Philip K. Dick Again

I just finished Lawrence Sutin’s Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick (1989, Harmony Books).  Enjoyed every page. Instead of reviewing the entire book, I want to share two good parts.

Page 265 features a classic PKD parable mixing scientific knowledge with divine wisdom. Phil wrote this in 1979:

A new ambulance is filled with gasoline and parked. The next day it is examined. The finding is that its fuel is virtually gone and its moving parts are slightly worn. This appears to be an instance of entropy, of loss of energy and form. However, if one understands that the ambulance was used to take a dying person to a hospital where his life was saved (thus consuming fuel and somewhat wearing the moving parts of the ambulance) then one can see that through hierarchical outranking there was not only no loss but in fact a net gain. The net gain, however, can only be measured outside the closed system of the new ambulance. Each victory by God as intelligence and will is obtained by this escalation of levels of subsumation, and in no other way.

I like it. We live in a closed system. Also, back on page 246, Sutin tells of a writer named K. W. Jeter, who

called attention to the similarities between Phil’s novels and those of William S. Burroughs – such as an invading alien virus occluding human faculties (for Burroughs, the virus was language). Jeter and Phil even performed their own Burroughs-influenced “cut-up” writing experiment, scrambling texts from Roderick Thorp’s The Detective, Melville’s Moby Dick, and the New Testament Book of Acts.

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