Damon Wilson: An End

My friend Damon Wilson, Colin Wilson’s son, tells me that he is writing a book, to be titled An End to Murder, that incorporates his father’s last hundred pages of original writing. It looks at why humans are so violent — and why the violent crime rate has dropped so dramatically, worldwide, in the last two decades. He said, “I’ve only written about half the book so far, but was inspired to write the final, short chapter last time I saw Dad alive. I’ve attached it, since it’s my summing-up of how I feel about my father.”

With Damon’s permission, here it is.

An End

The odds against your existence were astronomical. Your parents had to meet and then make love – the latter act at just the right time for the egg with the correct genetic mix to be available. Then the right sperm had to beat thousands of others in the race to that egg. Your mother had to carry you through pregnancy, without miscarriage, and successfully deliver you. Then you had to avoid being killed – by accident, disease or other people  – up to at least this point in time.

But all that is next to nothing. Four people, your grandparents, had to go through the same destruction test to allow your parents to exist. And eight great grandparents to create your grandparents. And sixteen people in the generation before that. And thirty-two in the generation further back…

By twelve generations back from your conception – roughly 300 years – your direct forebears will have numbered 4,096 individuals. Just like you, the odds against each of those people existing, and living long enough to produce your next forebear, were incalculably high.

Now take that already inconceivable level of improbability, then add all the generations back to the first proto-human hominid that was mutated enough to branch us away from the ancestors of the chimps and bonobos. Break any part of that immeasurable chain of events, and you would never have existed. So, the odds against your existence were astronomical.

And that is true of every person that you have ever met, ever heard about, ever existed. But, of course, that is also true of every cold virus you ever suffered from, or fly you ever swatted. So add to the mix the unbelievable achievements of our species…

Surviving the great African Miocene drought, that destroyed so many other types of primate. Part-evolving into a water mammal and thus developing our strange method of walking. Using our dangerously ungainly bipedalism, and our pack instinct, to become lethal predators. Creating basic tools. Growing an increasingly powerful, but energy-expensive brain. Learning to talk. Learning to think in abstract terms. Colonising the planet. Surviving a brutal ice age, and surviving our Neanderthal cousins. And all that only takes us up to the evolution of Homo sapiens sapiens and the pre-dawn of civilisation.

Then there is the nebulous matter of human potential to consider. We may be the most selfish creatures that the planet has ever seen, but we are also the most selfless. Although individual members of other species can and often do sacrifice themselves, they do it because of undeniable instinctual drives. We are the only animal that will coolly and rationally decide to risk or sacrifice our lives for what we understand to be the greater good. Somewhere on the globe there are members of the emergency services, soldiers and just ordinary citizens who are squaring-up to that decision as you read this.

No other species is as intellectually capable as we are: both capable of creating wonders, and capable of destroying the planet. We are the only beings on Earth who seem to have the ability to feel both bitter misanthropy and generous optimism. As G.K. Chesterton noted:

“Man is an exception, whatever else he is. If he is not the image of God, then he is a disease of the dust. If it is not true that a divine being fell, then we can only say that one of the animals went entirely off its head.”

– G.K. Chesterton, All Things Considered (1908)

The premature death of anyone, seen in these terms, is a loss to the world that is beyond our understanding. The destruction of the most precious work of art is nothing compared to it. Every human-being who ever existed is irreplaceable.

George Orwell tried to express the commonplace catastrophe of that loss when he wrote about his experience – when a British Imperial Policeman in Burma – of taking a man to be hanged:

“He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone – one mind less, one world less.”

– George Orwell; The Hanging (1931).

My father has always been a deeply humane and optimistic person, some of which has rubbed-off onto his children. I’ve known him to be on perfectly happy conversational terms with some of the most celebrated people of the past half-century. And with brutal murderers.

When all is said and done, he has always seen people as beings of fascinating potentiality; all worthy of delighted wonder, if not always respect.

So.

Whoever you are. Whatever you’ve done. Whatever you may become.

I, and my Dad, love you.

– Damon Wilson. November 2013

 

7 thoughts on “Damon Wilson: An End

  1. Dear Frank,

    A double loss at this time of two unique men, Nelson Mandela and Colin Wilson touched me deeply. I would have missed some of the information on Colin had you not taken the time to post his obituary and commentary. I loved his work and the work of Mandela. I am hoping that a set of conversations with these men may begin with someone down the road. No hints here or pressure. Just a wish. Many many thanks again for sharing. Louisa

  2. While “An End to Murder” was certainly a fascinating and informative book, I did find a jarring error in it. On page 355, John Wayne Gacy was described as a serial killer of young boy and men (over thirty murders) who committed these crimes in TEXAS. Wrong. The murders took place in Chicago and daily newspapers here covered it for weeks as headline news. In fact, a book recently written by one of his defense attorneys at the time, Sam Amirante, in collaboration with Danny Broderick, describes the trial in great detail. The book is entitled: John Wayne Gacy, Defending a Monster.

  3. Hello Frank & All.

    Hm, I know a bit about “evil” (not explainable in ordinary human terminology). And I have TRIED in to investigate what it could have been which made it happen back then (almost 30 years ago).

    I have “Introduction to The Faces of Evil,” … an unpublished book by Colin Wilson. Edited and with foreword by Vaughan Rapatahana (Colin Wilson Studies #22).

    From the forward by V.R. “Wilson seriously considers some sort of ineffable prime Evil, something far more menacingly bad than even the worst imaginable human Evil, and which is comparatively far more potent, indescribable, non-human and overwhelming. In short all of the many significant cases he beguiles ius with in these pages pale to nothingness next to this primeval Evil.

    Here, then, Wilson moves well away from any human plane and indeed seems to be saying that this root Evil is not the root of all (human) Evil, that is not any fundamental force in the cases of infamous man-made activities such as he described so well earlier – although he is not clear here as regards any connection.

    No, this mega-Evil, if you will, is not even in the same picture frame, let alone planet. It is well beyond any individualized face of Evil whatsoever: It has no visage, except perhaps as: ANOTHER FACE OF GOD. Rather it is something much more odd, given that – ever the romantic mystic at heart – he sees it as all inextricably intertwined with Good and as, conversely and perhaps perversely, also a potential catalyst of IMMENSE JOY.

    Jumping a bit down the page:

    The ultimate Evil then transcends humanity as such and could never be translatable to the rest of this book, a book, which ironically also doesn`t exist on any human plane. Somewhat fittingly in this context, then, are Wilson`s own concluding words about this vast Evilness: (underlined in the book) “It is a strange and disturbing thought: but it is worth bearing in mind as an antidote to some of the all-too-human notions of evil that we shall encounter in the following pages….”

    So, for Wilson, it would seem that his final conclusion here as to what constitutes Evil is best summed up in his own words: (stressed in the book) HUMAN BEINGS HAVE RELEASED `EVIL`FORCES OF WHOSE POWER AND PERSISTENCE THEY ARE UNAWARE.”

    Yet, Wilson, ever completist, than does a final volte-face, almost revolves full circle and throws something else into his equation – for he returns toward the other possible definition of evil – as some indescribable and independent primeval counter-force to Good, and – in his penultimate paragraphs – waxes rather mystically as he raises the possibility that this antediluvian scenario is, after all: (stressed) a fundamental principle of creation.” The End (it is no end only the beginning).

    Well, it is VERY interesting all the way. I could have written down to you the whole book!! It is as a Mystery to me what once to have experienced… NOBODY has ever managed to explain it for me either but Wilson.

    Thank you very much again for this Frank (I am chewing it as a chewing-gum).

    B&B, Inger Lise.

    1. You are making me want to read the book. (Pray tell, what is a “completist”? Is that a mistyping of some other word?) My reaction, steeped in what the guys and Rita have said over the years, is that in a world of duality, good and evil must both exist; evil cannot be explained away as “absence of good,” nor can it be removed from the world. But I’d like to see what Colin had to say on the subject. He is always a provocative thinker.

      1. Thank you Frank.

        Hm, the word completist is written in the book.
        Peculiar enough the same word is used in the norwegian language likewise.

        I suppose it is meant the same…an individual who always “completing”(completes) everything he/-she is doing.

        Smiles, Inger Lise.

  4. Yes Colin was one of those great writers who could get an “overview” of existence – like a “birds eye view” from the mountain – you could get the feeling that all knowledge met in some great synthesis – an inspiring feeling – that it all somehow mean’t something – went somewhere amazing….

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