Bad reviews and the meaning of life

I suppose it could be worse…. I could be getting terrible reviews in the newspapers and raves from Amazon customers. If your Amazon reviews are too fulsome, potential book buyers think they’re written by ringers. But nobody would ever mistake this bunch for friends and family: “Pompous and dishonest…a waste of paper and ink,” reads one headline. “I did become angry over the fact that the author so bald-facedly was lying to his readers through his highly personal, subjective, half-assed assessments as to what was true and what was speculation,” another reviewer observes.

It seems that I am not just a pragmatist and a Polyanna but a quick buck artist, who cut-and-pasted CULTS, CONSPIRACIES, AND SECRET SOCIETIES off the Internet (everybody knows how disreputably pragmatic the stuff you find on the Internet is). I suppose I should be flattered that my prose inspires such passions, but what galls me is the accusation that “I see nothing odd going on.” I see nothing but odd things going on. Everything that I see confounds me–to me, the world is a fathomless mystery.

“A conspiracy,” wrote Don Delillo, “Is everything that ordinary life is not.” Though conspiracies happen around us all the time–businessmen are forever purchasing politicians and cheating their stockholders; greedy preachers prey on the prayerful; policemen collect protection money from drug dealers–they don’t suffice to explain anything more than their own existence, or to illustrate how corruptible human beings can be. Conspiracy Theorists, on the other hand, like some religious people, believe that they understand the hows and whys of most of the major trends in human affairs. They occur because a specific group of people with an identifiable agenda have orchestrated things so that they’ll play out exactly as they have. Empowered with that knowledge, they’ve broken out of the Matrix. The rest of us sheeple are stuck here for good.

I mentioned in an earlier post that one of my reviewers accuses me of believing that there are “no real secrets, or hidden cloaked sinister agendas out there floating through our present.” I take tremendous issue with that. I live in a world where children starve, governments carry out genocides, and global limited liability corporations rob, cheat, and poison with impunity. Bad things happen to good people and good people are often complicit in bad things; people lie and cheat all the time. But all of this is the stuff of ordinary life, which is messy and complicated, unpredictable and sad, but beautiful and endlessly interesting–and infinitely more inspiring than a computer game.

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