He’s been called the Carl Sagan of religion. The Jerry Falwell of quantum physics. The Arnold Schwarzenegger of feminism. The Helen Keller of art and music. The James Joyce of swing-set assembly manuals. I think you get the idea. He’s the inimitable Robert Anton Wilson, futurist, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, poet, lecturer, and even pope of the Church of the Subgenius. But just don’t be fooled by that whole “pope” thing. You see, if I understand the rules correctly, I am a pope of the Church of the Subgenius just by having seen this film. In fact, you might even be ordained a pope after reading this review! Nevertheless, Robert Anton Wilson is a true renaissance man. “Maybe Logic: The Lives and Ideas of Robert Anton Wilson” is an often fascinating, if somewhat monotonous, attempt to document the man’s myriad incarnations and philosophies. Or as Wilson would say, “maybe” it is.
One’s enjoyment of “Maybe Logic” hinges on one’s openness to Wilson’s ideas, since they are by far its main focus. Indeed, Wilson’s “relative meta-beliefs”, or catmas (as opposed to absolute beliefs, or dogmas, get it?), virtually are the film, which makes it impossible to review it without reviewing them as well. Unfortunately, Wilson himself gets all but lost in all this discourse, as the film offers precious little insight into his life. (With Wilson credited as an executive producer, perhaps the lack of personal revelation is by design.) Instead, writer/director Lance Bauscher nearly melts our brains with a non-stop barrage of trippy philosophies on the nature of reality.
About a third of Wilson’s “b.s.” (that’s Wilson-speak for “belief system” and yes, it informs his opinion of them) borders too much on the hokey for my tastes. These half-baked (half-serious maybe?) theorems would include: being “tuned-into” reality as opposed to simply “being”, that there are 24 conspiracies afoot at any one time, that we may be receiving messages from either extraterrestrials or a 6-foot tall white rabbit from the Emerald Isle, that the world may be a better place if we used the word “maybe” more often, and, of course, there’s that whole pope nonsense. (And who knows, maybe the very phrase, “pope nonsense”, is the whole point. I’ll leave that to one of the supposed “12 million” popes running around to explain it to me.) But as for the other two-thirds, many of them are almost so philosophically self-evident that they’re kind of brilliant in a way. I would include here his ideas on reality tunnels (that each of ours are unique and valid, a piece of the bigger puzzle), the inadequacy of any one model/map/metaphor to tell the whole story, that nothing is truly consistent, and that we must continually revise our “map of the world”. As someone who’s seriously courted nihilism and retained my humor with all things human, I must admit to a certain admiration for Wilson’s almost anti-spiritual world-view. When Wilson claims that “perceptions are gambles and that people act on a certain nieve realism”, it’s hard to argue with the simplicity and truth to his logic.
Beyond his many grand philosophic (maybe anti-philosophic) statements, both ironic and sincere, Robert Anton Wilson is also funny as hell. Somehow he’s able to communicate his ideas with a kind of stoner dopiness, while being devilishly clever about it at the same time. It’s nice to see too that he’s hardly lost this edge even as he struggles in his old age with post-polio syndrome. Wilson remains as passionate as ever about his ideas and especially in his fight to save medical marijuana, which has been his saving grace. Love him or just laugh at him, Wilson is an important 20th century thinker and “Maybe Logic” does a decent enough job of celebrating him. As a film, it has little in the way of frills, except for some psychedelic background animation, and can be a bit too repetitive at times, what with Wilson often in close-up babbling away like a broken record about infinite possibilities. I would’ve liked to have heard more from the few Wilson-devotees who appear here about how they were influenced by his life’s work. And what about his family or his impact on the world at large? As a reality tunnel of Wilson’s life, “Maybe Logic” is woefully lacking. (Again, maybe it was by design.) Regardless, the film is well worth a look, especially if you’ve never even heard of the guy. As the man himself would say, don’t be a “cosmic schmuck”, give “Maybe Logic” and Wilson’s world-view a chance. But to the devout believers in… well, anything really, beware: infinite doors will open before your eyes. Maybe. (That’s nine times, for those keeping track.)