The Apocalypse Is Now, So Let's DanceBy Rick DelVecchio in the San Francisco Chronicle
Rob Brezsny says the apocalypse is now, so let's dance.
"We are in fact living through the apocalypse," the astrology columnist-author-musician declares in his radically optimistic self-help bible, Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You With Blessings (North Atlantic Books/Frog Ltd., Berkeley, 388 pages, $21), a surprise top-1,000 seller on Amazon.com.
The biblical idea of apocalypse is the terrifying end of things, followed by judgment. Brezsny's version takes away the fear and the finality and redefines apocalypse as a slow, subtle, revolving process of death and rebirth in which we're all invited to take part.
In the end, according to him, we can't lose.
But -- and this is the trick -- first we have to be willing to play the game.
Brezsny argues that the game is stacked in favor not so much of steady happiness as happy accidents -- iridescent streams of fruitful, fulfilling or inspiring moments in the mundane. He wrote the book in order to provide evidence, tips and inspiration for people who sense that theory is right but who find that media and education provide little in the way of guidance.
"We're not looking for starry-eyed optimism and repressed boosterism," Brezsny said. "Pronoia is not boosterism for empty-brained people. I think the media tend to emphasize that part of human experience that doesn't work. There are a lot of people who don't identify that as their primary state of existence."
The writer, whose weekly Free Will Astrology column runs in 118 newspapers, marshals evidence that beyond the daily grind's bland unease unfold alternate states rich with intimacy, hilarity and good luck. "More wonderful things happen," he said, "than anybody seems to be willing to admit."
In the book, Brezsny recounts experiences that restored his trust in life and made him a seeker of "crazy wisdom." Pairing libido and intellect, ambition and receptivity, he took off as an astrology columnist and -- the subject of one of the book's longest stories, "The Orgasmic Roots of Pronoia" -- lover.
In the desert at Burning Man in 2001, he experienced his biggest breakthrough up until that time. "I became absolutely certain," he writes, "that the sun loved me personally."
Soon after, in a hair-raising encounter with a woman in a red Jaguar, he transmuted a road rage incident into a shower of blessings. He saw the woman's face shift from demonic to angelic, and the experience changed his life.
Today, hoping to help bring about more such encounters, Brezsny out of his garage operates an entity he calls his Beauty and Truth Laboratory. It's an exchange for plain old miracle stories, fascinating good news and insights that promise "sudden deliverance from boring evils." Correspondents contact Brezsny at email@example.com or P.O. Box 150628, San Rafael, CA 94915.
"I get testimony from Alaska to Singapore," he said. "I probably get 20 a day."
The book rotates, something like a Tibetan prayer wheel, around the idea that love underpins being and that it's ours if only we have the courage to take it. If we don't go to this original and endless source, then we inherit the classical hell-on-earth of depression, decay and destruction.
Around and around his theme the verbally acrobatic, mystically literate Brezsny lets fly a thousand zingers, each with the feel of having been carved with some poetic effort to express a hard reality instead of a platitude.
Try saying this aloud: "I die daily"
The average cloud weighs as much as 100 elephants
I demand that you get at least eight hours of sleep a night
There's another reason to love our enemies: they force us to be smarter
Visualize Buddha or Mother Teresa at the moment of orgasm
Do something complicated
Kick your own ass 22 times a day for 22 days
On pages decorated with fractals, labyrinths and female deities -- and sometimes left blank for readers to write in their own ideas -- the self-described Global Village Idiot pinwheels his almanac of puns, aphorisms, questions, commands, confessions and odd uplifting excerpts from the back pages of the news.
The effect is of a brainy-crazy character of a 1960s yippie sensibility having grown up to seize his vocation: laughingly, rudely, devastatingly insulting fate and the faddish nihilism that feeds it. And all the while, he's laughing at himself as, the book argues, must we all.
"I have a dream," he writes in a typical riff, "that in the New World Oprah Winfrey will buy up all the Pizza Huts on the planet and convert them into a global network of menstrual huts, where for a few days each month every one of us, men and women alike, can resign from the crazy-making 9-5, drop out and slow down, break trance and dive down into eternal time."
What are the rest of us supposed to do? First, Brezsny stresses, don't follow anybody else's way. Second, once freed from gurus and saints, keep moving because there's no end in sight.
So dubious is Brezsny about the idea of reaching a permanent state of bliss that he lets readers off the hook by offering them his "Certificate of Exemption from Enlightenment." With it the seeker is freed from the madding pursuit of happy endings in a chaotic, mutating universe and challenged to attack life's miscellaneous happy opportunities with full powers, not excluding skepticism.
Love is Brezsny's prescription. Love smarter, love till it hurts. Up the ante on love. Take chances to express it through intimacy, dialogue and work. Express it sexually, intellectually, artistically, meditatively, socially.
"Again and again over the years," Brezsny writes, "you're pushed to a brink that challenges you to either rise to the occasion or else surrender to demoralizing chaos. The crises may come in the form of divorce or illness or job loss, or even in less dramatic events like a misunderstanding with a friend or the inexplicable waning of a once-passionate dream.
"Seeded inside each of these personal turning points is the crux of the evolving global apocalypse: You get to choose whether you'll adjust by taking a path that keeps you aligned with the values of the dying world or else a path that helps you resonate with what's being born.
"In effect, you get to vote, with your entire life," he writes, "for which aspect of the apocalypse you want to predominate."
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