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Wilber's latest book is a daring departure from his ...
Wilber's latest book is a daring departure from his previous writings—a highly
original work of fiction that combines brilliant scholarship with
tongue-in-cheek storytelling to present the integral approach to human
development that he expounded in more conventional terms in his recent
Theory of Everything.
story of a naïve young grad student in computer science and his quest for
meaning in a fragmented world provides the setting in which Wilber contrasts
the alienated "flatland" of scientific materialism with the integral
vision, which embraces body, mind, soul, and spirit in self, culture, and
nature. The book especially targets one of the most stubborn obstacles to
realizing the integral vision: a disease of egocentrism and narcissism that
Wilber calls "boomeritis" because it seems to plague the baby-boomer
generation most of all.
a series of sparkling seminar-lectures skillfully interwoven with the hero's
misadventures in the realms of sex, drugs, and popular culture, all of the
major tenets of extreme postmodernism are criticized—and
exemplified—including the author's having a bad case of boomeritis himself.
Parody, intellectual slapstick, and a mind-twisting surprise ending unite to
produce a highly entertaining summary of the work of cutting-edge theorists in
human development from around the world.
am the bastard child of two deeply confused parents, one of whom I am ashamed
of, the other of whom is ashamed of me. None of us are on speaking terms, for
which we are all grateful. (These things bother you, every now and then.) My
parents are intimately conjoined in their displeasure with the present; both
want to replace it—quickly—with a set of arrangements more suited to their
inclinations. One wants to tear down; the other, to build up. You might think
they were made for each other, would go together, hand in hand, a marriage made
in transformational heaven. Years after the divorce, none of us is so sure.
of them breathes the fire of revolutionary insurrection, and wants to tear down
the oppressive forces of a cruel and careless yesterday, digging beneath the
veneer of civilized madness to find, it is devoutly hoped, an original human
goodness long buried by the brutalities of a modern world rubbed raw by
viciousness. One of them dreamily gazes in the other direction, standing on
tiptoes and straining to see the foggy face of the future, to a coming world
transformation—I'm told it will be perhaps the greatest in all of history—and
begins to swoon with the bliss of beautiful things about to unfold before us;
she is a gentle person and sees the world that way. But I am cursed with an eye
from each, and can hardly see the world at all through two orbs that refuse to
cooperate; cross-eyed I stare at that which is before me, a Picasso universe
where things don't quite line up. Or perhaps I see more clearly precisely
because of that?
much seems certain: I am a child of the times, and the times point in two
wildly incompatible directions. On the one hand, we hear constantly that the
world is a fragmented, torn, and tortured affair, on the tremulous verge of
collapse, with massive and huge civilization blocks pulling apart from each
other with increasingly alienated intent, so much so that international culture
wars are the greatest threat of the future. Cyber-age technology is proceeding
at a pace so rapid that, it is said, within 30 years we will have machines
reaching human-level intelligence, and at the same time advances in genetic
engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics will mean the possible end of
humanity altogether: we will either be replaced by machines or destroyed by a
white plague—and what kind of future is that for a kid? At home we are faced
with the daily, hourly, minutely examples of a society coming apart at the
seams: a national illiteracy rate that has skyrocketed from 5% in 1960 to 30%
today; 51% of the children in New York City born out of wedlock; armed militias
scattered about Montana like Nazi bunkers on the beaches of Normandy, braced
for the invasion; a series of culture wars, gender wars, ideology wars in
academia that parallel in viciousness, if not in means, the multicultural
aggression on the international scene. My father's eyeball in my head sees a
world of pluralistic fragmentation, ready to disintegrate, leaving in its
riotous wake a mangled mass of human suffering historically unprecedented.
mother's eye sees quite another world, yet every bit as real: we are
increasingly becoming one global family, and love by any other name seems the
driving force. Look at the history of the human race itself: from isolated
tribes and bands, to large farming towns, to city-states, to conquering feudal
empires, to international states, to worldwide global village. And now, on the
eve of the millennium, we face a staggering transformation the likes of which
humanity has never seen, where human bonding so deep and so profound will find
Eros pulsing gloriously through the veins of each and all, signaling the dawn
of a global consciousness that will transfigure the world as we know it. She is
a gentle person and sees the world that way. I share neither of their views;
or, rather, I share them both, which makes me nearly insane. Clearly twin
forces, though not alone, are eating away at the world: planetization and
disintegration, unifying love and corrosive death-wishes, bonding kindness and
disjointing cruelty, on a colossal scale. And the bastard, schizophrenic,
seizure-prone son sees the world as if through shattered glass, moving his head
slowly back and forth while waiting for coherent images to form, wondering what
it all means.
the Picasso-like fragments assemble themselves into something of postmodern
art, flowing images start to congeal: perhaps there are in- deed integrating,
bonding, unifying forces at work in the world, a God or Goddess's love of
gentle persuasion, slowly but inexorably increasing human understanding, care,
and compassion. And perhaps there are likewise currents viciously dedicated to
disrupting any such integral embrace. And perhaps they are indeed at war, a war
that will not cease until one of them is dead—a world united, or a world torn
apart: love on the one hand, or blood all over the brand-new carpet. What
immediately tore at my attention, all that year, was the three-decade mark of
Armageddon doom rushing at me from tomorrow: in 30 years (30 years!), machines
will reach human-level intelligence, and beyond. And then human beings will
almost certainly be replaced by machines—they will outsmart us, after all. Or,
more likely, we—human beings, our minds or our consciousness or some
such—would download into computers, we would transfer our souls into the new
machines—and what kind of future was that for a kid?
was the year the event occurred, altering my fate irrevocably, a year in the
life of a human machine that miraculously came to life. It was a year of ideas
that hurt my head, made my brain sore and swollen, it seemed literally to
expand and push against my skull, bulging out my eyes, throbbing at my temples,
tearing into the world. Of that year, I recall almost no geographical locations
at all. I remember little scenery, few actual places, hardly an exterior, just
a stream of conversations and blistering visions that ruined my life as I had
known it, replaced it with something humanity would never recognize, left me
immortal, stains all over my flesh, smiling at the sky.
Posted November 27, 2002
Here lies a book. Within it, a story breathes life. More importantly, we laugh while exploring "I" from a specific perspective; one that could use a good laugh at its self.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 14, 2002
Ken Wilber seems to have succeeded in what he set out to do here--write the great postmodern novel. Some three-hundred-plus pages into the book, Lesa Powell, one of the lecturers at Integral Center, tells us how difficult the task would be because capturing the mess that is postmodernism would require at least seven postmodern tenets--a high degree of narcissism (even naming a main character after the author); mixing real and fictional events, characters and references (even having a real character write a blurb for the book jacket); a questionable background for any white male character; a focus on theory rather than real people or places; a cut-and-paste, fleeting, episodic structure; two dimensional characters; stolen ideas, lines, images-- from any source that serves the novel; a reference in the novel that you have done all this. Wilber gives us this along with an overview of Don Beck's and Chris Cowan's Spiral Dynamics (part of the theory), which serves well to summarize the author's own early spectrum of consciousness, an all-level approach to human development. Boomeritis is the label placed on the unhealthy side of Beck and Cowan's green meme, or the worldview held by many of the baby boom generation. Unfortunately for many boomers, their postmodern worldview impedes them from developing further into the truly integral or 'second tier' of development. Through an ongoing series of lectures at Integral Center, Ken Wilber's (the character) regular and evolving sexual fantasies, and the predictable, ironic banter among Ken and his friends, the novel takes the reader through the egocentric, narcissistic contradictions that are Boomeritis, and then to prospects and tools for growing out of it. Part of the author's brilliance is his abilty to synthesize and make accessible large amounts of complex material. In Boomeritis, Ken Wilber has taken a risk. He's laid himself open to be completely misunderstood (once again) and done it in a way that is quite funny.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 7, 2002
I think that Wilber is unique in the New Age corpus for being the only critic within that camp. His books have interesting ideas, no doubt, but he is no storyteller! To excuse the poor quality of this novel on the idea that is is SUPPOSED to be terrible is ironic, and if this is truly what a "postmodern" book is like then I do not fear a wave of such literature any time soon. The quality is poor because all that is said is better stated in his previous books. There is no real plot. I guess postmodern books have no plot...fine, but a great deal of pages were wasted in making such a point. Just read his nonfiction.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.