You know how in the movies folks always have an angel and a devil pop up on each shoulder with advice? Well, for me it's not that simple. I hear a myriad number of voices in my head (uh, strictly metaphorically) giving me advice, or explaining what I'm seeing.
Here for your consideration are the Top 10 Voices in Al's Head:
1) Ayn Rand She is the top stern father figure. "A is A." The towering castle of your life must be built on the strictest foundations of adherence to reason and truth, for castles made of sand fall in the sea. She brooks no foolishness. I hear her voice frequently while watching news of the war on terror. For example, her classic description of evil as "the hatred of the good for being the good" rings in her harsh Russian accent every time I hear of another Palestinian suicide bombing.
2) Robert Anton Wilson is the permissive mother character in this lineup. He is the yang to Ayn Rand's yin in my worldview. He wrote a play called "Reality Is What You Can Get Away With." This represents exactly the opposite outlook from "A is A." He emphasizes careful analysis of the limitations of absolute knowledge, based on the limitations of our biology. His psychological insights build on an eight level model of human consciousness that is really useful in understanding my own thinking, for starters. I see his funny face as I start firing up on a lower level mammalian territorial circuit, and relax. I think of his favorite maxim "The map is not the territory" when my own BS (Belief Systems) seem to start diverging from the facts on the ground in front of me, and start re-examining my premises. [Funny how this comes all the way back around to Ayn.]
3) Robert Heinlein was a top of the line model of the freethinking, but tough-minded American. Stranger in a Strange Land turned the classic Protestant religious models of my youth up on their head and pulled them inside out and plunked them right back down. The logic of his religious mega-orgies seems perfectly reasonable- at least in theory. Yet his vision of the price of freedom in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress demands the strictest of honor and sacrifice.
4) HL Mencken provides the eloquent voice of pure joyous youthful iconoclasm. His wicked grin and fine cigars are the most highly educated and thoughtful form of the naughty schoolboy. He was the bane of all cheap morality and self-important blatherers, from the downscale preachers to the great scheming politicians with plans to save the world- at taxpayer expense. He hooked the defendant in the Scopes Monkey Trial up with his attorney, and then rushed in to cover the trial as a newspaper reporter. Ha! We're having some fun now. He had a perfect combination of recognizing human failing without excuse or quarter, combined with a good-hearted acceptance of human fallibility that largely eliminated any sense of malice or misanthropy. I often have his cigar-chomping grin looking over my shoulder as I'm writing some scathing mockery of the buncombe of the day.