Tuesday, November 20, 2007


As a young Canaanite girl named Salome, skinny legs and all, performs the Dance of the Seven Veils, the spectators experience more than a burlesque show. As each veil drops, they experience realizations, perhaps even revelations. In this way, Robbins sums up his philosophy (of course, if you've paid any attention while reading, this isn't necessary. Still, it's nice because I don't have to dig through the whole book for quotes.)

Earth is a sexual globe. He reminds us that the basic purpose of all life is reproduction, and the complex systems of religion and morality that we've created to suppress sexual instinct go counter to our very nature. He further extrapolates that since sexual drama is largely controlled by the female, a patriarchal society also runs counter to our nature. I don't feel strongly about this point one way or another - I'm not hung up on sex, and I agree that it's harmful to repress sexual energy - but it just doesn't seem that important. Religion perpetrates many dangerous myths, and represses both scientific research and artistic expression...all of which are more damaging than sexual repression.

Human beings do not have dominion over plants and animals. "Every daisy in the field, every anchovy in the bay had an identity just as strong as her own, and a station in life as valuable as hers." Wow, I'm not feeling you here, Tommy-boy. Nature is just a big game of King of the Hill, and right now we're on top. Until fish and flowers develop really big guns and the fingers to fire them, they're fucked, and I'm not losing any sleep over their plight. Sure, we need to act responsibly enough to ensure our own continued survival, but this PETA equal-rights bullshit doesn't hold up to the faintest intellectual scrutiny.

It is futile to work for political solutions to humanity's problems because humanity's problems are not political. "Political problems do exist, all right, but they are entirely secondary. The primary problems are philosophical, and until the philosophical problems are solved, the political problems will have to be solved over and over and over again." I agree with the premise - that mankind has some core philosophical issues which override everything else - but Robbins takes this idea too far when drawing conclusions from it. He argues that politics are more than useless, that they in fact stunt the development of humanity. This is plain wrong, and demonstrates a terrible ignorance of both human nature and the nature of political struggle. Yeah, there's a lot of nonsensical battle between 'conservatives' and 'liberals', but that does not invalidate the science of governing. Governments must exist to protect personal rights, and getting rid of the Rush Limbaughs of the world, while desirable, is not enough of a payoff for abolishing government. These first three points reveal Robbins to be an anarchic hippie, which is the default state of the hopefully ignorant. It is difficult to respect anyone with such an immature thought process.

Since religion bears false witness to the Divine, religion is blasphemy. And once it entered into its unholy alliance with politics, it became the most dangerous and repressive force that the world has ever known. Finally, something I can almost agree with. Religion is absolutely a destructive and repressive force. It has no place anywhere, and certainly shouldn't be mixed with politics (shaken or stirred.) Robbins gets a pat on the back for driving this home - this point is easily the most emphasized in the book - but I have never understood the sense of godless spirituality that he espouses.

Money is an illusion. Welcome to the Gold Standard Club. This isn't profound, and is not worth a comment.

The dead are laughing at us. "People sacrificed the present for a future that never really came, and those who tied all of their dreams to an afterlife had no life for there to be an "after" of..." Right. Live for the present and enjoy this life, because there's nothing after it but a long cold snooze in the dirt. Again, not real profound.

Everyone's got to figure it out for themselves. I'm going to distill this a little bit, and perhaps tweak the meaning to line it up with my own beliefs: intellectual laziness is the enemy of truth. If you allow other people - the government, the Pope, the media, the IPCC - tell you what truth is, instead of seeking it for yourself, then you'll never see the world for what it is. You're nothing more than a pawn in someone else's game, and pawns get sacrificed.

It was definitely refreshing to read something that treats religion harshly - he exposes it as a scourge, a curse, an excuse for every kind of evil and violence against fellow men - but overall I can't buy into Robbinsism. He seems to have this idea that if you just showed everyone the truth, and removed the veils of religion and society, that we'd all learn to get along in a big peacenik love-fest of feminine spirituality. That's a wonderful hippie idea that seems brilliant after your third joint, but it doesn't stand up to scrutiny when you're sober.

Perhaps he's refined his beliefs with age - Skinny Legs was written 17 years ago - but the philosophy presented in this book is nothing more than hopeful nonsense. To use his own words, it is an elaborated version of pitching coins into a wishing well or spitting off a bridge.


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