THE FACTS OF LIFE: An Essay in Existential Biology by R. D. Laing

THE FACTS OF LIFE: An Essay in Existential Biology

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Structurally, at least, this is rather more the Laing of Knots or The Politics of Experience--the cryptic poet of the tangles and paradoxes of existence--than the earlier, earnest analyst-philosopher of The Divided Self and Self and Others. The book is constructed of bits of journals, bits of lectures, memories, meditations--some impenetrably abstract and logically involuted, some embarrassingly speculative and poetic--among which one may wander at will. But in content it is new, evidence that Laing has moved on, deeper into himself, deeper into the mystery of life. It is a meditation without answers, philosophical, personal and biological, on the question, ""Who am I?"" Perhaps the most striking part of it is the personal. Laing is no longer talking only about patients or people in trouble, but about himself. His own quite astonishingly bleak and repressed early history is told with a bald plainness that suggests both sadness and harsh humor. He moves from the conundrum conventionally called ""the facts of life""--our origin in sexual reproduction--into more bizarre territory: the possibility (documented by incidents in therapy) that we remember, are haunted by, and reenact our conception, implantation, fetal life and birth, the loss of the cord and placenta that were part of us. He relates odd things that have happened to his mind, and odd encounters with others, that hint at the vast mysteries lying iceberg-like beyond consciousness. The whole is informed by an implicit compassion that turns explicit in an attack on ""heartless"" science unaware of its own unconscious sadistic motives. Despite its flights and obscurities, this is a real contribution to the literature of wonder--rich, disorderly, suggestive, inconclusive, and humane.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1976
Publisher: Pantheon