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The Men Who Stare at Goats
and
The Psychopath Test

by
Jon Ronson

Hello Jon,

I have just finished reading Men Who Stare at Goats and recently the Psychopath Test.

I enjoyed the Psychopath test as a very clever bit of work. I think Goats did not end well but was otherwise interesting.

I am writing because I also have just finished viewing the movie of Goats and I was wondering how you could have managed to allow yourself to be associated with this work. ... not that it was a bad movie! In fact I enjoyed it a lot. But the fact is it makes a mockery of your work at least as I see it. To me you use your non-judgmental style and nack for seeing the humorous side to actually force the reader into serious consideration of disturbing subjects. The movie did what the Olson fellow hated at the close of the Goats book; turned the whole thing into a happy feel-good no need to think about it thing.

How did this happen?

Best Wishes,
obo

Hi obo

Thanks for the message. I actually enjoyed the Goats movie. Not sure about the very end but the film had a batty charm and a good heart! I think you're being too hard on it!

Very best
Jon

Hello Jon,

Likely I am reading motivation into your work that was not your intent.

I had imagined a crusader there. Letting the lunatics that run the asylum speak for themselves being an effective way to create in the audience the notion that they themselves have arrived at the conclusion that the lunatics run the asylum. Maybe even some of the lunatics reading about themselves would come to the same conclusion. Maybe reform would be the result.

I can see where this is completely unrealistic of me.

I was moved to read your work by an excerpt of the Psychopath Test which I found to be the smartest thing I had read in a long time. Passed it around to my friends. Made the guy who made up the test look like a complete psychopath. Then I read your site over. Then I read Hofstadter who is, if I may say so, a complete fool and reading his shit a complete waste of time, but I did so to be able to say I did so. Then I read Goats and then I saw the movie.

While this is not atypical of the way I approach things, it seems to me you had a pretty heavy influence for someone focused only on presenting lunatics as fools for the humor of it. But I guess we could say you have avoided the foolish position of the crusader destined to fail.

I'll probably read your next thing too.

 

§

 

And by the way, goat-starers, if one wants to pass through solid objects, it is first necessary to be able to attain the 4th burning [jhana]: objective detachment. You need to be absolutely detached from this world ... what did you think? You were going to be able to pass through solid objects without totally falsifying your entire conception of the world? Without total detachment from this world A. you will not allow yourself to do anything that will totally falsify your conception of the world, and B. if you did you would go stark raving mad. And then there is the problem that to get to the first burning [jhana] you will need to have a slightly different orientation to doing violence than is taught in the army. Gotta let all that killing and torture stuff go.

OK. Then, in the 4th Burning you need to take a look. You will see, on the one hand, that it is your conception that there is such a thing as a solid object (and here we are not speaking about the intellictual understanding that there is space between atoms) that is creating solid objects. Thinking that you will be able to pass your atoms through the spaces in the atoms of solid objects is just simply re-enforcing the idea that there are solid objects.

There are no solid objects. Perceived objects are constructions in your mind. Bits are taken from here and there. A little light from here. A little bluegreen from there. A line from here. And so forth to make the picture you see. Look a little closer and all there is is light. Look a little closer and you see there is nothing there to perceive.

Detached you can let the perceptions that make up what you see fly apart. Lots and lots of space between. Whole mountains could come to Mohamed through them if he had the strength of mind.

But then passing through is a matter of forming the intent to disappear from here and appear there. There is not really any 'thing' here that can do all this passing through.

Some 'tools' have been constructed for beginners. Desiring to pass through a solid wall one projects the space device, (having developed it to the point where it can be projected from the 4th burning) onto the wall and intends it to open wide enough for the body to pass through. Caution is advised not to lose one's concentration or it could close up on you and trap you in the wall.

Just thought I'd pass this along.


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