things weren’t discovered until they could be discovered, until there was the time-binding heritage, or until the information accumulation had reached the necessary level. This is why you have so many cases of parallel discovery in science, where in five years three people patent the same thing in different countries. As Charles Fort said, “It’s steam engines when it comes steam engine time.”
RMN: What if there were times when the information had accumulated but not the political or social climate necessary to appreciate it? Libraries have been burned and knowledge chased underground by authoritarian forces.
ROBERT: Well, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one should remain silent.”
RMN: A lot of people feel that technology is at odds with their ecological thinking. What do you think is the evolving role of the science of Ecology.
ROBERT: The first book I ever read on ecology was way back in the forties. It was called The Road to Survival. I’ve always been fascinated by ecology because I’m fascinated by whole systems. That’s why Bucky Fuller fascinates me. He always starts with the biggest whole system and works his way down. I’ve written a lot of satirical things about pop ecology because I think a lot of people have got on the ecology bandwagon who don’t know their ass from their elbow about science, and it’s turned into a kind of late Christian heresy like Marxism. It’s become a new blame game, where people go around laying guilt trips on other people. Guilt is very fashionable in Western civilization.
Albert Ellis said the most popular game in Western civilization is finding and denouncing no-good shits. I found that so impressive I’ve incorporated it into a couple of my own books. Every generation picks out a group of no-good shits. In the Victorian age it was adolescent boys who masturbated, and now it’s cigarette smokers. There’s always got to be some no-good shits for people to denounce and persecute, and to the extent that ecology has degenerated into that, it arouses my satirical instinct. But of course the science of Ecology itself is tremendously important, and the more people who know about it, the better.
RMN: The methods of science and art are beginning to achieve some wonderful things together. What do you think created such a chasm between the two disciplines in the first place, and why do you think they are now merging?
ROBERT: Science and art. Now what created such a chasm between them? Why the hell did that happen? I think I’m going to go back and blame the Inquisition. Science had to fight an uphill battle against the Inquisition and this created a historical hangover in which scientists had acute hostility to every form of mysticism, not just to the Catholic church which had been persecuting them. I think that rubs off onto art, because there’s something mystical about art no matter how much you try to rationalize it. If you get a bunch of artists together talking about where they got their creativity from, they sound like a bunch of mystics.
Then there was the rise of capitalism. I’m inclined to agree with Karl Marx about that, that every previous form of society has had different values, a hierarchy of values. Capitalism does tend to reduce everything to just one value–what can you sell it for? And as Oscar Wilde said, “All art is quite useless.” The value of art depends on who’s manipulating the marketplace at the time. It’s spooky. Art is the Schrodinger’s cat of economics.
All of a sudden, an Andy Warhol is worth a million, and nobody knows how that happened. Then it’s somebody else the next year. Picasso never paid for anything in the last twenty years of his life. He just wrote checks which never came back to his bank. People saved them because they knew that the signature was worth more than the sum of the check. They knew it would be worth even more in twenty years, and so on.
Somebody asked a Zen master, “What’s the most valuable thing in the world?” and he said, “The head of a dead cat.” The querent asked “Why?” and the Zen master said, “Tell me it’s exact value.” That’s a good exercise if you’re into creative writing. Write a short story where the hero’s life is saved by the fact that he could find the value of the head of a dead cat. It could happen. Everything has a fluctuating value.
In capitalism, everything gets reduced to it’s immediate cash value. Citizen Kane, to take one egregious example, is generally considered one of the best films ever made. It lost money in it’s first year, so Orson Welles had extreme difficulty for the rest of his life getting enough money to make other movies. Yet Citizen Kane made more money than any other movie made in 1941, if you count up to the present, because it gets revived more than any other movie. But the bankers who own the studios aren’t interested in profit in twenty years, they want profit next June. They want Indiana Jones not Citizen Kane.
RMN: So, if the areas of science and art are