The World is Around You, but You are in Your Car is a work of fiction wrapped around an essay that describes an American problem—a healthy quest to attain wants has devolved into a relentless pursuit of a perfect life we feel we are owed—and its negative consequences that adversely affect progress and behavior toward the rest of the world. While an awareness of this is neglected, conversations about current event issues remain inadequate. "I want it, and I want it now," with its shortage of self-restraint, has been taken to levels not reached before, and the insidious ramifications are eye-opening: the easy disposability of people or principles if these should obstruct the path to the perfect life, the mental depression from the strains of struggling to keep up with neighbors, the out-of-control debt, the epidemic of obesity, the plethora of self-indulgent lawsuits and demand for more entitlements, and the isolation from reality as people become more and more comfortable in their plush living rooms and cars, unaware of what is going on outside. In addition, the hyperrelentless pursuit of wants has stoked terrorism's arrival to the American homeland.
The tale brings history's great philosophers back to life for one week to the seaside city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire to talk about ways to slow the relentless pursuit. A symposium is presented at the Sheraton, followed by a performance of Beethoven's "Tenth" Symphony at the Music Hall. Karl Marx shops for souvenirs, Socrates smokes cigarettes and plays the lottery, and Plato and Kierkegaard bicycle to the ocean. These colorful characters as well as many others are unforgettable as they help move the didactic material forward.
The philosophers discuss the external and internal controls that may restrain the pursuit, agreeing that internal control, involving individual self-regulation, is more effective and desired than external control primarily because of its greater conduciveness to freedom, the crown jewel of this civilization. Various forms of religion, including religious agnosticism, can play a role in internal control and thus could be used to rein in the pursuit and thus facilitate greater levels of progress and freedom. Under this scheme, it would be up to each person to find something foundational on which to hold as he or she makes the journey through life, for there are many paths from which to choose. For those persons who could not subscribe to any of the established religions, an honest and mature bottom-line is humbly presented as merely one example of many alternatives. The object of the game is to emphasize internal restraint more than ever so that the "freedom experiment" has a better chance of succeeding.