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On the conspicuous absence of Doom…

Life. It gets in the way sometimes, what can I say? A tragic and precarious medical situation in the extended family, transportation failures, money shortages, and the hunt for full-time work have all sprung up at once, so my mind’s elsewhere at the moment. Sorry about that. But The Doom is not dead; only sleeping. Please stand by…

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Boob-tube atheism

Ricky Gervais is teaming up with a producer of Showtime’s hit serial killer series, Dexter, for a show about an atheist who dies and finds himself in Heaven. Problem is, Gervais isn’t starring, and unless the character is a half-wit, won’t he be a believer as soon as he arrives? That means it’ll actually just be a show about some dude in Heaven. Not sure that sounds very interesting, but we shall see. Afterlife begins shooting early next year.

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The lysergic atheist

Being the outspoken anti-theist I am, one might assume I’ve read a good chunk of work from the so-called “Four Horsemen of Atheism”, but I haven’t. I read Richard Dawkins’ God Delusion, and I have his Greatest Show on Earth awaiting me on the shelf, but from the other guys—Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris—I’ve only read articles here and there. So this new one from Harris, Drugs and the Meaning of Life, surprised me. It turns out the neuroscientist and high-profile “new” atheist is also an experienced psychonaut:

On my first trip to Nepal, I took a rowboat out on Phewa Lake in Pokhara, which offers a stunning view of the Annapurna range. It was early morning, and I was alone. As the sun rose over the water, I ingested 400 micrograms of LSD. I was 20 years old and had taken the drug at least ten times previously. 

The essay is essentially about how altering consciousness is a human need as much as eating and sleeping are, and how drugs—especially psychedelics—have a lot to offer to our understanding of reality.

I have a daughter who will one day take drugs. Of course, I will do everything in my power to see that she chooses her drugs wisely, but a life without drugs is neither foreseeable, nor, I think, desirable. Someday, I hope she enjoys a morning cup of tea or coffee as much as I do. If my daughter drinks alcohol as an adult, as she probably will, I will encourage her to do it safely. If she chooses to smoke marijuana, I will urge moderation. Tobacco should be shunned, of course, and I will do everything within the bounds of decent parenting to steer her away from it. Needless to say, if I knew my daughter would eventually develop a fondness for methamphetamine or crack cocaine, I might never sleep again. But if she does not try a psychedelic like psilocybin or LSD at least once in her adult life, I will worry that she may have missed one of the most important rites of passage a human being can experience.

I can dig it. In my own experience, psychedelics have played a major roll in teaching me about the interconnectedness of every facet of the world. This insight can come intellectually, but never so viscerally and completely as through mushrooms or LSD. Take them only once and it becomes evident that our everyday perceptions are necessarily narrow; otherwise we’d be too mesmerized in wonder and terror at the universe to do what’s needed to survive in it. But with the peek behind the curtain that these chemicals allow, under the right conditions and mindset, it can be the most ineffably educational experience you’ll ever have. Such things as a deeper humility and a deeper empathy for other living beings can be (as it was for me) instantaneous and permanent.

I’m not equating these experiences with anything magical or supernatural; don’t get me wrong. To quote Sam Harris from elsewhere, “There is clearly no greater obstacle to a truly empirical approach to spiritual experience than our current beliefs about God.” Psychedelics are a powerful tool for peeling away the dull, protective layers of mind to reveal aspects of our reality that are difficult to access otherwise, and too intense to experience day to day. I’m with Sam in recommending highly that everyone mentally stable enough try it at least once.

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Holes, dug by little moles, angry jealous spies, got telephones for eyes…

Ever wonder what your skull looks like just before you lose your baby teeth?

Look at how those adult teeth are nested in the skull, waiting to push through. Strange ain’t it? It’s fascinating to me, but I find that viewing it also gives me a mild case of the willies. This feeling led me to discover, thanks to the internet, that it probably arises from something called trypophobia. And that makes sense. All of these things make me feel unpleasantly funny to varying degrees:

I’m not sure though. I mean, the photoshopped one of the girl is hard to look at. I clench up and feel quite uncomfortable. But it’s not fear so much as repulsion. Does that count? And while the sight of the lotus pod or the cluster of pipes gives me the creeps a little, I could touch or handle either one without a problem or an increase in that feeling. At any rate, maybe in my case it doesn’t always rise to the level of “phobia” per se, but it’s interesting to know other people are weirded out by these sorts of things enough that there’s a name for it.

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A banner evening

Thanks to one fast-acting and talented Mr. Bryan McGuire, Smiling Doom is now sporting its shiny, new, official banners.  Sharp, ain’t they? Thanks Bryan!

Also, the official domain is now at www.smilingdoom.com, so things are really coming together this evening. Starting to feel like home in here.

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If I’d have known you were coming…

You may have noticed that the Smiling Doom place is hung with some pretty terribly wrought banners. That’s not a stylistic choice. It looks like a five-year-old made them because I have absolutely zero design skills. If anybody out there knows how to do it up right, and will accept a small payment for their time, please email me at smilingdoom at gmail.com. I would be most grateful for a little help sprucing up the joint. Thanks.

Update 5-22-11:  Problem solved. Thanks Bryan!

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Hello, Goodbye?

What better day to kick off this blog than the very last one humanity will ever see? I mean, this’ll save me all kinds of blogging-related headaches:  Am I posting enough? Is my writing up to snuff? How many hits is my blog getting? For a procrastinator, this rapture thing is a…um…godsend.

The Four Horsemen

However, just in case these xtian cretins have it wrong, it’s probably best I welcome you to Smiling Doom and invite you to bookmark the page. If you do (and if Armageddon doesn’t fly), you’ll enjoy daily posts highlighting religious foolishness, pop-culture inanity, political skullduggery, metal music, and whatever else amuses me or raises my ire. And I promise to do this with plenty of humor and ruthless honesty. But only if the apocalypse doesn’t come. In the event that this actually is The End, I’ll see you in Hell, fuckers!

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