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Matt Berry - A Human Strategy

The question sets the trajectory of the answer. The crowd stands safely behind. If the crowd has aimed the canon askew, I can only lose: if I answer, my answer will be set off in vain ... if I refuse to answer, I have "avoided the battle" ... if I stop to debate the positioning of the question itself, there will be no crowd pleasing thunder ... if I seize the questiion and turn it round, correctly aiming at the problem--the crowd--I will be torn to pieces. (p. 23)
I must admit from the start that I am more than a bit biased when it comes to the writings of Matt Berry. I have been "cyber friends" with Matt since 1997. Although we haven't communicated much, I enjoyed much of his writings on my old bulletin board. In addition, we have both come from similar backgrounds and have ended up in similar places (philosophically speaking). So I guess you could say his writings speak to me a little more than they may to everyone else.

A Human Strategy is a bit different than your typical book. It is a collection of quotes, analogies, aphorisms, and metaphors not assembled by, but written by, Matt Berry. They are grouped by subject. You can read one a day or a complete subject's worth in a day and then reflect. Reflecting is what you will spend the bulk of your time doing. I think I spent more time thinking without reading while the book was open than I did actually reading the words on the page.

I would frequently have the impression that "I have experienced these thoughts before." Only I didn't ponder them long enough, think them through, or look at them in quite this way. Now they have more meaning for me, and when I experience items touched upon in the book again I suddenly think of Matt's book. Matt's words have given my own thoughts a deeper relization and understanding.

A Human Strategy will resonate well with those who cultivate meaning from within rather than rely solely on traditions or as Matt calls them "inherited moralities". Perhaps some who are still relying on things given to them--rather than things chosen--can use the book as a wake-up call. He writes things I wish I had written. 'Thoughtfulness' and 'mindfulness' are a couple of words that come to mind when reviewing Matt's outlook on life. If you like Thoreau, Emerson, and/or Hoffer you will not want to skip Matt Berry.

A human is a creature who makes things disappear through repeated contact. After living on a ship for a month, the sailor has accustomed himself to the waves of the sea. Within his sensory world, it is as if the rolling and pitching have ceased. Then this creature goes ashore and nearly falls down because it is the land that now pitches and moves: it is a movement that now exists as an absence of movement ... and only as such can it be "sensed." (p. 29)

The next question is not, "Can we live in spite of our awareness of our condition?" nor, "Would it be better to go back to sleep?" but, "Can we live by this awareness?" (p. 42)

From the publisher:
A collection of aphorisms

Our minds are circumscribed
by our immediate reality but
we stop short at the thought of it.

It has become increasingly evident to me that it is indecent to reconstruct my life ... perhaps because I have chosen to set my inherited morality aside and look at the world from an "amoral" perspective. Moreover, my neighbor fears the collapse of his own morality through my private concern: "Can there be a more valuable orientation toward life?"

Perhaps it is a type of death, just as real as the final death, to cast aside an old identity and become someone new.

Whatever the reason, I have undertaken this experiment and in the process ... for the process, have kept notes and am hereby putting them into some form. Let me call it a "book."

I take it to be the highest endeavor and the greatest offense for a human to attempt life mastery, to break up the foundations of existence and build anew. There are many books on stark reality ... about the disease of existence. Without denying that there are such existences but far from musing on death, I assert that a human can steer toward a higher fate, a more valuable conclusion ... and, risking a trite expression, live a happier life.

Perhaps this is the soft underbelly of a book exposed to the modern world: to say that one can be happier and more valuable without a "beyond" ... that one can not only learn to be content with reality, but can aggressively pursue greater and greater joy.

In response to the fear of our unknowable future we would rather freeze ourselves into a single stage of growth at the expense of the entire metamorphosis. (p. 121)
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