Sunday Nibble #62: fnord

Today is Sunday, May 23, 2021, although it’s a special day according to the Illuminati, known as “Eye Day.” Well, at least according to some, or maybe just the infamous “many people (who) are saying…” Or it could all be made up.

Which is kind of the point. The real significance of the date are the 5 and the 23, which go back to Discordianism an ancient (fake) religion created in 1963 by the disciples Malaclypse the Younger and Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst, better known, or maybe not, as the author Gregory Hill and general counterculture prophet and muckracker Kerry Thornley.

You can still find various versions of their seminal work Principia Discordia, the founding document of Discordianism, and a really hilarious read. In case you haven’t grok’d it yet, the religion is a total parody, and one of the matches thrown into the plastic bag full of gas that was the LBJ administration.

This blew up into massive protests against the Vietnam War, a total generational split between those “damn hippies” (now Boomers) vs. the Greatest Generation (graters?) who had fought in WW II, and LBJ’s decision to nope the hell out of running for election in 1968, even though he could have.

BTW, the Gen-X of that era were known as The Silent Generation. They got fucked, too.

But let’s circle back to the date itself, because that’s what’s important. 5/23. These two numbers were very important is Discordianism and were claimed to show up everywhere. And, remember, 5 = 2+3. Plus the number 23 shows up in so many places that it’s ridiculous.

And how many fingers do you have on each hand? Toes on each foot? Holes in your face, not counting your ears? (Assuming the normal number, of course, not to be ableist.)

Twelve years after Principia first came out as a sort of underground guerrilla pamphlet, the three volumes of the Illuminatus! trilogy, by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea, were unleashed on the world. (Funny story: All four writers of the two works were, in fact, The Gen-Xers of their day. Make of that what you will.)

Now, Illuminatus! drew heavily on what Principia had created, but then went on to pull in basically every single then extant conspiracy theory, left or right, and treat them all as if they were true. And the two Bobs were exposed to plenty, since they worked for Playboy magazine at the time, and got to read all of the “slush pile” incoming mail, which consisted of unsolicited article ideas.

So, maybe normal stuff interspersed with plenty of JFK conspiracy theories, UFOs killed Marilyn, the Nazis didn’t die, they moved to Argentina, etc., etc., etc.

Or, in other words, they were getting QAnon crap in the post and mostly had to deal with ignoring it, although instead of that, they turned it into literary fodder, turned it on its head and satirized it.

One of the places where they ran with it the most was in those two numbers, 5 and 23, which they posited as sacred to the Illuminati, but then they proceeded to scatter them throughout the text, as well as to give lots of real-life examples of where they showed up.

In later works, Wilson documented his own encounters with the two numbers, invoking The Law of Fives originated in the Principia. Keep in mind that 23 is just a hidden invocation of the number 5 since, again, 2+3 = 5.

Now, oddly enough, I first actually read Illuminatus!, long after it had been published in an omnibus volume, when I happened to be 23, and the book both blew my mind and changed my life. At least all of the conspiracies used in it dramatically were presented with such tongue in cheek that it was clear that none should be taken seriously, but other elements did stand out.

One of these was the idea that no two people could ever experience the world in exactly the same way, because they would not have the exact same experiences — and this had a huge positive influence on me. Wilson’s term for it was “reality tunnel,” as in everybody goes down their own.

After Illuminatus!, I proceeded to get my hands on and read absolutely everything he had ever written, or was yet to write, and somewhere along the way he led me through the true origin and meaning of the Law of Fives.

I think this was in his book Prometheus Rising, where he described his “Find the quarter” exercise, and it went like this. Whenever he was lecturing to a large group of students, he would tell them, “Whenever you’re out walking around, keep one thought in mind. ‘I am going to find a quarter.’ Then… keep looking for that quarter.”

A funny thing happened. His students kept finding goddamn quarters everywhere. And when I tried it, so did I. But it wasn’t until late in that book that he sprung the secret: People drop change all the time. You just don’t notice because you’re not looking for it. But by changing your focus, you see what was formerly hidden from you.”

Or, in other words, you will see what you’re looking for, or perceive what you expect. And it was the same with the Law of Fives, or the Number 23. Give them special significance and start watching, and they will show up everywhere.

Try it right now, and in the coming days. Pay strict attention, and any time that a 5 or a 23 or, really, any combination of those three digits shows up in any order, take note. You’ll be surprised at how often they occur.

And so… Wilson’s works did have a big effect on me in my early 20s, especially has he led me into and out of what could have been some woo-woo fantasy belief system, except it wasn’t. In fact, it was the opposite of that, at least when it came to religious and spiritual stuff.

Politically, though? I eventually drifted away from him because his combination of cynicism and extreme libertarianism (no matter how liberal his version) just didn’t work for me. There are just some things that society cannot make happen unless everyone throws into the common bucket and no, you don’t get to opt out of paying for schools if you have no kids, or paying for roads if you don’t own a car, or paying for airports if you never fly, or paying for libraries if you never read, and so on.

But what I did learn from him, at least, was that we all create our own kaleidoscope through which we watch the world, and our main responsibility is to freely admit and acknowledge that what we see through ours is not what anyone else sees through theirs — and that limit comes as close as your kids, parents, siblings, spouses, and besties.

So, in response to that, let’s try this approach. Instead of springing right into, “No, you’re wrong,” start with, “That’s interesting, but here’s what I see/think/feel.” Offer the chance for a response, and see what you get.

You might just get your face bitten off, but at least you tried.

And, really, if you’re going to start by arguing with someone who insists that 5 and 23 are numbers with magical properties, you’re probably not going to be able to convince them anyway. Oh well…

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