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Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings
by Rob Brezsny
Edition: Paperback
117 used & new from $0.37

108 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Follow your rowdy bliss!, July 24, 2005
Pronoia is a philosophy book of a most unusual stripe. It takes a lot of the ideas that Breszny has developed on the Free Will Astrology site and particularly that he included as themes in his amazing novel, The Televisionary Oracle, and expands on them, shaping them into a chaotically coherent philosophy of life. The style is undeniably Breszny-- quirky, irreverent, soulful, linguistically athletic, challenging, hopeful.

This is not your college Philosophy 101 class's philosophy book. It's structured rather freewheelingly, part creative workbook (including spaces for you to write your own thoughts and even your own chapter), part essay collection, part word art (noting the inclusion of "homeopathic medicine wheels" that cram negative information in a circular paragraph enclosed by healing symbols and words), part exuberant poetry slam, part instruction manual for the inner development of "rowdy bliss". Big and packed full of interesting information and musings, illustrated lavishly with quirky graphics and nifty fonts, it is the kind of book that you can either read straight through or flip around, seeing where the pages fall in a somewhat bibliomantic attempt to receive an eccentric oracle. One thing's for sure, one reading is not enough to completely absorb everything this book contains, but it will be a pleasure to go back and re-read many times in the future.

No doubt the less whimsically inclined would regard this book with a raised eyebrow and no little incredulity; Breszny's a holy fool, a sacred clown, and he can be downright outrageous and goofy even when he's at his most heartfelt and profound. Cynics may find his relentless optimism over the top.

But this is a smart man who's invested a tremendous amount of contemplation and personal experience into every idea he proposes. He is in no small measure radical, as he challenges the assumptions about the bleakness of the world that are so constantly fed to us. His optimism and faith are not at all blind nor are they syrupy or saccharine; he addresses the existence of sorrow and suffering in the world and encourages his readers to adopt the scientist's tools to test and evaluate our beliefs.

At the heart of his philosophy is that we all have the right to experience tremendous joy in our lives, the ability to shape the world around us, and the unceasing gifts of a benevolent universe that longs to help us and communicate with us. He takes the previously-little-explored concept of "pronoia" and expands it into a creative, active, loving, lusty way of life. Not for him is the traditional religion's dichotomy of material=bad vs. spirit=good; nor the "fluffy newage" optimism that shoves the shadow self into the closet and slams the door. He proscribes neither quivering submission to and timid requests of a scornful punisher deity, nor spartan rejection of the world in seeking a cold and lonely enlightenment. His ideas belong in the world, not apart from it; they go boldly into crowds creating beauty and weirdness, offering a hand to others, and proclaiming the dangerous notion that the world is a rich and beautiful place. He recruits "guerrilla prayer warriors" and sacred artists and tantric clowns with a charisma and dedication that is thrilling in its possibility and irresistible in its charm.

This is not a book to read if you are determined to be unhappy or if you don't want your world shaken up a bit. However, if you have the sneaking suspicion that leading a happy, fulfilled life might just not be a heresy, or you are tired of the status quo and eager for a truly unusual point of view, or if you need the kind of healing that makes you laugh and cry at the same time, or if you have already been crusading for beauty, truth, freedom, and love-- you need this book. It is hope and humor and beauty and love. Discordians and adherents of the Church of the Subgenius, both of which are mentioned favorably within, and tricksters of all stripes may particularly enjoy Breszny's antics.

One of my favorite parts of Pronoia was the "Anti-DSM-IV", which is a section that turns the DSM-IV, that manual of the mental health professions, on its head by describing a long list of different states of psychological and spiritual health and happiness. As someone who's long thought that the field of mental health seemed to focus far too heavily on the miserable without clearly defining what constitutes happiness and well-adjustment, I was thrilled to see this marvelous and insightful bit of writing.

I found Rob Breszny's writing at a time in my life when I had just begun to clearly articulate my growing beliefs in the inherent goodness of the world, the benevolence of the Divine Wow, and the human capacity for joy and love. Reading his work was a confirmation of those beliefs, an inspiration to take it even further, and an exciting realization that others were thinking along these lines and maybe even creating a bold new movement in a weary and discouraged world.

This book gets a huge thumbs-up from me. Even if you think it sounds corny or suspect, I recommend giving it a read-- there just might be something in there that surprises you.
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