Ten Good Reasons To Get
Out Of Bed In The Morning
by Robert Anton Wilson
This is for all you people who lie in bed every morning and wonder if it is going to be worth the trouble to get up.
So the job is a drag, your friends let you down, and the price of coffee is outrageous.
Listen to me.
I have survived two bouts of polio. One of my daughters was gang-raped by three hoods in 1971; another, my youngest, was brutally murdered in 1976.
Yet, to quote Faulkner’s Nobel Prize address, I still “decline to accept the end of man.” I firmly believe that we are entering an age that will make the Renaissance look like a tempest in a teapot, and that each of us can play a role in turning man into superman.
An old Sufi legend: The venerable sage Mullah Nasrudin was once condemned to death for certain witty and satirical sayings that disturbed the local Shah. Nasrudin immediately offered a bargain: “Postpone the execution one year,” he implored the Shah, “and I will teach your horse to fly.” Intrigued by this, the Shah agreed.
One day thereafter, a friend asked Nasrudin if he really expected to escape death by this maneuver.
“Why not?” answered the divine Mullah. “A lot can happen in a year. There might be a revolution and a new government. There might be a foreign invasion and we’d all be somebody in the palace might poison him.
As you know, it is traditional for a new Shah to pardon all condemned criminals awaiting execution when he takes the throne. Besides that, during the year my captors will have many opportunities for carelessness and I will always be looking for an opportunity to escape.
“And, finally,” Nasrudin concluded, “if the worst comes to the worst, maybe I can teach that damned horse to fly!”
Nasrudin was expressing the key element in the Sufi view of the world, which holds that each man and woman is an incarnate part of God, with infinite chances to improve his or her circumstances and likewise to improve the world. “Maybe the damned horse can fly” is a Sufi proverb, indicating that it is always premature to abandon hope.
We live in an age when despair is fashionable, even chic; when human self-contempt has reached heights not known since the Dark Ages; and when it is considered naive to believe that anything good can ever be accomplished. This is partly due to the trauma of the Vietnam war, in which many learned for the first time that Americans can be as beastly as Germans; partly due to the Nixon counterrevolution, in which the optimism and utopianism of the Sixties were clubbed to death; and partly due to the exposure of Nixon and his cronies, which made millions of previously trusting mainstream Americans aware that their highest officials can be liars, thieves, and worse. We have lived through the slaughter of innocence and, like embittered adolescents encountering the harshness of life for the first time, we are afraid to trust again or to entertain hope.
I believe that I have as good reasons as anyone to be depressed. Besides my personal misfortunes, I have been visiting prisons for three years now, and I know the horrors of what our society looks like from the very bottom, from the black holes of isolation cells where men are chained like beasts. Twenty years ago, I worked as an ambulance attendant in Harlem, and I saw what poverty and racism can do at their worst. Nobody needs to teach me anything about the inhumanity of humanity. Yet I still believe that there is, as the Sufis say, a divinity within each person that can be released if love and faith and optimism can be released.
In that spirit I offer the following ten reasons for hope.
One. Consider for a moment the implications of what sociologists call the self-fulfilling prophecy. Simply stated, this means that if you are sure a woman will reject you, you won’t make a pass at her. If you believe you can’t pass the examination, you will not bother to study. If you think you can’t get the job, you won’t go for the interview. As a result, the lady will bed down with somebody else, the exam will be passed by those who did study, and the job will go to one of the guys who made an effort to get it.
The outstanding example of the negative self-fulfilling prophecy in our century is Joseph Stalin, who always believed himself surrounded by enemies. His own party, he suspected, was penneated by deviationists who hated him. He steadily increased the size and powers of the secret police, and each chief of the secret police, in turn, was executed as one of the plotters against him. They all signed confessions before they died; Stalin insisted on that. He wanted it in black and white, proof that his suspicions were justified. Eventually, it appears, his closest associates conspired to poison him.
Be In contrast, there is the case of R. Buckminster Fuller, who stood one day in 1928 on the shore of Lake Michigan contemplating suicide. He was despairing cause of his daughter’s death by polio and his own lack of financial success as a construction engineer. But, in a moment of Sufi insight, Fuller decided to gamble that the universe had some use for him. Today, he is not only one of the most influential scientists in the world, the inventor of a new system of mathematics and a universally respected philosopher and poet, he is also a multi-millionaire. He is one of the most radiantly optimistic men on this planet, as everybody who has ever heard him lecture will appreciate. Stalin’s paranoia was self-fulfilling; Bucky Fuller’s gambler’s optimism was also self-fulfilling.
Two. There is evidence to suggest that our situation is every bit as hopeful as it is desperate. As Alvin Tofller noted in his famous book Future Shock, there are more scientists alive and working today than in all previous history combined, and this means that we will see more changes in the next two decades than in any 1,000 years of the past. These changes need not be for the worse. If science gave us the atomic bombs that demolished Hiroshima and Nagasaki, science has also, for example, practically abolished smallpox in just ten years. World Health Organization figures are: in 1967, total reported smallpox victims on earth, 2,500,000; in 1976, total smallpox victims, less than 40 (and those were confined to Somalia).
Societies, like individuals, are subject to the self-fulfilling prophecy. If we believe that science will produce nothing but worse Hiroshimas, then that is likely to happen. If we believe that science can conquer every disease, as it has vanquished smallpox, then that is also likely to happen. After all, we put our money and our energy where our beliefs lead us.
Biologist Dr. W. H. Thorpe, of Cambridge University, speaks for the majority of informed scientists when he says that the breakthroughs of the next generation will “rank in importance as high as, if not higher than, the discovery of fire, of agriculture, the development of printing, and the discovery of the wheel.” Our situation is in fact bluntly stated in the title of one of Fuller’s books, Utopia or Oblivion. What we need to realize is that utopia is just as likely as oblivion. It all depends on where we put our energy, our money, our beliefs, and our efforts.
For instance, Fuller once took the living standard of the top 1 per cent of the US population in 1900 as a base definition of affluence and calculated how many Americans are now affluent by that standard. The answer is over 60 per cent. The trend curve is to reach 100 per cent by around the year 2000. Despite the gloom-and-doom mongers, there is no reason why this cannot happen, although pessimism is certainly one of the factors that might indeed prevent it from happening. The abolition of poverty in the rest of the world could follow soon after, according to Fuller’s trend curves.
Three. The actual energy problem of this planet is not nearly so bad as the prophets of apocalypse would have us believe. Using the most sophisticated modern computer- projection techniques, physicist Dr. J. Peter Vajk studied all the relevant technological and economic trends, and reveals in Technological Forecasting and Social Change that we can easily obtain all the electrical energy we will need by the year 2000 simply by using solar power. He urges the construction of the LS space colonies designed by Professor Gerard O’Neill and his group at Princeton.
O’Neill’s space habitats will not take much from the Earth in the way of resources, since 98 per cent of the materials needed can be extracted from the Moon. No new technology is needed for these space cities; we can start building them today with the hardware we already possess.
And, according to Dr. Vajk’s computer projections, the solar energy these LS cities and towns can beam back to Earth will meet the energy needs of both the advanced nations and the backward nations, even allowing the most underdeveloped lands to reach parity with the US early in the next century. As many historians have noted, the principal cause of war has always been economic competition for the limited resources of this planet. Once we begin tapping the unlimited resources of outer space, there is reason to think that pragmatic alternatives to this bloody competition can be found.
Four. None of these future possibilities is reserved for the unborn. There are excellent reasons to believe that all the life-expectancy tables used by insurance companies are already obsolete. You will probably live a lot longer than you expect.
In the very first article that I wrote on life extension (San Francisco Phoenix, 1973), I quoted the latest estimate of Dr. Johan Bjorksten, who spoke at the time of extending human lifespan to 140 years.
This year, Dr. Bjorksten predicts that humans will soon be able to live 800 years. Paul Segall, of the University of California at Berkeley, who has experimentally stopped the aging process in laboratory animals, hopes that his work will extend the human lifespan to 400 or 500 years before 1990. Dr. Roben Phedra puts the number even higher; he says that we can begin aiming to extend human lifespan to 1,000 years.
Look at it this way: life expectancy in Shakespeare’s day was about 30 years. (That’s why Shakespeare wrote of himself so often as aging and declining in sonnets written when he was only in his early 30s.) In England, 100 years ago, life expectancy was still less than 40 years among members of the working class. It was 60 around the turn of the century in this country. It is now 72. Even if Bjorksten, Segall, Phedra, and the hundreds of other longevity researchers are overly optimistic, even if we can raise lifespan only 50 per cent in this generation, that still means that you will probably live at least 30 years past the projected 72.
In the meantime, the research continues. Within even a 30-year bonus of extra years, the leap into the hundreds of years is likely to occur. For instance, if you are in your 20s now, you expect to die around 2030. Add 30 years to that, and you will live to 2060. How many more years will science be able to give you by then? Even assuming that those researchers currently speaking of life extensions of hundreds of years are doing so too soon, in 2060 an increase of 100 years will be a conservative projection. So you can live on to 2160. And where will the life extension sciences be by then?
Five. The abovementioned research next opens up the most momentous possibility in the history of evolution on this planet: the chance of real physical immortality. By the gradual increment of life-extension breakthroughs we have been discussing, it is thinkable that some people alive today will never die. We are the first generation in history to have immortality as a scientific, not metaphysical, possibility. Every decade you survive increases the chances that you will live until the crossover point where longevity blends into immortality.
In Osborn Segerberg, Jr.’s The Immortality Factor, some recent estimates of that crossover point are quoted. Arthur Clarke, in 1961, set the point late in the 21st century. A poll of 82 life-extension researchers in 1964 showed growing optimism and a prediction that chemical control of aging would be achieved by early in the 21st century. Another poll in 1969 found a spectrum of predictions ranging from 2017 (the highest estimate) to 1993 (the lowest). As Dr. Timothy Leary points out in Terra II, the largest amount of research with the most encouraging results has taken place since that poll.
In 1976, F. M. Esfandiary predicted the crossover to longevity would happen by 2000. In 1980, Dr. Alvin Silverstein predicted it by 1990.
Many interested citizens, following the lead of physicist R. C. W. Ettinger, who wrote The Prospect of Immortality back in 1964, have formed cryonics societies to freeze their bodies at clinical death, in the belief that future science will be able to revive them and give them a second chance. Although this method of preserving the body is available now only to the affluent, many believe that cryonic preservation of the brain, which costs as little as a few hundred dollars per year, gives an equally good chance of a person’s revival-through cloning.
Six. All the possibilities we are discussing here-the abolition of poverty, the economy of abundance for all, the end of territorial competition for limited resources leading to the warfare cycle, the achievement of longevity and eventual immortality-all these are appreciably increased by the appearance of a totally new phenomenon in human life; indeed, a phenomenon so new we hardly have a name for it. Dr. Leary uses the symbol JZ (intelligence squared) to represent this new evolutionary factor; it stands for intelligence studying intelligence, the nervous system studying the nervous system. Dr. John Lilly refers to it as the self-metaprogrammer, the human brain feeding back self-change directions to the human brain scientifically. In simple language, man is graduating from being the conditioned animal in the behaviorist cage to becoming whatever he wills to become.
Part of this mutation will result from drugs similar to, but more specific than, the notorious Sixties psychedelics. Some of the change will come as a result of biofeedback training. Researchers have already taught their subjects how to achieve yogic blissouts in weeks instead of the years of training required by ordinary yoga. Some have learned voluntary control over emotional-physical states of many sorts, including blood pressure and the erection of the penis; others have been able to increase their ESP and other psychic abilities.
Electrical brain stimulation opens other doors to self-metaprogramming. New drugs are predicted that will allow us to foster or terminate emotional states of many kinds. Like the incremental advance from longevity to immortality, this opens a whole new ball game. As Leary points out, “The more conscious and intelligent you become, the more you want to become even more conscious and intelligent.” Until now, we have never come close to understanding the self-teaching capabilities of the human brain. It is possible, and not unlikely, that even such geniuses as Da Vinci, Beethoven, or Einstein are only partial foreshadowings of what the turned-on brain can do.
Seven. We are on the edge of abolishing toil and drudgery-work, in the ordinary sense of that word. As Aristotle pointed out, cynically but accurately, 2,500 years ago, “There is only one condition in which we can imagine managers not needing sub- ordinates and masters not needing slaves. This condition would be that each instrument could do its own work, as in a shuttle weaving of itself.” Such a totally automated society has been coming closer for nearly three decades now; the inventor of cybernetics, Professor Norbert Wiener, foresaw it as early as 1948.
Fuller, Howard Scott, Dr. L. Wayne Benner, and dozens of other technologists have pointed out that the only reason such total automation does not exist yet is misguided ideology, not lack of hardware. Politicians, for instance, are always promising a cure for unemployment, as if unemployment were a disease instead of the natural condition of any advanced technological society. As Fuller points out, if we count energy in Aristotle’s slave units (the amount of work one enslaved human can do in one day), then the average American owns 300 mechanical slaves in the form of machines servicing her needs.
We do not take the logical and practical next step of automating everything that can be automated only because we are blocked by traditional habits of thought. These habits cannot survive oncoming abundance, oncoming longevity, and oncoming neurological freedom. We go on squandering the most precious resource we have — human brains — by condemning people to pointless jobs that are increasingly unnecessary and that are maintained only by labor unions fearful of lower wages.
When we fully accept unemployment as the cure, not the disease, we will find that there are dozens of ways, outside the traditional wage system, to distribute abundance equitably: cyber-nation plus space colonization plus Leary’s 12 will create an abundance that will make poverty as obsolete in 2001 as smallpox is now.
We need to remember that about 97 per cent of all humanity’s art, science, culture, and philosophy has come from economically secure aristocracies supported by human slaves. When all humanity becomes an economically secure aristocracy supported by mechanical slaves, Aristotle’s imagined utopia will be practical. Immeasurable intelligence will be released to seek goals even beyond immortality, perhaps beyond spacetime as we know it.
Eight. All that we have been discussing is only the tip of the iceberg, the visible part of the possible future. We are actually undergoing a greater philosophical revolution than those associated with Copernicus, Darwin, and Einstein. Our whole world view is literally mutating to a new level of awareness.
Cleve Backster, Marcel Vogel, and dozens of plant researchers claim to be able to communicate with vegetative intelligence.
Dr. Jacques Vallee, cyberneticist, asserts that, in addition to tens of thousands of laypersons who claim contact with extraterrestrials, there are more than 100 trained scientists in the US alone who have had that experience. Dr. Jack Sarfatti, who is one of the 100 and who has come out of the closet about it, says that the entities may be extra-terrestrials or time travelers or something for which science has yet no label.
This revolution can’t be defined in ordinary terms, either scientific or spiritual. Our whole understanding of science and faith is being radically mutated. Just this year, Dr. Ronald Bracewell, professor of engineering and astronomy at Stanford, and Dr. Frank Drake, astronomer at Cornell, announced their belief that “we’ll learn the secret of longevity from space aliens who are trying to communicate with us right now.” These are distinguished men who are careful of their reputations. Dr. Drake later wrote in the prestigious Technology Review of M.I. T. that he now believes the majority of advanced races in this galaxy have immortality.
Nine. The worse our present crises become, the more the pressure increases on us all to find real solutions. We stand at the pivot of human evolution. We now have the technology to blow ourselves up 1,700 times over, thus rendering the planet absolutely sterile, destroying flowers and fish and birds and everything else in a blaze of planetary madness. We also have, or are rapidly developing, the technology for all the once-utopian scenarios discussed here. A world without poverty. Without national rivalries and wars. Without emotional twisting and vast waste of intelligence. A world of immortals who can explore all spacetime and who can contact more advanced immortals.
The more real this paradox becomes to each of us, the greater the pressure to transcend. Every decade is important now: we can choose utopia or oblivion by means of only a few decisions. We cannot evade or escape for much longer. We have to take responsibility and stop laying it all on the other guy. We are being forced to understand John Donne’s deathless metaphor: “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
Ten. If no decisions are unimportant anymore, no individuals are unimportant anymore. Plutonium, the most explosive element known to man, is missing and nobody knows who has it. A jolly group calling itself The National Committee to Overthrow the Government Next Tuesday After Lunch has been anonymously circulating schematic diagrams on how to construct a homemade atomic bomb. Terrorism escalates everywhere, along with nuclear proliferation. One Olympic athlete said recently, “We’ll soon be having the games in catacombs, like early Christians.” Nobody is safe: remember what happened to the Hearst family. As Leary has been saying for ten years, “We can no longer afford to have anyone on this planet being oppressed, or even thinking he or she is oppressed.” Fuller’s utopia or oblivion is really the only choice left.
“Captain Crunch” (aka John Draper) is the famous phone freak who so long amused himself and his admirers by defrauding the phone company. After his recent trial, he revealed that he has found ways to tap the allegedly invulnerable wires of the FBI, CIA, White House, Pentagon, and the US Army, and even how to activate computers to change bank records or fire missiles to start World War Three. According to the San Jose Mercury, for revealing all this to the government and for showing them how to install new fail-safes, Crunch had his sentence cut from four years to three months. But Crunch also says that other electronics experts eventually can get by his fail-safes, maybe by next Tuesday after lunch.
There we have it, the final reason to get your ass out of bed: we need you. We need you on our side — the side of hope and action — and we need you now. Every decade is a scientific milestone, which means that every year counts as well, and every month, every week, every day. Indeed, at this point, every act of our lives is either a step toward the achievement of all our visions of glory or a step back toward the stupidity and self-pity that can destroy us. Nobody really needs LSD to see the cosmic importance of every minute.
Any single act of love and hope may be the grain that tips the scale toward survival and, conversely, any single act of cruelty or injustice may be the grain that tips the scale the other way.
As Kurt Vonnegut says, “A great swindle of our time is the assumption that science has made religion obsolete. All science has damaged is the story of Adam and Eve and the story of Jonah and the whale.” Vonnegut goes on to say that there is nothing in science that contradicts the works of mercy recommended by Saint Thomas Aquinas, which include: to teach the ignorant, to console the sad, to bear with the oppressive and troublesome, to feed the hungry, to shelter the homeless, to visit prisoners and the sick, and to pray for us all!
If we can see and act on the wisdom of those suggestions, we can greet life with the bravery and joy it deserves.← Back