You Are Here in the Zeitgeist – as illustrated by a book about the universe by Christopher Potter.

Here’s an interesting thing.
It’s a minor illustration of the theory that we’re all hopelessly trapped within the zeitgeist while at the same time we’re labouring under the illusion that we’re independent thinkers.
My book on the subject of our place in the universe is due out any day now, as it’s just been whisked off to the printing presses. You can find out more about it here.
Meanwhile I see that a book on a not unrelated subject has this very month been published elsewhere: it’s written by Christopher Potter and is published by Hutchinson.
So far, so slightly coincidental. After all, the subject of our place in the universe isn’t exactly a theme that’s been neglected over the years.
What’s a bit on the spooky side though is that Potter’s book is called You Are Here – the same name as that of the very blog that you’re reading at this precise moment.
What’s more, my own book was at one point going to be called You Are Here too. The main reason that I dropped that specific title was because it’s the name of my regular cartoon slot in Philosophy Now magazine, so I decided that I’d reserve the title for any future collection of those cartoons should one ever see the light of day.
I mentioned this seemingly bizarre coincidence concerning the use of You Are Here as a book title to my partner, who dismissed it with the comment that it’s a rather obvious choice of title for a book on the subject of our position in the universe. So much for my delusion that I was capable of moderately original thought.
Fortunately for me (and my self respect), there’s another weird coincidence concerning Christopher Potter’s You Are Here and my own book.
Look at the covers.

Just imagine if I’d kept the title of my book as You Are Here – the coincidence would have seemed more than uncanny.
I say “seemed more than uncanny” because, surprisingly, it wouldn’t have been all that uncanny at all. The similarity in cover art isn’t as bizarre as you may think. The rather artless graphic style and the hand-written lettering are very much in the contemporary mode. I created my own cover design while I had a copy of The Kingdom of Infinite Space by Raymond Tallis sitting on my desk (It’s an exploration of the workings of the human animal from the neck upwards). Here it is. I was obviously influenced.

I decided on this particular cover style because I think that it expresses the nature of the contents of the book quite well: accessible, not too weighty, slightly irreverent, slightly humorous.
Having seen the similarity between the covers of Potter’s book and my own I toyed with the idea of changing mine, but then decided that the similarity was actually a significant point, and was enough to justify keeping it. The significant point is that one of the themes of my book is that people tend to independently reach the same conclusions about things simply because of the way that our brains work – which often convinces people that they’ve reached a valid conclusion, while all along they’ve simply reached the inevitable conclusion, which may not be right at all.

There’s yet another coincidence between Christopher Potter’s book and mine.
Christopher Potter worked in publishing before writing his book, and I’m a cartoonist. Both of us seem to be singularly unqualified to write the books that we’ve just written.
Apparently his is excellent though.
I’m not so sure about my own.
I haven’t read You Are Here yet, but the reviews that I’ve seen give me the impression that Potter’s work and mine do diverge in some ways. Potter’s seems to be a factual book about the universe with a slight dusting of the spiritual thrown in. My book is much more of a personal reflection on how we perceive our place in the universe, which makes the book sound as though it might be spiritual although it is in fact totally devoid of the sentiment (although the subject of spirituality comes into it a lot).
More about my book here.

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