Nobody really knows what happens after we die. I don't care what people believe, though I get pretty annoyed when atheists assert as a fact that there's nothing after we die. They're supposed to only believe stuff that's empirically verifiable, yet here they are asserting something that they clearly haven't verified because they aren't dead. And there's actually very strong empirical evidence that they're wrong. I should have made the connection months ago, but I didn't until I saw it spelled out in these videos from the excellent YouTube channel Closer to Truth. I'm mostly just going to repeat what Sam Parnia, MD says in the videos.
To recap what I've learned and mentioned before, so-called near-death experiences follow a common pattern across cultures, but they also have differences - most significantly, the identity of the heavenly being that one encounters depends on one's religious background. So they don't necessarily prove anything about the objective reality of the afterlife. Maybe they're a delusion hardwired into our brains and shaped by cultural influences, or maybe a higher power shows itself differently depending on what we're expecting and comfortable with. Also, they can be triggered by drugs or surgeries where one's life isn't actually in danger. But they're very elaborate and have powerful, positive long-term life-changing effects that delusions are not generally known to have. Someone in the comments section on another video suggested that they're an adaptation by the brain to give us a peaceful death if all attemps to keep us alive fail. But a peaceful death does zilch to improve our odds of passing our genes along, so such an adaptation could only have evolved by pure coincidence.
Anyway, Sam Parnia, MD spells out a fact that I should have grasped on my own. The term "near-death experience" is misleading because many of the people who have them are quite literally completely dead. Their hearts and brains have shut down. And for most of history, that would have always been the end of it. But technology has advanced to the point that they can sometimes be brought back to life minutes or even hours after their hearts and brains have shut down, before all their cells have also died. And then they report these near-death experiences. Which means that, regardless of what those experiences can or can't tell us about an afterlife, those people were still conscious while they were dead. I don't know why this isn't being shouted from every rooftop in the world. Before, I just thought maybe they still had some brain activity that we couldn't detect, but now I realize how implausible that is, especially since it would seem to render a lot of detectable brain activity superfluous. Now this doesn't prove that consciousness lasts forever after death, but if it can last at all without a functioning brain to contain it, I don't see why it would just fizzle out some time later. This is a very strong empirical basis for believing that we're eternal beings.
I don't believe in the traditional view of "spirits" (and a lot of modern Christians don't either) because there's no evidence that a body needs a spirit inside it to be alive. Individual cells are alive, clumps of cells are alive, really big clumps of cells (like us) are alive, and there's no indication at any level that the organelles or organs are insufficient to maintain that state on their own. But I agree with the philosophical argument that brain cells and electricity can't produce consciousness on their own because there's a qualitative difference between those physical things and that ethereal, subjective thing. I'm very attracted to the view that consciousness permeates the universe and brains are like radio sets that pick it up. To me, this makes scientific and theological sense. I think our innermost core is consciousness, not spirit. And that actually reminds me of Joseph Smith's idea that we started out as intelligences that are co-eternal with God. I always liked that idea because it solved the problem of God being responsible for our imperfections and our sins. I don't believe he was a prophet by any stretch, but was very intelligent and he may have stumbled onto some correct ideas just by logic. I believe that we are eternal beings and that when we die, we'll be surprised to remember the things we knew before we were born.
Now I can stop being afraid of death and look forward to it again. I think. I just want to reunite with loved ones and explore the universe, but I am still a little concerned about the possibility of reincarnation. I'd actually prefer the total annihilation of my consciousness to having another life on this hellhole planet without retaining anything I learned in this one. But reincarnation is supposed to suck, and the whole point of Hinduism is to get out of it. I'd better live a really good life just in case karma is an actual thing that exists.
Content warning: I talk about breasts a lot. Not in general, but in this post, for reasons that will become clear. I also have no choice but to mention cocks.
Utah's uniquely gullible population has long made it the fraud capital of the United States. Almost immediately after I moved here twelve years ago, I got a text that claimed to be from Wells Fargo and requested my credit card number. I ignored it. A few days later, I saw a newspaper headline about this scam going around Utah, and I thought, "Wait, people actually fell for that?" Several years later, an Amway (more like Scamway) salesbro tried to recruit me after I sat next to him in a church foyer, and I asked all the questions and met with him multiple times because I was unbearably lonely. That was at the beginning of 2020. Then the funniest thing happened. So I share the following story not just because it's interesting, but as a warning to people who are dumber than me. Or just hornier. But that's kind of the same thing. Anyway, last weekend a profile by the name of Mary Chance followed me on Instagram, I followed them back, and they messaged me.
Of course I was immediately suspicious that a random French woman on the internet who looks like this would take such an unsolicited interest in getting to know me...
...but I couldn't immediately prove that the profile wasn't for real. I reverse searched a couple of their pictures, but all I got was different pictures of similar but different blonde women. I thought it was weird that they only had five pictures, all of them uploaded in 2021, four of them on the same day, the last one on December 25, yet lacking any kind of Christmas imagery or traditions that I'm familiar with...
...but on the other hand, that reduced the likelihood that a scammer had created this account and was still using it to scam people all this time later. It was probably a real account that recently got hacked. With that being the case, I feel a little creepy posting these pictures here, but anyone else who investigates the Mary Chance profile needs to be able to find this post. Here's another one.
Fortunately, Instagram offers some information that can help determine whether an account has been hacked. Crap. I just went to grab a screenshot and found that the account either disappeared or blocked me. But the other day, I clicked on "About this account" and it said that the name of the account had been changed one time. Very helpful. I can't imagine why it might also be helpful to know what the change was or when it was made, and obviously neither can the brilliant minds at Instagram. Anyway, this situation didn't make sense, but I went along with it because stranger things have happened than a random French woman on the internet who looks like this taking such an unsolicited interest in getting to know me. I can't think of any off the top of my head, but they must have. Maybe I had finally found favor with God. And I figured I had nothing to lose because I had determined in advance that I wouldn't send them money under any circumstances.
Also, they almost immediately said "if you don't mind I would like to have this see you when I'm at home I would like to know you better and be reassured to know with whom I speak[.]" I figured it would be really hard for a fake profile to keep up the charade over video chat. And this is where the scammer was probably thinking, Actually, it's gonna be super easy, barely an inconvenience. But I was right and they were wrong.
More like Instascam. What I saw on the screen was almost certainly a prerecorded video. It was ridiculously pixelated, had no audio, and depicted a woman was very obviously not the same as the one in the pictures. I guess I was supposed to be too fixated on her upper torso to notice, or maybe the scammer just thinks all white girls look the same.
Our budding relationship escalated quickly.
I didn't used to have the slightest interest in women's breasts. Just like with Pokémon Go and Tiger King, all the hype only pushed me away, because that's the kind of person I am. I did like chicken breasts, though I was really more of a leg man. If I recall correctly, the first time I saw women's fully exposed breasts (not counting repressed memories from infancy) was in eighth grade Global Studies class. I heard the backstory later from veteran teacher Mr. Morrison. Allegedly, first-year teacher Mr. Twyman came to him and asked if he could borrow a video about Africa. Mr. Morrison said sure. Mr. Twyman just grabbed one. So we watched it in class, and we saw some kind of tribal ceremony with topless woman dancing. And I thought, That's it? Those tubes of fat flopping around are what all the other boys go crazy over? You've got to be kidding me. But that wasn't the most memorable part of the video. Some men dragged an obviously terrified goat to the front of the ceremony. The classroom got tense. Mr. Twyman reassured us, "It's okay, kids, the goat doesn't get hurt." That statement contained false or misleading information.
As a college freshman, I confided to a friend whom I'd persuaded to be my free therapist because she was majoring in Psychology that I didn't care about the size of women's breasts. Right as I said that, I noticed for the first time ever that she was rather flat-chested, and I thought Crap, she thinks I'm talking about her. But she just smiled and shared the wisdom that she'd gotten from some old man: if they're big enough to hold up a strapless top, they're big enough. A couple years later, desperately wanting to be normal, I borrowed some issues of Women's Health from another friend (who claimed to not know why they were delivered to his house), and I stared at the (clothed) breasts inside until I found them appealing. I still can't believe that worked. It didn't work when I tried it with... other things. By the way, I wasn't impressed with the magazine's mixed message of "You're healthy just the way you are, but also you should look like these hot skinny models."
So when the scammer calling themself Mary Chance asked if I would like to see their beautiful breasts, the truthful answer was yes. I hesitated because the religion I spent most of my life in taught me that seeing her beautiful breasts would be sinful and that I should exercise moral courage by lying and saying no. But then, the religion I spent most of my life in also taught me that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were good people, and it also opposed every major social justice movement in American history, and it also broke the law in multiple countries to conceal its hoarding of obscene wealth, and it also protects child abusers, so I have a hard time caring very much about its views on morality anymore. Of course that just validates orthodox members' certainty that I left so I could sin without guilt, and/or that I fell under Satan's influence as soon as I did. Hence my noncommittal response.
The only other person who ever wanted to see my nice cock was a guy I used to go to church with. I certainly didn't believe that a random French woman on the internet who looks like those two different people would take such an unsolicited interest in seeing it. So there's the trap. The scammer gets footage of my nice cock, then shares it to the internet and demands money to take it off. Of the internet, I mean. Except even if I had been stupid enough to take the bait, I would have been too self-conscious, so it wasn't going to happen. For context, when they said "Drop you cam" I thought they meant turn it off, so I did, and then they turned theirs off, and I used that as an excuse to sidestep the question about whether I wanted to see their boobs.
Oof. They were getting mad now, like they thought I owed them something just because they gave me something that I didn't ask for. I'm guessing this scam is never run in reverse - showing a woman someone's nice cock and requesting her beautiful breasts. Most women would immediately block the cock.
Best Chance, apparently. I actually thought it just a little odd that a French woman was named Mary instead of Marie, but that didn't quite rise to the level of red flag, and maybe I committed a microaggression just by thinking it. Not all Hispanic women are named Maria either. Anyway, we switched over to Skype, and the quality of the silent prerecorded video somehow became even worse.
Now that there was a confirmed 0% chance of Mary Chance being real, I wish I'd been wittier and more assertive. I wish I'd said, "Respectfully, Mademoiselle, your breasts are more pixelated than the ones that appear for about ten seconds in the Naughty mode of the 1992 computer game Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender. As you can see, my video quality is normal for 2023, and sending you my high-resolution cock would hardly make a fair trade." Instead, I kept being nice and wishy-washy while the scammer kept being impatient and unhinged.
Sheesh, I haven't seen a fictional woman this horny since I had to read Carmen Maria Machado's stories for graduate school. I lied twice here. Skype wasn't frozen - though I thought the awful quality made that plausible - and my job interview wasn't for another fifty-three minutes, and it was over the phone. Except the scheduled phone call never came through, though the recruiter sent a screenshot confirming that she had made it, so that was the final straw for me with Republic Wireless. It served me well for a few years, but it turned to crap as soon as Dish purchased it. I did a few minutes of research and decided to switch to Mint Mobile. Though I can't yet vouch for its quality of service, it allows calling and texting over WiFi, a feature Dish got rid of that probably would have prevented my problem. It also has an online tech support chat, another feature that Dish got rid of. I can't imagine why anyone having issues with their phone might need a way to contact tech support besides calling them, and obviously neither can the brilliant minds at Dish. But here's the kicker: I'll now get 5 GB of data per month for $15 instead of 1 GB for $19.99. It will be really hard for me to even use 5 GB a month - no, I'm not going to say "Actually, it's gonna be super easy, barely an inconvenience," even though I wish I could, because it wouldn't be true, especially since my neighbor gave me access to xfinity WiFi hotspots to make up for the internet going out after he didn't pay his utility bill - but that's the lowest amount Mint Mobile offers, and it's still cheaper, so I'm not complaining. The recruiter let me reschedule the interview, so I deleted the passive-aggressive comment I was going to make about her not calling me.
wHy DiD yOu Do ThIs To Me. So manipulative!
They had a rather odd work schedule for a hairdresser in Las Vegas, too.
dOn'T sAy AnY mOrE bAnAl WoRdS tO mE. I'm dying.
Mary Chance probably targeted me because I look lonely. They may have also noticed that I live in the fraud capital of the United States. I feel rather smug about how badly they misunderestimated my intelligence. If something like this happens to you, I hope you didn't need me to warn you that it's a trap, but if you did, you're welcome. Of course, in the near future, scammers will be able to use AI to generate flawless fake profiles with fake photorealistic images and high-quality videos that match and have audio and respond in real time. But they won't need to go to all that trouble to get footage of your nice cock, because they'll be able to generate that with AI too. I miss the good old days when the scariest technology was nuclear weapons.
Last night, using a screening code from my sister, I watched a documentary entitled "The Right to Read." It describes how many school districts in the United States teach reading wrong, and consequently a lot of students don't learn it, and of course these students are disproportionately not white. The wrong method teaches students to guess words based on the accompanying pictures instead of learning how each letter and each word is pronounced. It kind of blew my mind. Educators and curriculum manufacturers presumably learned to read when they were children, so it kind of blows my mind that they don't know how children learn to read. Teaching is kind of a fustercluck altogether. When I trained as a graduate instructor, I constantly had to read things that were like, "This is how teaching has been done forever, but it's wrong and stupid and needs to change." That was rather intimidating for someone brand new to the profession. In fairness, just thinking about teaching a kid to read English the correct way gives me a headache. After every rule, I'd have to add, "But don't get too attached to it, because half the words you see won't follow it." So I get why adults would want to skip that and hope the kids figure it out on their own.
Because of the disproportionate racial impact, the NAACP is leading the charge for childhood literacy. The documentary emphasizes over and over that we live in the information age and that if you can't read, you have little access to that information, and you're powerless. I would argue that the very next priority needs to be critical thinking, because millions of people do have access to all the information and are still utter morons. But literacy is a necessary first step. I was reminded of something I've contemplated a lot lately - that most of my opportunities and potential in life have little to do with my personal merits or choices, and a lot to do with where I was born, when I was born, and how much money my parents had. I'm sure many, many people as smart as Einstein have lived insignificant and forgotten lives because nobody gave them what they needed to thrive. Granted, I'm sure the same thing has happened to many people as evil as Hitler, so it's not all bad news.
The racial disparities also reminded me of my least favorite middle school to teach at. It was incredibly not-white by Utah standards. I've been in classes where more than half the kids were Latino. I wonder where all their parents are, because the overwhelming majority of adults that I see in adult spaces were and still are white. Anyway, a disproportionate percentage of the kids who wouldn't stay in their seats, wouldn't be quiet, and wouldn't do their work were Latino. I'm sure this was because of their socioeconomic status, and I'm sure the school didn't address the root issues by sending them to the refocus room or suspending them. Of course I, a lowly substitute teacher with no rights, was in no position to address the root issues either. There were a few that I expect to be in jail within five years. And that will pretty much ruin their lives and perpetuate the cycle. That could have been me; I could have been born into their circumstances. I really can't take much credit for my accomplishments. I could give God the credit, but I'm not comfortable with him playing favorites. I just tend to think that society is a dumpster fire that only works exactly the way it was intended to when it's screwing certain groups of people over.
Even though I didn't like the Star Wars sequel trilogy very much, I don't have the raging hard-on for Disney to fail that a lot of people clearly have, and it makes me very sad that Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is bombing at the box office. Harrison Ford acted his heart out and he deserves better. I suspect that most people just aren't giving it a chance because they think an action movie with an 80-year-old lead actor is ridiculous, but I thought it was handled very well. Indy's age is a major theme of the movie. Not just that he can't do all the things he used to do, but that the world around him has changed and no longer seems to have a place for him. It's an almost meta deconstruction of a character archetype that was never meant to last beyond the 1930s, and it gives Indy a satisfying character arc and his series a satisfying conclusion. Some people complain about the plot holes and silly parts, and I think they're overreacting. I'm not aware of any fictional movie plot that doesn't fall apart if you think about it too much, and the Indiana Jones movies were never meant to be very realistic or serious. I watch them to be entertained and I give them more grace than movies with loftier ambitions. This movie entertained me. It bored some people, and I guess that's just a matter of personal taste. But I hope we can all agree that it's nice to see Nazis get what they deserve instead of being allowed to march openly in the street.
I am not pleased with most of the Supreme Court's recent decisions. The whole thing seems like a farce to me, given that its interpretation of the constitution is mostly dependent on the political leanings of the presidents who appointed its members, and that there appears to be no check or balance on their power to force that interpretation on the entire country. Because of this, one of the worst presidents in American history has left an impact that will last long after he's gone to jail. I hate what Republicans are doing to this country. I hate their pathological revulsion to science and education and equality. I hate their vicious crusade against human rights and everything good and virtuous. Of course they're trying to raise the voting age now because they know young people aren't going to swallow their bullshit. They know their days are numbered. Their party is going to die, and it thoroughly deserves to die. But God knows how much irreversible damage it will do in its death throes.
I still spend too much time arguing with idiots on Twitter. Since yesterday I've gotten into several arguments over this tweet:
Tessa said she was told this by one leader in one ward. She didn't claim it was a widespread, consistent, or "official" Mormon belief. Yet at least a dozen Mormons asserted that she was lying. I have no problem believing her, not only because I was also taught weirder spiritual things than that in the church, but because I personally remember a small controversy in 2012 over the revelation that multiple temples barred menstruating girls from doing baptisms for the dead. The Salt Lake Tribune article and By Common Consent blog post about it can still be accessed via a two-second Google search. With a little more digging, I found the spreadsheet that Feminist Mormon Housewives readers compiled by contacting several temples and asking about their policies. But "spurious media" and feminists aren't acceptable sources when you have a persecution complex because ad hominem logical fallacy. Hence the arguments. Today I got so frustrated with one jerk who had the critical thinking skills of a clam that I gave up trying to reason with him and just pissed him off until he blocked me, which was very satisfying.
Also, the unhinged bigot who posted a different picture of herself with her family proclamation flag every single day of Pride Month (and still has the first one pinned to the top of her profile even though Pride Month is over) is now asking people to donate $50,000 to fight against a restraining order that someone filed against her. She thinks her constitutional rights are being violated. She has a very shaky grasp of how the Constitution works. She thinks the establishment clause prohibits public schools from teaching LGBT equality because that contradicts her religion, but not from teaching her version of God. (Of course, most of her right-wing Christian allies think her church is a heretical cult and won't be teaching her version of God or respecting her beliefs much at all if they get that kind of power, which, again thanks to young people, they won't for long.) Maybe I need to repent for being amused that other idiots are giving her money just so she can make an ass of herself in court.
But also, you know, people like April Wilde Despain are the backbone of the Republican party and the reason Trump got elected, so that's not very funny at all.
Assuming I pass the trial, which I know I will, I have a freelance writing job that won't likely support me but will allow me to rest easier while I keep looking for other stuff. I'll be writing things based on customers' ideas that they don't have the time or the skill to write themselves. I won't be allowed to discuss any of that writing here, or even get any credit for it when it's published, but I'll get a little money and hopefully have a little fun. The trial has been fun. I wrote 3000 words based on the criteria and in the next couple days I'll revise it and send it in.
This morning I went on a hike with friends. Every time I go up Logan Canyon, I think of The Legend of Zelda and fantasize that I'm in Hyrule, in a simpler time with none of the fancy things that make real life worth living, and today was no exception. This afternoon I watched Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, because there's no better way to celebrate this nation's birthday than by watching Nazis get what they deserve. The movie was great, a far better note to go out on than Crystal Skull. Just now I asked ChatGPT to write a story where Indiana Jones and Princess Zelda team up to find the Triforce. Since I started playing with AI, I haven't been able to stop, perhaps out of morbid fascination with the technology that's going to put every writer, artist, and musician in the world out of work. Behold:
Once upon a time, in a realm where magic and adventure intertwined, Indiana Jones found himself on an extraordinary expedition. Known for his expertise in archaeology and his relentless pursuit of ancient artifacts, Dr. Jones had heard whispers of a legendary realm called Hyrule—a land said to house the mystical Triforce, a relic of immense power. Intrigued by the prospect, he set off on a journey that would merge the realms of history and fantasy.
With his trusty fedora perched atop his head and his bullwhip coiled at his side, Indiana Jones traveled deep into the recesses of Hyrule. Guided by ancient maps and cryptic clues, he navigated treacherous terrain, braving the hazards of Hyrule's dungeons and forests. His quest led him to the grand kingdom of Hyrule Castle, where he sought an audience with the wise and regal Princess Zelda.
Zelda, a princess of remarkable grace and intelligence, recognized the significance of Indiana's arrival. She knew that her beloved kingdom's fate hinged upon finding the Triforce—a sacred relic capable of granting any wish to those who possessed it. However, the Triforce's location had remained a closely guarded secret for generations, buried within the labyrinthine depths of Hyrule.
Impressed by Indiana's reputation and his shared desire to safeguard ancient artifacts, Zelda enlisted his help in the search for the Triforce. She entrusted him with the knowledge of the Temple of Time, a revered sanctuary believed to house a gateway to the Triforce's chamber. The duo embarked on a perilous journey, their fates intertwined as they ventured into the heart of darkness.
Together, Indiana and Zelda braved treacherous temples, solving intricate puzzles and battling formidable creatures. They delved into the Forest Temple, maneuvered through the treacherous Shadow Temple, and overcame the trials of the Spirit Temple. Each step brought them closer to their ultimate goal.
Throughout their travels, Indiana marveled at the world of Hyrule. He encountered enigmatic beings such as the wise sage Rauru, the mischievous forest dweller Saria, and the stoic Goron tribe. These encounters broadened his understanding of the mystical and magical, expanding his perception of what lay beyond the realm of archaeology.
As they reached the climactic moment of their adventure, Indiana and Zelda finally stood before the sacred chamber housing the Triforce. Protected by ancient guardians, the duo faced a final trial—a test of their resolve, courage, and wisdom. Indiana's knowledge of history and Zelda's spiritual insight proved invaluable as they successfully navigated the harrowing challenges.
In the end, Indiana and Zelda stood before the Triforce, a shimmering symbol of hope and power. United by their mutual respect and determination, they made a pact to use its power wisely, safeguarding it from those who sought to exploit it for their own selfish desires.
With the Triforce secured and Hyrule's future assured, Indiana bid farewell to Princess Zelda and the enchanting realm of Hyrule. The adventure had changed him, enriching his understanding of the world and reaffirming his commitment to the preservation of history.
As Indiana returned to his world, he carried with him the memories of a realm where history and myth converged, where the courage of a princess and the spirit of an adventurer had united to protect the legacy of the Triforce. And though his stories of Hyrule would be met with skepticism, Indiana knew that some tales were meant to be experienced, not just recounted.
And so, the legend of Indiana Jones and his extraordinary journey in the land of Hyrule would forever live on as a testament to the enduring power of adventure and the possibility of the fantastical.
Bonus: pictures from the hike. It was perhaps the most gorgeous trail I've ever been on, and if my friends had let me stop to take a picture of everything that deserved to be photographed, we'd still be there.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.