If you’re looking for a book that will lift your spirits and make you feel good about just being you, quick: put this one back on the shelf before you pay for it.
Why would I write a book that tries to make you feel better? First of all, if you already feel pretty good, congratulations. Second, if you don’t feel pretty good, I can’t help you.
The purpose of this book is not really to guide you through your everyday life, either. The title is a little deceptive. Who the hell am I to tell you how to live your life?
Besides, you made it this far. The way I look at it, the type of person who wanders into a bookstore is probably not on the verge of starvation or fearful of an imminent wave of brutal suppression by a cruel and tyrannical government.
Which puts you ahead of about ninety-percent of the world’s population, so you ought to be feeling pretty good about that. Which is about all I have to say about making you feel better.
This book, to a large extent, is about absurdity. The kinds of ridiculous things we put up with because we never really stop to think about them. Ignoring absurdity, or failing to recognize it, gets us into a lot of trouble. It’s what allows us to get snookered time after time, often without even realizing it.
You already know about the common types of snookerer, like salesmen, the government, politicians.
You may be less aware of other kinds of con-men, some of whom have no idea they’re even snookering you, like waiters, critics, sports heroes, clergymen.
And some who are well aware of it but would be offended if you brought it up. Like pharmaceutical companies and medical researchers.
Getting bamboozled by people you already distrust is no big deal. Happens all the time, and you’re probably already armed for them. You expect it from used car salesmen and from congressmen, and you might even laugh when it happens.
Getting taken by people who aren’t professional con-men, people you might even trust? That hurts. But you already know that.
The worst of all is when you get fooled by people who don’t even realizing they’re doing you harm. Here’s a quick example:
Let’s say you’re really overweight. You’ve tried every diet in the book and they’ve all failed, eventually, because they always do. (Think of every person you know who has lost a great deal of weight and kept it off for more than a year.) You’d like to try one of the new prescription diet drugs but, being a reasonably intelligent and well-informed citizen, you check around a bit first. You read an article in a prestigious medical journal that proves, conclusively, that taking these drugs will make you eight times more likely to contract a potentially fatal disease called pulmonary hypertension. Naturally, you decide not to take the drug. Who in his right mind would?
But it’s entirely possible that, in coming to that conclusion, you may be committing slow suicide. Because that article failed to give you some crucial pieces of information, without which you cannot make an informed decision.
And that’s absurd.
Movie and book critics mislead you all the time. They don’t even realize they’re doing it, but they are.
But avoiding getting snookered is not really the main idea of what this book is about. More importantly, it’s about taking a different slant on your everyday world, seeing things from a slightly different perspective.
It’s about the amazing things you can discover if you dig just a wee bit below the surface to the truly serious bullshit underneath.
The most important thing to keep in mind about this book is that it’s a guideline, not an instruction manual. So don’t follow any of it literally.
I figure the average reader should be able to use about half the ideas. Another quarter of them will be rejected as useless, absurd or deranged, and the remaining quarter will probably just make you angry as hell, if you’re thinking clearly.
Of course, which ideas fall into each of these three categories — useful, not useful, and rage-inducing — will be different for each reader.
It might even be different for individual readers, depending on which day they happen to be reading.
But the bottom line is this: living each day without asking some hard questions once in a while is like bringing a knife to a gunfight.