend. The conversation took place in a very full and busy restaurant. At some point the discussion turned to the sentiment throughout the United States right now and how the level of anxiety, negativity, pessimism, depression, and downright panic seemed at an extremely high level and appeared disconnected from general reality. We talked about what “general reality” meant for a little while – both “our realities” (which are different) as well as our view of the “actual general reality in the United States.”
As we rolled through some of the discussion, I made the offhand comment that I thought much of the sentiment that existed started near the end of the summer a few weeks before the DNC. As I thought about it more, it made sense. For the 90 days prior to the election, all we heard and read was “things suck in America.” Oil hit $135 / barrel and was going to go to $200 / barrel (it’s $35 / barrel today.) Gas was going to be $10 / gallon (it’s under $2 / gallon in Colorado today.)
I was on vacation in England the week Lehman went bankrupt, AIG melted down, and Merrill Lynch got bought by Bank of America. Amy and I rarely watch TV on vacation (other than movies) but since CNBC’s Closing Bell was on about the time we were crawling into bed, we watched it as though it was a sporting event. Over the course of the week, we must have seen 100 different people predict 500 different things. 485 of them were wrong. Oh – and I read Taleb’s The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable during this week and just could stop bursting out with cynical laughter each evening. Over the 90 days we heard over and over again how much America sucked. How many problems we had. How everything was totally screwed up.
Of course, the financial markets have been a disaster in Q3 and Q4. The housing bubble has finally officially exploded (doesn’t explode sounds more dramatic than burst.) Unemployment is rising. Credit is frozen. Retail sales are massively off this Christmas. All companies except Walmart are having a tough Q4. Blah blah blah. And now come the 2009 predictions.
My prediction for 2009 – the vast majority of the 2009 predictions will be wrong. Ignore them. Find a Dharma that fits your Karma (more on that when I review Strategic Intuition: The Creative Spark in Human Achievement (Columbia Business School) by Bill Duggan, which I read last night.) You get a finite number of years on this planet – make the most of all of them, no matter what is going on around you.