An avant garde set of improvisational essays, Richard Grossinger's The Bardo of Waking Life is a meditation on the Tibetan Buddhist bardo realm which, in popular culture, is viewed as the bridge between lives, the state people enter after death and before rebirth. This book examines waking life and its history and language as if it were a bardo state rather than ultimate reality, and thus seeks a context for life (and dreams), even as it addresses more "mundane issues" including genetic theory, the war in Iraq and George W. Bush's presidency, North Korea, advertising, global warming, Prison Industrial Culture, childhood trauma, even country western music. Written with playfulness and precision, Bardo takes a new, probing approach to all the important questions of creation, destruction, and existence. In these intellectual field notes, Grossinger proves thematically fearless as he crosses quantum mechanics with totemic hexes and draws transcendental insight from the ephemeral space-time we call daily life. If, as Tibetan cosmology holds true, all conditional realms are bardos, then the state we all share is nothing less than the bardo of waking life.
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North Atlantic Books
April 29, 2008
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Excerpt from The Bardo of Waking Life by Richard Grossinger
From First Cycle: Museum of the Milky Way GalaxyA dragonfly is more advanced than a human being, in dragonfly terms. Its swift, surveillant flight, stopping and starting instantly, likewise turning on a dime, is well beyond what human motility can approach--it is the evolutionary equivalent of language and philosophy. Plus, dragonflies have no use for speech or dialect; they are the mere embodiment of predatory flight. That is, they have nothing to say which they don't do.Any plane that tried to carry out dragonfly maneuvers would tear itself apart.Likewise, no Olympic muscleman, at scale of lifter to object, could out-press an ant. Not only would ants win the gold, the silver, and the bronze, but a crippled ant would finish well ahead of the most able Kazakhstani or Turk.It took millions of years of nonlinear flux via proteins and neural nets to render a beehive, a masterpiece of apian art as well as an archetypal object.It took millennia of stone tools, metallurgy, and cybernetics for humans to achieve its approximate simulacrum in a computer disk. For what it is and what it's supposed to do, a beehive is perfect.An anthill is also perfect: tunnels of habitable symmetry from white noise, a billion vortices underlying stacks of organized chaos. It is the coevolutionary partner of the ant, its sine qua non.A fish, exerting flaps against rods, enacts elegant design principles--propulsion approaching, even as it arises from, inertia. In the Metropolitan Museum of the Milky Way Galaxy, a spider web plucked from Earth in the eighth millennium B.C. hangs adjacent to an iPod Nano. One critic from the Pleiades deemed it an even more exquisite representative of Sol carbon craft.In this same exhibit hall, mites from Enceladus and Europa are exemplified by fractally pleated micro-fabrics.Titan is not just an unrefined "Earth"; it is a tabernacle of methane philosophy...