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The very reason that I speak from the
grave is that I want the satisfaction of
sometimes saying everything that is in me instead
of bottling the pleasantest of it up for home
consumption. I can speak more frankly from the
grave than most historians would be able to do,
for the reason that whereas they would not be
able to feel dead, howsoever hard they might try,
I myself am able to do that. They would be making
believe to be dead. With me, it is not make believe.
They would all the time be feeling, in a
tolerably definite way, that that thing in the
grave which represents them is a conscious entity;
conscious of what it was saying about people; an
entity capable of feeling shame; an entity capable
of shrinking from full and frank expression, for
they believe in immortality. They believe that
death is only a sleep, followed by an immediate
waking, and that their spirits are conscious of
what is going on here below and take a deep and
continuous interest in the joys and sorrows of
the survivors whom they love and don’t.
But I have long ago lost my belief in immortality–
also my interest in it. I can say now
what I could not say while alive–things which
it would shock people to hear; things which I
could not say when alive because I should be
aware of that shock and would certainly spare
myself the personal pain of inflicting it.
When we believe in immortality we have a
reason for it. Not a reason founded upon information,
or even plausibilities, for we haven’t
any. Our reason for choosing to believe in this
dream is that we desire immortality, for some
reason or other, I don’t know what. But I have
no such desire. I have sampled this life and it is
sufficient. Another one would be another experiment. It would proceed from the same source as
this one. I should have no large expectations
concerning it, and if I may be excused from
assisting in the experiment I shall be properly
grateful. Annihilation has no terrors for me, because
I have already tried it before I was born–a
hundred million years–and I have suffered
more in an hour, in this life, than I remember
to have suffered in the whole hundred million
years put together. There was a peace, a serenity,
an absence of all sense of responsibility, an
absence of worry, an absence of care, grief, perplexity;
and the presence of a deep content and
unbroken satisfaction in that hundred million
years of holiday which I look back upon with a
tender longing and with a grateful desire to resume,
when the opportunity comes.
It is understandable that when I speak from
the grave it is not a spirit that is speaking; it
is a nothing; it is an emptiness; it is a vacancy;
it is a something that has neither feeling nor
consciousness. It does not know what it is saying.
It is not aware that it is saying anything at
all, therefore it can speak frankly and freely, since
it cannot know that it is inflicting pain, discomfort,
or offense of any kind.
–Mark Twain, No Terrors for Me first published in: Harper’s Magazine, December 1958.
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Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
For the past three years my dosimeter had sat silently on a narrow shelf just inside the door of a house in Tokyo, upticking its final digit every twenty-four hours by one or two, the increase never failing — for radiation is the ruthless companion of time. Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly. During those three years, my American neighbors had lost sight of the accident at Fukushima. In March 2011, a tsunami had killed hundreds, or thousands; yes, they remembered that. Several also recollected the earthquake that caused it, but as for the hydrogen explosion and containment breach at Nuclear Plant No. 1, that must have been fixed by now — for its effluents no longer shone forth from our national news. Meanwhile, my dosimeter increased its figure, one or two digits per day, more or less as it would have in San Francisco — well, a trifle more, actually. And in Tokyo, as in San Francisco, people went about their business, except on Friday nights, when the stretch between the Kasumigaseki and Kokkai-Gijido-mae subway stations — half a dozen blocks of sidewalk, which commenced at an antinuclear tent that had already been on this spot for more than 900 days and ended at the prime minister’s lair — became a dim and feeble carnival of pamphleteers and Fukushima refugees peddling handicrafts.
One Friday evening, the refugees’ half of the sidewalk was demarcated by police barriers, and a line of officers slouched at ease in the street, some with yellow bullhorns hanging from their necks. At the very end of the street, where the National Diet glowed white and strange behind other buildings, a policeman set up a microphone, then deployed a small video camera in the direction of the muscular young people in drums against fascists jackets who now, at six-thirty sharp, began chanting: “We don’t need nuclear energy! Stop nuclear power plants! Stop them, stop them, stop them! No restart! No restart!” The police assumed a stiffer stance; the drumming and chanting were almost uncomfortably loud. Commuters hurried past along the open space between the police and the protesters, staring straight ahead, covering their ears. Finally, a fellow in a shabby sweater appeared, and murmured along with the chants as he rounded the corner. He was the only one who seemed to sympathize; few others reacted at all.
Number of U.S. congressional districts in which trade with China has produced more jobs than it has cost:
Young bilingual children who learned one language first are likelier than monolingual children and bilingual children who learned languages simultaneously to say that a dog adopted by owls will hoot.
An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to defund Advanced Placement U.S. History courses, accusing the curriculum of portraying the United States as “a nation of oppressors and exploiters.”
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“He could be one of a million beach-bound, black-socked Florida retirees, not the man who, by some odd happenstance of life, possesses the brain of Albert Einstein — literally cut it out of the dead scientist's head.”