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    Default Theatre of the Absurd

    THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE ABSURD

    From the essay "The Kingdom of Man and the Kingdom of God" by Eugene Rose




    Quote The present age is, in a profound sense, an age of absurdity. Poets and dramatists, painters and sculptors proclaim and depict the world as a disjointed chaos, and man as a dehumanized fragment of that chaos. Politics, whether of the right, the left, or the center, can no longer be viewed as anything but an expedient whereby universal disorder is given, for the moment, a faint semblance of order; pacifists and militant crusaders are united in an absurd faith in the feeble powers of man to remedy an intolerable situation by means which can only make it worse. Philosophers and other supposedly responsible men in governmental, academic, and ecclesiastical circles, when they do not retreat behind the impersonal and irresponsible facade of specialization or bureaucracy, usually do no more than rationalize the incoherent state of contemporary man and his world, and counsel a futile “commitment” to a discredited humanist optimism, to a hopeless stoicism, to blind experimentation and irrationalism, or to “commitment” itself, a suicidal faith in “faith.”

    But art, politics, and philosophy today are only reflections of life, and if they have become absurd it is because, in large measure, life has become so.

    .....

    [T]he world has by no means passed out of the age of absurdity [...] , but rather into a more advanced — though temporarily quieter — stage of the same disease ... in its shadow men stand paralyzed, between the extremes of an external power and an internal powerlessness equally without precedent. ... The whole world, it almost seems, is divided into those who lead meaningless, futile lives without being aware of it, and those who, being aware of it, are driven to madness ...

    It is unnecessary to multiply examples of a phenomenon of which everyone is aware. Suffice it to say that these examples are typical, and even the most extreme of them are but advanced forms of the disorder which surrounds every one of us today and which, if we know not how to combat it, takes up residence in our hearts. Ours is an age of absurdity, in which the totally irreconcilable exists side by side, even in the same soul; where nothing seems to any purpose; where things fall apart because they have no center to hold them together. It is true, of course, that the business of daily life seems to proceed as usual — though at a suspiciously feverish pace — men manage to “get along,” to live from day to day. But that is because they do not, or will not think; and one can hardly blame them for that, for the realities of the present day are not pleasant ones. Still, it is only the person who does think, who does ask what, beneath the distractions of daily life, is really happening in the world — it is only such a person who can feel even remotely “at home” in the strange world we live in today, or can feel that this age is, after all, “normal.”

    It is not a “normal” age in which we live; whatever their exaggerations and errors, however false their explanations, however contrived their world-view, the “advanced” poets, artists, and thinkers of the age are at least right in one respect: there is something frightfully wrong with the contemporary world. This is the first lesson we may learn from absurdism.

    For absurdism is a profound symptom of the spiritual state of contemporary man, and if we know how to read it correctly we may learn much of that state. But this brings us to the most important of the initial difficulties to be disposed of before we can speak of the absurd. Can it be understood at all? The absurd is, by its very nature, a subject that lends itself to careless or sophistical treatment; and such treatment has indeed been given it, not only by the artists who are carried away by it, but by the supposedly serious thinkers and critics who attempt to explain or justify it. In most of the works on contemporary “existentialism,” and in the apologies for modern art and drama, it would seem that intelligence has been totally abandoned, and critical standards are replaced by a vague “sympathy” or “involvement,” and by extra-logical if not illogical arguments that cite the “spirit of the age” or some vague “creative” impulse or an indeterminate “awareness”; but these are not arguments, they are at best rationalizations, at worst mere jargon. If we follow that path we may end with a greater “appreciation” of absurdist art, but hardly with any profounder understanding of it. Absurdism, indeed, may not be understood at all in its own terms; for understanding is coherence, and that is the very opposite of absurdity. If we are to understand the absurd at all, it must be from a standpoint outside absurdity, a standpoint from which a word like “understanding” has a meaning; only thus may we cut through the intellectual fog within which absurdism conceals itself, discouraging coherent and rational attack by its own assault on reason and coherence.

    .....

    The philosophy of the absurd is, indeed, nothing original in itself; it is entirely negation, and its character is determined, absolutely and entirely, by that which it attempts to negate. The absurd could not even be conceived except in relation to something considered not to be absurd; the fact that the world fails to make sense could occur only to men who have once believed, and have good reason to believe, that it does not make sense.


    No competent thinker, surely, can be tempted to take seriously any absurdist claim to truth; no matter from which side one approaches it, absurdist philosophy is nothing but self-contradiction. To proclaim ultimate meaninglessness, one must believe that this phrase has a meaning, and thus one denies it in affirming it; to assert that “there is no truth,” one must believe in the truth of this statement, and so again affirm what one denies. Absurdist philosophy, it is clear, is not to be taken seriously as philosophy; all its objective statements must be reinterpreted imaginatively, and often subjectively. Absurdism, in fact — as we shall see — is not a product of the intellect at all, but of the will.

    The philosophy of the absurd, while implicit in a large number of contemporary works of art, is fortunately quite explicit — if we know how to interpret it — in the writings of Nietzsche; for his nihilism is precisely the root from which the tree of absurdity has grown. In Nietzsche we may read the philosophy of the absurd; in his older contemporary Dostoevsky we may see described the sinister implications which Nietzsche ... failed to see. In these two writers, living at the dividing point between two worlds, when the world of coherence ... was being shattered and the world of the absurd based on its denial was coming into being, we may find almost everything there is of importance to know about the absurd.

    The absurdist revelation, after a long period of underground germination, bursts into the open in the two striking phrases of Nietzsche so often quoted: “God is dead” means simply, that faith in God is dead in the hearts of modern men; and “there is no truth” means that men have abandoned the truth revealed by God upon which all European thought and institutions once were based. ... And even over that ever-decreasing minority who still believe, inwardly as well as outwardly, for whom the other world is more real than this world — even over these the shadow of the “death of God” has fallen and made the world a different and a strange place.

    Nietzsche, in the Will to Power, comments very succinctly on the meaning of nihilism:

    What does nihilism mean? — That the highest values are losing their value. There is no goal. There is no answer to the question: “Why?”

    Everything, in short, has become questionable. ... [C]ertainty and faith that once held society and the world and man himself together, are now gone, and the questions for which men once had learned to find the answers in God, now have — for most men — no answers.




    “God is dead,” “there is no truth”: the two phrases have precisely the same meaning; they are alike a revelation of the absolute absurdity of a world whose center is no longer God, but — nothing. ... This may be seen in the absurdist affirmation of a void at the center of things, and in the implication present in all absurdists to a greater or lesser degree, that it would be better if man and his world did not exist at all. But this attempt at nihilization, this affirmation of the Abyss, that lies at the very heart of absurdism, takes its most concrete form in the atmosphere that pervades absurdist works of art. In the art of those whom one might call commonplace atheists — men like Hemmingway, Camus, and the vast numbers of artists whose insight does not go beyond the futility of the human situation as men imagine it today, and whose aspiration does not look beyond a kind of stoicism, a facing of the inevitable — in the art of such men the atmosphere of the void is communicated by boredom, by a despair that is yet tolerable, and in general by the feeling that “nothing ever happens.” But there is a second, and more revealing, kind of absurdist art, which unites to the mood of futility an element of the unknown, a kind of eerie expectancy, the feeling that in an absurd world, where, generally, “nothing ever happens,” it is also true that “anything is possible.” In this art, reality becomes a nightmare and the world becomes an alien planet wherein men wander not so much in hopelessness as in perplexity, uncertain of where they are, of what they may find, of their own identity — of everything except the absence of God. This is the strange world of Kafka, of the plays of Ionesco and — less strikingly — of Beckett, of a few avant-garde films like “Last Year at Marienbad,” of electronic and other “experimental” music, of surrealism in all the arts, and of the most recent painting and sculpture — and particularly that with a supposedly “religious” content — in which man is depicted as a subhuman or demonic creature emerging from some unknown depths. It was the world, too, of Hitler, whose reign was the most perfect political incarnation we have yet seen of the philosophy of the absurd.

    This strange atmosphere is the “death of God” made tangible. It is significant that Nietzsche, in the very passage (in the Joyful Wisdom) where he first proclaims the “death of God” — a message he puts in the mouth of a madman — describes the very atmosphere of this absurdist art.

    We have killed him (God), you and I! We are all his murderers! But how have we done it? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the whole horizon? What did we do when we loosened this earth from its sun? Whither does it now move? Whither do we move? Away from all suns? Do we not dash on unceasingly? Backwards, sideways, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an above and below? Do we not stray, as through infinite nothingness? Does not empty space breathe upon us? Has it not become colder? Does not night come on continually, darker and darker?

    Such, in fact, is the landscape of the absurd, a landscape in which there is neither up nor down, right nor wrong, true nor false, because there is no longer any commonly accepted point of orientation.

    .....

    [I]t is impossible not to sympathize with some at least of the artists of the absurd, seeing in them an agonized awareness and sincere depiction of [the] world ... let us not lose sight of the fact that their art is so successful in striking a responsive chord in many precisely because they share the errors, the blindness and ignorance, and the perverted will of the age whose emptiness they depict. To transcend the absurdity of the contemporary world requires, unfortunately, a great deal more than even the best intentions, the most agonized suffering, and the greatest artistic “genius”. The way beyond the absurd lies in truth alone; and this is precisely what is lacking as much in the contemporary artist as in his world, it is what is actively rejected as definitely by the self-conscious absurdist as it is by those who live the absurd life without being aware of it.

    For it is quite clear that absurdists are not happy about the absurdity of the universe; they believe in it, but they cannot reconcile themselves to it, and their art and thought are attempts, after all, to transcend it. As Ionesco has said (and here he speaks, probably, for all absurdists): “To attack absurdity is a way of stating the possibility of non-absurdity,” and he sees himself as engaged in “the constant search for an opening, a revelation.” Thus we return to the sense of expectancy we have already noted in certain absurdist works of art; it is but a reflection of the situation of our times, wherein men, disillusioned and desolate, yet hope in something unknown, uncertain, yet to be revealed, which will somehow restore meaning and pupose to life. Men cannot live without hope, even in the midst of despair, even when all cause for hope has been, supposedly, “disproved.”

    But this is only to say that nothingness, the apparent center of the absurdist universe, is not the real heart of the disease, but only its most striking symptom. The real faith of absurdism is in something hoped for but not yet fully manifest, a “Godot” that is the always implicit but not yet defined subject of absurdist art, a mysterious something that, if understood, would give life some kind of meaning once more.

    full essay here:
    http://www.desertwisdom.org/dttw/reb...hy-absurd.html

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    This makes me think of the ideas of Antonin Artaud and his theatre of cruelty which is well worth investigating.

    Quote The Theatre of Cruelty (French: Théâtre de la Cruauté) is a surrealist form of theatre theorised by Antonin Artaud in his book The Theatre and its Double. "Without an element of cruelty at the root of every spectacle," he writes, "the theatre is not possible. In our present state of degeneration it is through the skin that metaphysics must be made to re-enter our minds." By "cruelty," Artaud referred not to sadism or causing pain, but rather a violent, austere, physical determination to shatter the false reality that, he wrote, "lies like a shroud over our perceptions."
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theatre_of_Cruelty





    This is an interesting article that also makes this connection

    Quote it can be said that the Absurd Theatre of the 1950s and 1960s was a Belated practical realisation of the principles formulated by the Surrealists as early as the 1930s. In this connection, of particular importance were the theoretical writings of Antonin Artaud.

    Artaud fully rejected realism in the theatre, cherishing a vision of a stage of magical beauty and mythical power. He called for a return to myth and magic and to the exposure of the deepest conflicts within the human mind. He demanded a theatre that would produce collective archetypes, thus creating a new mythology. In his view, theatre should pursue the aspects of the internal world. Man should be considered metaphorically in a wordless language of shapes, light, movement and gesture. Theatre should aim at expressing what language is incapable of putting into words. Artaud forms a bridge between the inter-war avant-garde and the post-Second-World-War Theatre of the Absurd
    http://www.arts.gla.ac.uk/Slavonic/Absurd.htm
    For orpheus’s lute was strung with poets sinews- Shakespeare, two gentlemen of Verona

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    dianna (14th December 2013), sian (19th July 2014), william r sanford72 (15th December 2013)

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    Thanks Dorjezigzad -- I've never read (that I can remember) Artaud --- will now be on my list, as his work sounds extremely interesting

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    THE ORIGINAL THEATRE OF THE ABSURD: ‘UBU ROI,’ A LOT LIKE ‘THE FORBIDDEN ZONE,’ ONLY IT’S WEIRDER!



    Quote French absurdist playwright Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi (“Ubu the King” or “King Turd”), a pre-Surrealist work, is considered an influential classic of French theatre. It originally premiered in 1896. There were three Ubu plays written by Jarry, but only one, Ubu Roi, was ever performed during his short lifetime (Jarry died at the age of 34 of tuberculosis. After he beckoned a friend to come closer, his whispered last word on his deathbed was allegedly “toothpick” or whatever it is that the French call them).

    The Ubu trilogy was conceived to employ actors and marionettes in a vicious satire of greed, royalty, religion, stupidity and abuse of power by the wealthy. The two other plays were Ubu Cocu (“Ubu Cuckolded”) and Ubu Enchaîné (“Ubu in Chains”).

    The protagonist “Père Ubu” (yes, this is obviously where the band’s name came from) was originally based on the teenage lampooning of a stuffy teacher written by two friends of Jarry’s from school, but Jarry expanded the plays and used the character as a vehicle for his howling critique of bourgeois society’s evils. People absolutely hated the scandalous Ubu Roi—it was considered lewd, crude, vulgar and low—and its controversial author. At the premiere in Paris, it was booed for a good fifteen minutes after the first word, “Merdre!” (his coining for “****,” deliberately close to the French merde and translated in English as “P****” or “****tr!”), was spoken. Fist fights broke out in the orchestra pit. Jarry’s supporters yelled “You wouldn’t understand Shakespeare, either!” His detractors rejoined with their variations on the theme of “ubu” and “merdre.”

    William Butler Yeats was apparently in the audience that night in 1896 and is alleged to have said “What more is possible? After us the Savage God.”

    The play was accused of being politically subversive, the work of an anarchist mind****er or even that it was a “hoax” designed to hoodwink a gullible middle-class audience with metaphorical crap that some of them, at least, would say tasted good.





    According to Jane Taylor, “The central character is notorious for his infantile engagement with his world. Ubu inhabits a domain of greedy self-gratification.” Jarry’s metaphor for the modern man, he is an antihero—fat, ugly, vulgar, gluttonous, grandiose, dishonest, stupid, jejune, voracious, cruel, cowardly and evil—who grew out of schoolboy legends about the imaginary life of a hated teacher who had been at one point a slave on a Turkish Galley, at another frozen in ice in Norway and at one more the King of Poland. Ubu Roi follows and explores his political, martial and felonious exploits, offering parodic adaptations of situations and plot-lines from Shakespearean drama, including Macbeth, Hamlet and Richard III: like Macbeth, Ubu—on the urging of his wife—murders the king who helped him and usurps his throne, and is in turn defeated and killed by his son; Jarry also adapts the ghost of the dead king and Fortinbras’s revolt from Hamlet, Buckingham’s refusal of reward for assisting a usurpation from Richard III and The Winter’s Tale‘s bear.

    “There is,” wrote Taylor, “a particular kind of pleasure for an audience watching these infantile attacks. Part of the satisfaction arises from the fact that in the burlesque mode which Jarry invents, there is no place for consequence. While Ubu may be relentless in his political aspirations, and brutal in his personal relations, he apparently has no measurable effect upon those who inhabit the farcical world which he creates around himself. He thus acts out our most childish rages and desires, in which we seek to gratify ourselves at all cost.” The derived adjective “ubuesque” is recurrent in French and francophone political debate.

    After achieving fame, or rather infamy, for his scatological play, the 23-year-old Jarry obnoxiously began to model his patterns of speech after the actor who played Père Ubu. Interestingly, that actor had modeled his portrayal of Ubu on Alfred Jarry’s already strange speaking style of drawing out each syllable in a nasally staccato. He also began to walk like Ubu!

    Like his fictional idiot king, Jarry used the royal “we,” and called the wind “that which blows. His bicycle was “that which rolls.” You get the picture. Jarry was a druggie, known to be an enthusiastic ether inhaler and absinthe imbiber. Eventually he could scarcely tell himself from his fictional characters and died in a hospital for the impoverished. After his death, he became a figure of great fascination for Picasso, who purchased Jarry’s revolver and carried it with him whenever he was out at night.

    Joan Miró used the image of Ubu Roi to satirize General Franco in 50 lithographs after the military won the Spanish Civil War. In 1978, once General Franco was still dead, Miró staged a play, Mori el Merma, with the Teatre de la Claca group. In this play Ubu (here called “Merma”) is a thinly-veiled metaphor for Franco, a vicious, bloodthirsty tyrant.

    Paul McCartney was reading Ubu Roi while he was writing the lyrics for “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” on Abbey Road. (“Joan was quizzical; studied pataphysical science in the home” presumably refers both to Miró, who’d illustrated a famous 1966 publication of the play and Jarry himself, father of the hallucinatory anti-philosophy of pataphysics). The Ubu Productions dog seen at the end of every episode of Family Ties (“Sit, Ubu, sit… good dog”) was named after Jarry’s play as well and no doubt is the way that most people have heard the name of his oafish tyrant, even more than the musical group.

    Here, in honor of the late Tim Wright, Pere Ubu co-founder and bassist for No Wave legends DNA, who died on Sunday, is Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi as it was produced for French television in 1966 by Jean-Christophe Averty. This piece—which utilizes the Kinoscope process of filming off a video screen—is absolutely stunning, a real achievement considering the technology of the era. Averty, who also directed the 30-minute short “Melody” aka “Histoire de Melody Nelson” starring Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, has had a long and distinguished career in French TV, film and radio.




    From: Dangerous Minds
    http://dangerousminds.net/comments/t...forbidden_zone

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    History of the Theatre of the Absurd



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    Meaning In Absurdity by Bernardo Kastrup



    Quote For such a short book, there is a huge amount of information to process. This information and its analysis will alter the readers perception of the current scientific paradigm of realism and accept the needed paradigm of Idealism. This more intuitive paradigm will help us to understand what instances of the absurd are trying to portray when they break through into our shared experience of reality; which they do from the realm of the imagination or collective unconscious.

    Quote “the calls of the absurd are protusions into our consensus reality anchored in the daimonic realm: a realm that is both material and immaterial; both fact and fiction. Thus, ‘daimonic reality’ is a kind of intermediate realm between the physical and the spiritual, between reality and imagination, embodying characteristics of both. ...

    ... In the realm of the daimonic, the imagination operates in its most natural form: through analogical – not literal – thinking; through metaphor, not causally closed modelling.”
    Kastrup begins the book with examples of what can be termed ‘the absurd’, ranging from mass UFO sightings and religious experiences, to experiences of DMT test subjects. He demonstrates through the book via analysis of quantum entanglement, the philosophy of logic, and the depth psychology of Carl Jung, that one cannot dismiss the ‘calls of the absurd’ as subjective fantasy.

    Quote “When the symbolic, metaphorical, often absurd contents of the unconscious parts of the psyche emerge into consciousness, they feel at least as real as the material, literal world around us.”
    He discusses the nature of objectivity and subjectivity, and from this discerns that the experience of reality can be divided into strongly objective experiences and weakly objective experiences, and emphasises that most ‘ordinary’ experiences of reality in fact lean more towards the latter, as strong objectivity is hard to prove in most instances:

    Quote “Something is weakly-objective when it can be consistently observed by multiple individuals and when it cannot be independently altered by an individual act of cognition. ...

    ...Something is strongly-objective when its existence or occurrence is fundamentally independent of conscious observation in general. ... ... one cannot talk of weak-objectivity at all unless there are at least two observers involved. Strong-objectivity, on the other hand, holds only when no observers are involved. Indeed, the very definition of strong-objectivity requires that the existence of something can be inferred with certainty in the absence of any observation at all. ...

    ...To assert that a thing or event is strongly-objective ... requires a fundamental, inductive leap of faith.”
    The calls of the absurd, from this definition, can be demonstrated to be weakly-objective, and thus these experiences can be attributed with ‘real’ properties, and not explained away as delusions or fabrications. The property of strong objectivity is a problem which has been analysed by philosophers and thinkers for centuries, and it is this notion which corresponds with the current philosophical scientific paradigm known as ‘realism’.

    Quote “According to realism, the facts of nature are all already ‘out there’ from the beginning.”
    Realism has been presented as the antithesis to ‘idealism’, which espouses that the world around is a mental construct of humanity. Idealism implies that scientific discoveries are self-validating inventions of human cognition, and as a result of this it is not a popular scientific paradigm in the mainstream scientific community. However, it is widely accepted all aspects of human experience are in fact grounded in the data we acquire via our senses, and not in the external reality where the data comes from.

    Quote “We have no direct access to a supposedly external world and no way to prove its existence, for we are forever locked in the subjective space of our consciousness. Therefore, an external reality remains an assumption, tempting as it may be.”
    So, with this in mind, these calls of the absurd which defy logic cannot be dismissed as unreal due to the consideration that the system of logic which we would use to define them as true or false is a creation of human cognition, and ultimately cannot be completely relied on to define these occurrences as such.

    Quote “much of our logic is grounded on the so-called ‘principle of bivalence’ – the idea that any statement about reality has a determinate truth-value: it is either true or false, regardless of our ability to find out which. ...

    ... If we abandoned bivalence, it would not be a problem that certain things could be both true and false; such a possibility would just be natural and perfectly reasonable. Indeed, bivalence lies behind our standard notion that reality must be literal: by entailing that each alternative excludes its opposite, it is bivalence that implicitly drives us to believe that, if different explanations are mutually exclusive, then only one must be true and all others false. That is the definition of literalism. If we abandoned bivalence, we would have to abandon this notion of literal truth: if an explanation can be true and false, then its aspect of falsity would open the door for other mutually exclusive explanations to be true as well. As such, reality would be more like the unfolding of cognitive metaphors than a system of fixed truths; more like an evocative dream than a causally closed script.”
    The differentiation which the current realist paradigm makes between the objective world of matter and the subjective world of individual consciousness can be shown to be tenuous. In actuality the world ‘out there’ is not independent of the thoughts ‘in here’. As the work of depth psychologists such as Carl Jung has shown us that the human psyche cannot be confined solely to each individual ego-consciousness, in fact the human psyche is a collective experience which affects our reality in ways which are so nuanced to our egos that we have created this separation in our perception in order to rationalise, integrate and in our minds dominate it.

    These metaphorical incursions of what we term as the absurd are manifestations of this collective psyche into our consensus reality, and it therefore highly likely that this is an opportunity for our species to learn from what they are presenting to us. The most important lesson is that the world of matter as we perceive it is actually a construct of our mind, and therefore we cannot discredit these incursions as false aspects of reality or delusions.

    Quote “The next step in our human adventure must be grounded in a new kind of ‘illogical’ logic: one where ambiguity reigns and constructivism is the engine of reality. It will require a difficult – perhaps painful – adaptation of our ego-consciousness and a departure from some of the dearest premises of our scientific worldview. Yet, it does not need to entail a descent into disorder; rather, it may allow a broadening of possibilities: the embracing of higher degrees of freedom in the underlying order of reality, which have always been there, just not perceived consciously. Ours may be a future akin to a dream; a realm where the imagination is less constrained and yet solid, palpable.

    The transition to this next major paradigm cannot be something that an authority from the intellectual elite will solemnly pronounce from a podium and reassure us all of. It must, instead, be a non-linear process grounded in direct experience.
    http://www.whenthenewsstops.org/2014...o-kastrup.html

    Bernardo Kastrup - Buddha at the Gas Pump Interview



    Quote Bernardo Kastrup has a Ph.D. in Computer Engineering and has worked as a scientist in some of the world's foremost research laboratories, including the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the Philips Research Laboratories (where the "Casimir Effect" of Quantum Field Theory was discovered). He has authored many scientific papers and four philosophy books: Rationalist Spirituality, Dreamed up Reality, Meaning in Absurdity, and Why Materialism Is Baloney. This latter book is a grand synthesis of his metaphysical views. Bernardo has also been an entrepreneur and founder of two high-tech businesses. Today, he holds a managerial position in the high-tech industry. In parallel, he maintains a philosophy blog, an audio/video podcast, and continues to develop his ideas about the nature of reality. Bernardo has lived and worked in four different countries across continents.

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