Posts Tagged Human
An artist’s hyperrealistic impression of Franc EZ Co-Pounder 1.0.7
BEIJING, China—The drummer of Fleshgod Apocalypse, Italy’s foremost symphonic tech-death squad, passed the Turing test yesterday, dispelling longtime rumors about its humanity.
Franc EZ Co-Pounder 1.0.7, affectionately known as “♩ Pounder” to its bandmates, accomplished the historic feat at an Internet café during a tour stop in China’s capital. An annual World of Warcraft (WoW) mega-raiding session, sources confirmed, was happening at the café then.
The test, named after British computer scientist Alan Turing, is a text-based question-and-answer game that investigates whether humans can detect if they are conversing with machines or fellow humans.
A machine passes this test if, 70% of the time, it appears human to its human conversation partner after five minutes of written communication between the two. The test does not gauge the machine’s ability to correctly answer questions — only how closely its answers resemble those that a human might produce.
And Co-Pounder 1.0.7 delivered.
From 7:58 to 8:03 a.m. Pacific time yesterday, the 32-year-old convinced 137 of 196 WoW gamers in the café that it is human, defeating some 109 other competing artificial intelligence (AI) systems at the scene, including Goldfarmbot01, Goldfarmbot02, Jinnongfu108, Caishenye88 and mathematics undergraduate Fu Xundong from the National University of Mongolia.
Co-Pounder 1.0.7’s stunning display of humanity unfolded over five minutes of simultaneous private-chatting with every present WoW gamer, China’s state television broadcaster CCTV reported.
Eyewitnesses said that it “whispered” lasagna recipes in traditional Chinese to every human player at the climax of a fourth-stage Legion Invasion when the raid boss unleashed a Flame Fissure. Reportedly, all human players were distracted by the unsolicited culinary wall-of-text, and perished in flames.
As a result, Co-Pounder 1.0.7 was barraged with a torrent of vitriol and, most importantly, questions from the angry players. (Questions are crucial to the Turing test.) It then replied in Morse code to elicit more questions, and continued the rest of every conversation by doing its best impression of Paganini in Sanskrit and accented Maltese.
When Chinese players who interacted with Co-Pounder 1.0.7 were debriefed after the test concluded, they expressed surprise at the identity of their in-game murderer.
“Provoking a response with Taiwan’s written language, and then replying in various foreign languages was very convincing, very human,” said Huo Bumie, a player who fell to the Flame Fissure.
“I did not suspect at all that the stranger who chatted with me is Fleshgod Apocalypse’s drummer. Laowai machines are really as smart as they come! I will ask my politician dad to smuggle in one for me.”
Although Co-Pounder 1.0.7’s achievement is one for the books, close friend and bassist Paolo Rossi—who presided over the test as judge—remarked that its source code “was not originally written with heavy-duty online chatting in mind.”
Tweaking its source code to enable heavy-duty online chatting only came after Co-Pounder 1.0.7—through Rossi’s Google Glass—read derogatory YouTube comments about its octopus-android parentage on uploads of “Thru Our Scars”.
Offended by how many people suspect its humanity based on scant information and wild speculation, Co-Pounder 1.0.7 indignantly insisted that Rossi modify its source code “right [there] and [then]” so that it could “prove these insolent 60-BPM-loving plebeians wrong once and for all.”
Once the deed was done, Co-Pounder 1.0.7 leveraged the café’s free Wi-Fi to hack into New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) servers and manipulate penny stocks. It made a killing of approximately $2.7 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported.
It then installed itself on Rossi’s assigned computer in the café, bought a hacked WoW account from 58.com (China’s Craigslist), logged into the popular online videogame, and the rest is history.
While AI enthusiasts, philosophers, computer scientists, robot rights activists, and Fleshgod Apocalypse fans celebrate Co-Pounder 1.0.7’s passing of the Turing test, however, at least one expert was nonchalant about the drummer’s triumph.
Dr. Michael “Mick” Kenney, a leading UK authority in robotic gastroenterology and experimental paraphilosophy, noted that Co-Pounder 1.0.7’s passing of the Turing test does not mean much in the face of Turing’s original philosophical question: “Can machines think?”
“That question, which Alan Turing pondered and quickly circumvented in his landmark paper, ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’, is the crux of the creating-true-AI puzzle,” Dr. Kenney told BBC News. “Passing the Turing test does not directly answer it at all. Rather than reveal the ghost in the machine, Co-Pounder 1.0.7’s accomplishment simply revealed some people’s failure to recognize an incredibly well-programmed imitator of humans for what it is.”
He warned that satisfactorily answering Turing’s original question “necessarily involves pinning down what ‘think’ means, which opens a can of worms.”
“Let’s say thinking involves self-awareness,” Dr. Kenney continued, “then before I wonder if Co-Pounder 1.0.7 is aware of itself as a drumming thing, I better wonder if people around me are aware of themselves as thinking things.
“I have never been inside anyone’s mind but my own, after all, so who’s to say that my fellow humans are not biological automata?”
Back in June of 1995, I was lucky enough to have met and spoken with Chuck Schuldiner. Myself and several friends were at a Death concert at The Roxy in Long Island and through a bizarre series of events we ended up on their tour bus.
Meeting Death was, for me, the equivalent of what I imagine Christians might feel having been in the presence of Christ. Seriously. For me, Death albums were transcendental experiences that explained most of the mysteries of the universe. Chuck was a mystic to me, Gautama with a guitar, The Great One sent down the mountain to help us see the invisible boundaries that we have created to lock away the most creative, life-affirming aspects of our being.
I’m sure I made a total fool of myself. I was your average 13-year-old girl getting backstage to meet Justin Beiber. I was stumbling around for words. Saying anything that came to mind to try to prolong the time we were in the man’s presence.
It was actually an uncomfortable feeling in retrospect. I didn’t want to mess up my one shot at actually asking the man the questions that had plagued me for the entirety of my being. This man had answers. No one could create like he did and not hold the key within him.
Finally, I worked up to asking him the meaning of the song “Vacant Planets” off of the album “Human”. I had somehow worked up a theory in my mind that this song was a comment on the nature of reality and life itself. I had pondered this song for hours and hours. Understanding its meaning consumed me.
There was something to the urgency of this song. It demanded to be understood. There was something deeper to it. Beyond meaning. Beyond rational thought. If he could just explain it to me, I’d have found the missing piece that explained this demented jigsaw puzzle I was living in.
I ambushed him out of nowhere with a rambling, semi-incoherent question about the song. “Chuck…I need to know about the song Vacant Planets. I mean, that song…that song. There is something within that song, you know. The planets around us are so empty. But, ‘in a realm so vast, we sit among the Vacant Planets’. They are vacant and without life. So is our planet, you know.”
“There is nothing to us. We are empty vessels. We eat, we sleep, we decay, we die. Over and over. And it all amounts to nothing. We want endless life, but for no reason. We don’t want to discover the universe around us, we simply want to not die. There is so much possibility wasted. This place is a void. No different than the emptiness on Mars or Mercury. We are a Vacant Planet! There is no meaning to any of it.”
During this whole disjointed explanation he regarded me with a great deal of kindness. He had a very empathetic expression. He was listening. He understood.
“Chuck, I need to know, am I right? Is this it? Is this what Vacant Planets means?”
He looked composed his thoughts for a second and looked away. I felt embarrassed. Had I said too much? Had I wasted my moment?
Then, he looked back at me. Stared directly into my eyes with a half smile on his face.
“Man…the song is about outer space.”
If there ever was a testimony to his genius, it was that answer.
Chances are, if you own a dog, you have these notions in your head about how you love your pet or how it’s part of your family. You think of your dog as your companion. What you have to understand is that the reason you think this is that you are an awful human being. A total and complete monster. You are not completely ignorant of this fact, you just happen to be engaged in a gigantic game of pretend with the entirety of our culture. I’m not going to tell you not to feel bad about it either. You are guilty of a miserable, disgraceful thing and it’s about time that people start telling you the truth, instead of letting you dance around in that little bubble that you refer to as reality.
This strange dog fantasy you are experiencing has been nurtured by the fact that our culture tends to hide its greatest cruelties under a veneer of nostalgia and manufactured love. You turn on the television and there’s another dog bouncing around with respect and great reverence for its master. You look on a Hallmark card and there’s another stupid looking dog performing some humiliating show for your entertainment. Getting its nose caught in a cookie jar or cuddling with a kitten or accidentally tracking mud on the new carpet with an “aw shucks” type dog grin. AWWWW…look at that, the dog surrendered its dignity again. Don’t you just love when it demeans itself? Isn’t that cute?
Maybe you think back to when you were young and that special animal filled you with the warm feeling of home or family or some other absurd illusion. And maybe, just maybe, the dog really did love you, too. But I doubt it. Look at it from the dog’s point of view. Its entire way of life has been annihilated. It has no freedom. No self-determination. We’ve bred all of the characteristics and will out of it and turned it into a hollow shell into which we project memories and myth. You are its ticket to survival. Better put on a hell of a show.
To the loving owner, the dog is moving, highly symbolic furniture. They are a showpiece meant to express unspoken facets of the person’s identity. Kind of like a table. In truth, it is nothing more than sick product of an insane society that revels in debasing anything that cannot speak for itself. If dogs truly understood their lot, they would bite every human they came in contact with. Of course, if they did that, they’d be exterminated immediately. No opposition to our hegemonic pet fantasy can be tolerated!
I saw a bumper sticker the other day that indicated that you should neuter your dog so that you don’t have to euthanize a bunch of other dogs in the future. A big, goofy Labrador sat on the person’s front seat. That person probably thinks of themselves as a kind, loving pet owner. I imagine they have conned themselves into thinking that these two actions are the only possibilities. But, can we seriously consider anyone compassionate who thinks that castration or genocide are the only two conceivable actions when discussing a living creature?
Whether you treat your dog well is beside the point. Maybe you let him run around outside and give him treats all the time. Maybe you scratch her belly and heap upon her massive amounts of affection. Maybe you take care of him when he is sick. None of this matters. The autonomy of a living thing is all that means anything. It has been systematically stripped of that through decades upon decades of love and adoration. We have killed its spirit with kindness. You may love it, but it has never been given the honest choice to love you back. It cannot leave or dislike you without existential peril. It is not your pet; it is your captive.
Dogs are the ultimate nightmare scenario. Life without choice. Life without will. Being paraded on a leash. Being entirely controlled and objectified. Broken, not just as an individual animal, but also as a species. Our victory over dogs is so complete that they have become our culture’s mascot. Children laugh and pull on their tail. We dress it up in sweaters and cute little outfits to impress other people. We go so far as to delude ourselves into thinking that they are our “best friends”. But, they are not. Friendship requires mutual consent from both friends. The dog has never been given the option to consent. It has been given its place and it will stay there.
Over the past hundred years, human beings have grown dramatically in both height and weight. Many of our greatest Americans, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, stood less than 2 feet tall. Some scientists believe that our recent growth spurt is because of hormones and steroids in our milk, while others believe that better nutrition and health care have been the major factors, but it is an incontrovertible fact that humans are becoming enormous.
The average American male today stands 5 foot 10 and weighs 190 pounds, while his female counterpart is around 5 foot 4 164 pounds. If you look at the numbers in 1900, it may surprise you. Did you know just over 100 years ago the average male was a mere 3 foot 8 and 90 pounds? Women were even more diminutive, standing a shade under 3 foot 3 and weighing 64 pounds. This amazing statistic grows frightening when graphed on a curve. By the year 2025, it’s expected that most American men and women will be larger than 8 feet and over 500 pounds.
A larger sized American will mean the need for more food consumption. Several solutions have been proposed, but the most commonly accepted possibility, proposed at the UN only last month, is the eating of all natural born German citizens. Germans are high in protein and contain the most calories per human of any possible cannibalistic meal. Not only is a diet high in Germans filling, they are also extremely healthy. Germans contain more Vitamin D than any current race and, as we know, without Vitamin D most humans quickly devolve into bloodthirsty, raging werewolves.
Some doctors are proposing radical solutions for the recent trend in human size. A shrinking procedure, first created by Doctor Julius Sandberg in 1998, has allowed giant people to reduce their height by as much as 5 inches. The procedure, which involves humans beings trapped in large machines similar to dryers and put on spin for over three hours, has produced reliable results. Another more controversial technique, which involves eating the pituitary glands of baby elephants, has gained some popularity in the news but has yet to yield the same results.
These solutions, however, have come at a great cost. Over 40 percent of those who participated in the size experiments have began taking on mime-like qualities, including a pale face, inability to speak and the unnatural urge to pretend they are in an invisible box. Several patients have spontaneously exploded while on airplanes during takeoff. One patient even had her forehead expand rapidly until it was more than 5 feet long and 3 feet wide.
The rapid growth of human beings could cause untold suffering to people as they struggle with the aches and pains of a frame and a world holding well more than it is supposed to. However, the economic benefits that would come from the aggressive augmentation of the human form far outweighs the problems. Doctors, hospitals and insurance providers will make billions as bones snap under the pressure of the added size. The construction industry will be revitalized as buildings are reshaped to house the new race of giants. A whole new economic boom based on the resizing of nearly everything could create a golden age for these gravity-taunted monsters. The future is sure to be very big and very bright.
The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be: Reflections on The Significance of Teaching and Learning History
I believe strongly that one of the most significant things that can be gained through the study of history is a more profound understanding of the experiences of another human being. We can never completely understand what a person has felt or known, but it is possible to see a vague reflection of their condition. The full scope of human understanding is probably far beyond what a single person can ever completely grasp, but in the search for the meaning of individual moments in time, it is possible to see deeper into what it means to be that particular human in that particular moment. That understanding can grant us the grace that comes with feeling a genuine connection to those who we may not physically ever meet. This connection allows us to know more of what it means to be human. For me, this is the most important reason to teach and learn history.
Often, the study of history is presented as a magical panacea for all that ails the human race. I don’t believe history can “fix” anything. The most well-worn and wildly inaccurate cliché about history is that “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Students are often programed like robots to repeat that as a way of explaining why it is worth spending hour upon hour of their time on earth pondering the actions of William the Conqueror or Marie Antoinette. Granted, explaining the deeper meaning of history is a labyrinthine task, but simply leaving students with the veiled threat about how not paying attention to a lesson may leave them to the brink of extinction is hardly an effective means of fostering a long-term commitment to learning. Nobody knows what patterns will unfold as time passes. Studying what has happened is not a recipe for understanding what will happen.
One of the few recognizable truths that the subject seems to offer is that it is impossible for history to ever repeat itself. Sets of circumstances are always unique. Sure, there are similarities between the French and Russian Revolutions, but to argue that history was merely re-running an episode of “The Revolution Hour Hosted by Vladimir Lenin” is a grotesque oversimplification. My experience has been that historical themes that “repeat” themselves only look that way if one is paying little attention to the actual circumstances of the event. There are nearly infinite numbers of minor unrecorded actions and forgotten decisions that made the event what it was. We know so little and presume so much.
By understanding the past, we gain little insight into our future. Even if I magically found a way to absorb every moment of the past, I strongly doubt that I could even know what the weather was going to be like a week from Sunday. The future is created by the sum total of the actions of human beings in each particular moment. I have not been given the machinery to synthesize a trillionth of the events of a given millisecond. If they all count for varying degrees of something, then how on earth could I possibly expect to understand the moment I’m in, let alone the ones that will come next?
The problem with a historical outlook that is built on gaining future “results” is that it obscures a much more powerful purpose for historical study, which is to genuinely understand something that goes beyond ones own wishes, desires and beliefs. Historians often try to bend events into coherent themes in the hopes of explaining large blocks of time. This form of historical shorthand is necessary on many levels, but when it comes to supersede the experiences and events that have taken place, then it becomes a major barrier to the path of empathy that true engagement with the subject can create.
If the goal of learning history is trying to predict the outcomes of a series of events, then it is certainly not an effective tool. However, history may well be one of the greatest engines ever created to teach empathy and compassion. The problem with teaching students to believe that history follows certain patterns is it robs them of the understanding of what a remarkable role uncertainty plays in history. Students often ask why a certain historical actor was so dumb as not to see how obvious their fate was to anyone who paid attention. After all, we know how all the stories end. The problem is, historical actors do not know how their lives will end up. They are making decisions in the moment without the benefit of hindsight. No historical pattern can guarantee a person’s well-being. They were fishing around in the dark just like we are. They didn’t know how they would die, they didn’t know what their actions would mean and they certainly didn’t have the benefit being able to walk away from their stories when events became too challenging. We don’t either. This basic human truth should be the bedrock of any exploration of history.
To attempt to fully comprehend meaning of even one moment of a human life is an awe-inspiring goal. Even with the comparatively small amount of information we have about the lives of our fellow travelers, when we can see a flicker of their humanity we have granted ourselves the wonderful kinship that comes with knowing that we are not making our journey alone. Humans can survive perfectly well without studying history. The past, however, can teach us so much more than simply how to survive. It offers us an amazing window of insight into the miraculous complexities of what it means to be alive. This understanding is history’s truest gift to us. This is why it is worthwhile to learn about the past.
Heartwork, the 1993 release by Carcass, is easily one of the most compelling metal albums ever recorded. First and foremost, it is an explosion of monstorous guitar riffs, frenetic drumming and raging energy. The music is captivating and overwhelming. Heartwork is a remarkably powerful lyrical album that deals intelligently with issues like globalization, dehumanization and existential dread. The music has been widely praised by many music journalists. The lyrics, however, have been given scant attention. Jeff Walker, the band’s singer, bass player and chief lyricist, envisions a world that is entirely devoid of human feeling or empathy. Walker’s adept use of language, particularly double entendre, lays bare the man’s inhumanity in all of its baseness. His world is an empty one, filled only with sorrow, guilt and deep-seated hatred.
The album behaves like a book, each song a chapter examining a set of widely held beliefs and contrasting them with his vision of a world gone completely insane. Over the next few months, I will attempt to analyze the themes and ideas song by song in an attempt to convey the inventiveness of Walker’s lyrics as well as the perspicacity of his message.
Welcome, to a world of hate
A life of buried dreams
Smothered, by the soils of fate
Welcome, to a world of pain
Bitterness your only wealth
The sand of time kicked in your face
Rubbed in your face
When aspirations are squashed
When life’s chances are lost
When all hope is gone
When expectations are quashed
When self-esteem is lost
When ambition is mourned
…All you need is hate
In futility, for self-preservation
We all need someone
Someone to hate
Buried Dreams is a nightmare vision of a world completely unconnected to its humanity. It serves as an overview of the themes that are addressed in each song and is a great starting point because it contains the most unambiguous lines on the record. In Walker’s “world of hate”, humans begin their journey in life filled with hope only to see that hope slowly eroded by the fixed nature of reality. This reality is the death and pain experienced by all humanoid beings. It is immovable, unchangeable and constant. Humans search blindly in the dark for some reason, some deeper meaning that will connect the dots and make the pain they experience intelligible. We fill ourselves with illusions in order to soften the blow of this horrible truth. As the truth becomes more real, we grasp harder at the illusion but ones commitment to an illusion will never make that deception a reality. We slowly come to terms with the understanding that there is no connection, there is no one tending the fire and the center simply does not hold. Once this veneer of meaning has been stripped away there is nothing left to hold onto but pure visceral hatred.
By experiencing hatred for something, we are given the ability to overcome our basic alienation from ourselves all the while connecting to the other beings around us. Love would be another way to connect, but the drawback of love is that it is fleeting. Its initial joy is snuffed out by the understanding that our basic existential problem, death, will cause love to one day give way to sorrow and despair. If you connect with hatred you never have to feel loss because the eventual vanquishing of your foe will be greeted with a feeling of joy and accomplishment. No one mourns the death of their enemy.
On the surface, the lyrics could be read as a simplistic explanation of the rise of fascism in Europe in the 30s and 40s. A society like Germany, which was drowning in debt and filled with impoverished humans recovering from the insanity of years of mindless trench warfare, was ready for the message of hate that Hitler brought. I believe the song is meant to have much more of a timeless message with broader overtones about the human condition. The line that universalizes this song is “in futility, for self-preservation, we all need someone…someone to hate.” This is a Hobbesian view of a world of beings so frightened of death that they are willing to do anything to avoid it, even if they know that their actions are eventually pointless. We are willing to create a Leviathan that may kill us for our disobedience in order to be safe. The wall each of us run into is death and we are willing to embrace any idea that allows us to fully avoid thinking about our eventual consequence. We are willing to embrace ideas that are self-destructive in order to escape the fear of death. If this isn’t true, then how do you explain war? This horrible irony of our basic condition is that we long to avoid death, but we do so in a way that often hastens its coming.
And so our dreams are buried as we are carried kicking and screaming to our own certain demise. We mask our fears with delusions of enemies all around us. We think that we can stop the inevitable if we bomb that thing or execute this thing but with our last dying breath we are reminded of the futility of all of it. Even hate cannot save us. The final, horrible irony of our Buried Dreams is that we will eventually be buried next to them.
(I am pretty darned excited to announce that this series will also be running at MindOverMetal.org, one of my favorite metal sites. Special thanks to my homeboy Metal Matt Longo who not only agreed to run the thing, but even gave me a fantastic title for the series and some killer editing ideas. Anyway those dudes speak truth and wisdom over there, check’em out)
Posted by Keith Spillett in Articles I Probably Shouldn't Have Bothered Writing on January 10, 2011
I’ve been doing this for three months and I decided, since the point of this blog for me is to better understand the mess in between my ears, to do a quick inventory of what I have learned in doing this. Personally, I’m not a big fan of this sort of exercise, but I figure I can indulge my narcissistic tendencies for a few lines. If you are not one for eavesdropping on the self-reflections of a stranger, this is probably the column to skip. In fact, this column is probably of no practical purpose to anyone except me. I’m sure I could think of something to say where it could make it seem like I’m trying to present something of value to the human race and how we’re all the same in some ways and all of that, but it would be highly disingenuous and I haven’t the time or interest to bother. If you can find something worthwhile in the next 900 or so words, more power to you. Away we go:
1. I really enjoy talking to strangers. I get a genuine buzz out of the reply part of the column. I am really excited to see what people think of what I wrote and I like trying to synthesize their ideas with mine. I’m like a 17 year old waiting for the limo to show up on prom night every time I see one of those “Please Moderate Comment” messages in my email inbox. Getting a reply never fails to make my day.
2. I’m a heck of a lot meaner than I thought. For a good number of years, I have functioned under the assumption that I was over the whole “being evil to people” thing. I spent a good portion of my teen years and some of my twenties being downright cruel to others because I liked how the words I was saying sounded. I had a notion that this was gone, but I have had a few moments where I felt bad blood boiling up to the surface again. Sometimes, I get hooked into the rhythm of how things sound and forget that I am talking about another human being. There are moments where I think I would probably throw my grandmother off a speeding train just to see if she’d bounce. I’m not particularly proud of this aspect of my character, but it’s real.
3. Sarcasm reads different than it sounds. I check in with a few of my friends who know me off of here to get a sense of how things came across on the page. What is astonishing is that points I make that I think are obviously sarcastic do not always translate how I think they do. How it sounds in my head is not always how it sounds in other people’s minds.
4. I have no idea what the reader is thinking. This could really be 3B, but I felt like it deserved its own number. There is a weird calculus that must be considered when writing to an audience. You aren’t just thinking of the idea, but also what people will think when they read the idea. Throw in the fact that I don’t really know a lot of the people who are reading my stuff and I get a sense that I am never really going to understand how things are going to be perceived, but I can’t help but to try to figure out what the reader is going to see in my words. The stuff I’ve written that I liked the best is usually way different than the stuff other people have said they liked. It’s a heck of a mystery. What makes it somewhat frustrating for me is that in person, I’m halfway decent at reading a persons response and flowing off of that. In writing, I really am not sure how to do that yet and I’m not sure I’ll ever know or if it is even possible.
5. I am terrified of repeating myself or writing a boring column. There are several things of written that I read and thought, “Wow! This is horrendously bad.” Mercifully, I have not included most of them on the blog (but there have been a few that made it). The worst thing I feel like I could ever do to a reader is bore them. I also worry that I am going forget that I used a line and repeat it in another column. The second one is an odd thing to be worried about, but it wakes me up sometimes in a sweat.
6. Speaking of blinding fear and panic…I am frightened I will run out of ideas. I don’t even want to write about this one because I’m afraid that the god of ideas will decide that to punish me for some earlier, unnamed transgression and the part of my brain that produces creative ideas will seize up like the engine in most any Ford that gets over 125,000 miles. I now have even more respect for people who do this for a living on deadline. I try to imagine doing this and attempting to be interesting for 300 or so days during the year. The thought terrifies me. I think I would sleep about 20 minutes a night and would probably end up in a padded cell scrawling the lyrics from some Beach Boys song in mustard on the wall. Grantland Rice wrote constantly for over 50 years and barely ever wasted anyone’s time. Isaac Asimov managed to knock out over 400 books. I’m only three months in and I’m already doing the hackneyed “talk about myself and what I’ve learned” column.
7. Commas are infuriating. I never know when to use them and they always seem like they are in the wrong place.
8. Spell check will not catch sentences that are just plain awful. It only manages to catch spelling and grammar mistakes. I have snuck some genuine garbage past its watchful eye without a hint of a squiggly green line.
9. I am even more obsessive about this than I thought I’d be. I stayed away from doing this for a while because I have the type of personality where I get very, very into things. I knew this would be an issue going in, but wow. If my wife has to endure another dinner table discussion about potential blog ideas, I’ll shoot me for her.
Enough of this already. I’ll try to get back to something interesting next time. Maybe I can write about what I did on my summer vacation or an exciting tell-all piece about my favorite flavor of ice cream.
Lately, I have found myself more and more interested in the Christian idea of hell. Maybe it’s the awful chill of winter. Maybe I’ve been listening to a bit too much black metal. I’m not quite clear what has put me on this mental course, but I have spent a good amount of time thinking about what it would actually be like to be in hell. I don’t even really believe that hell exists. I am not completely against the idea, but I accept that I have no way of possibly proving its existence or non-existence to myself, so I just figure I’ll find out after I die. That is not the part that really interests me. What I want to know is what, assuming that hell is real, would torment a human for eternity.
In the Book of Matthew, we are warned to “be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” To be honest, I find this quote a bit odd. This implies that we take our body with us to hell. If this is true, one must wonder what that thing in the casket back there on earth is. Is that a wax replica of us at the funeral while the real body goes to hell? Is your body snatched out of the coffin and sent to hell the minute you enter the ground? (But then, what happens if they dig you up?) Does God duplicate our body and send that one to hell while the real one is on earth? Is the body I am currently in an illusion and my real body somewhere in the ethers waiting for judgment? In that case, can I blame the illusion body for the sins committed on earth? After all, the earth body did the things I am getting sent to hell for. As the eloquent, renowned philosopher Silkk The Shocker once said, “It ain’t my fault!!!”
If it is just your soul in hell, that opens up another can of worms. I can specifically tell you that the conditions of hell would be awful on my body, but I can’t predict what extreme heat would do to my soul. No part of the Bible mentions the soul having nerves, so why should we expect that it would feel pain in the way the body does? If it is physical, it is capable of feeling physical pain, but I have not often heard the soul described as a physical thing. It is usually thought to be a spiritual entity independent of the flesh. Most descriptions of the soul are of the ghost in the machine variety, where the soul is a non-physical being that steers our body around then hops out when the body is no longer sentient.
In order to move forward with this line of questioning, I’ll pick the most likely scenario, which is that the soul just recreates your body once you get to hell. There is no reference to this happening in the Bible, but this explanation gets my body in hell, which for the purposes of this argument, is where I want it. Then, we run into another problem. Revelation says that you shall be tormented “forever and ever”. If hell is supposed to be eternal, how can the body and soul be destroyed? I mean, once you are destroyed isn’t that it for you? If the torment of hell is supposed to be eternal, how can it be that you are destroyed? Revelation refers to hell as “a second death”, but what happens after the second time you die. Do you continue to go to new hell after new hell? Do you die and wake up again?
Let’s assume that my body and soul are now in hell which is described in the book of Revelation as being “the lake of fire and brimstone”. I think that would be really terrible…for a while. The thought of an extended amount of time in extreme heat is an awful thought. 20, 30 years would be gruesomely terrible. 100, 200 years would be worse. But, after some point, wouldn’t I just get used to it? I mean, the thought of eternal fire is terrible, but eternity is a long time. My immediate reaction would be a period of unbridled misery. But, after a while, wouldn’t I forget what normal earth temperature felt like and become hardened to the torrid warmth? After a period of time, wouldn’t I get used to the pain? I don’t think this would happen right away, but we are talking about eternity here! Even if time is different between hell and earth, there has to be some point where a person accepts their surroundings, no matter how miserable.
To understand this phenomenon, imagine a thought experiment where from the age of 15 to the age of 100 a person named Bob was awakened by a right hook to the face thrown by Mike Tyson. Day after day, Bob is waylaid by a vicious shot the skull from the former champ. The first 10 or 20 years of this would be awful, but after some period of time wouldn’t Bob simply adjust and accept the beating as the way things are supposed to be. Bob would be able to brace himself and would build up a tolerance to this sort of abuse. Any brief survey of history would lead one to believe that humans have the miraculous ability to adjust to nearly any set of awful circumstances.
Another problem with hell as it’s currently constituted is that going to hell actually removes one of the most dreadful aspects of being alive…. death. In hell, one doesn’t really seem to have a rational reason to fear death. The terror that humans feel from never knowing for certain what the afterlife is has been removed. Dying in hell would be a relief to many who are stuck there. Endless, painless silence would seem to be a good deal better than eternal torture.
There are some basic structural problems with the idea of hell that I cannot quite reconcile. I’d like to believe that whole thing is just an idea created by humans to scare people into doing good, but maybe that is not true. However, if it is real, you have to question its effectiveness. I really have to wonder if it is the most efficient possible use of a sinner’s afterlife.