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Thread: H.P. Lovecraft and how science influences ideas of God

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    Contributor DrZoidberg's Avatar
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    H.P. Lovecraft and how science influences ideas of God

    Now in Covid times I decided to embark on the epic journey of reading every novel H.P. Lovecraft wrote or had a hand in writing, and it's given me a window into the minds of how the people thought at the turn of the last century.

    Lovecraft is very much a product of his time. Lovecraft had read Nietzsche and had had the same horrifying insight, God doesn't exist, and not only doesn't the universe care about us, it's also trying to kill us.

    The thinking of that time was very fear driven. The intellectuals of the day were trying to come up to alternative ideas and ideologies to cling to instead of God. I get the impression that people of that day were mostly unwilling nihilists. They all wanted and needed God to exist for their world views, they just couldn't reconcile what they knew about the world with an actual God existing.

    Atheist thought has since moved on, and atheists today don't struggle with these thoughts at all. We seem to have accepted that a world without God will be fine. We don't need a God to have meaning.

    Lovecraft invented the literary genre called "cosmic horror".

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lovecraftian_horror

    The driving force behind this horror is that there's forces out there more powerful than us, and they don't love us.

    Especially quantum mechanics was troubling for Lovecraft. The fact that nothing is truly predictable and nothing is what it seems, really got under his skin. A lot of his stories are about this. On a superficial level, his stories are about the occult, and magic. But he always describes magic as a kind of science. Which people of his day often did. I'm not sure when magic in fiction turned into pure supernaturalism. But fiction in his day didn't seem to see it as supernatural. Just science we didn't understand yet.

    But he's also trapped within a Christian mindset. A reoccuring horror is people trying to cheat death by prolonging their life through magical means. Which to modern minds, sounds perfectly fine. We wouldn't see that as an unforgivable sin. But Lovecraft, in spite of his atheism, seemed to. Which I think is very interesting. Why wouldn't we want to live as long as we can, and use whatever means we could?

    The theory of evolution is also a major influence in his work. There's a lot of talk about tainted bloodlines, and superior and inferior genes. Yes, Lovecraft was a big fan of Hitler and agreed with his ideas on race. But has flipped the script on who's side God is on. Since the gods are a malevolent destructive force, he lets those who are of inferior genetic stock worship the real gods. While the superior people (ie white people) worship the fake gods. Which is quite a mindbending concept. He also has alien races settle on Earth and have them as our ancestors. Which is an awesome idea. As well as having them interbreed with us in horrifying ways (Shadow over Insmouth )

    Most of us here are quite comfortable with our atheism and have no problems with asserting that humans created the gods (for whatever reasons). Yes, I'm willing to make that assumption So for us (or perhaps just me) the idea that new scientific ideas will influence our concepts of the supernatural is only to be expected. Today most Christians have incorporated ToE, Big Bang Theory and quantum mechanics into their world views, and it's business as usual. But it's not. We can see that Christianity today of course, barely resembles Christianity of 1920. The foundation is entirely different.

    It wasn't so much a topic for discussion, as me just wanting to get this off my chest.

    Who here also likes H.P. Lovecraft?

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    Veteran Member WAB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    Now in Covid times I decided to embark on the epic journey of reading every novel H.P. Lovecraft wrote or had a hand in writing, and it's given me a window into the minds of how the people thought at the turn of the last century.

    Lovecraft is very much a product of his time. Lovecraft had read Nietzsche and had had the same horrifying insight, God doesn't exist, and not only doesn't the universe care about us, it's also trying to kill us.

    The thinking of that time was very fear driven. The intellectuals of the day were trying to come up to alternative ideas and ideologies to cling to instead of God. I get the impression that people of that day were mostly unwilling nihilists. They all wanted and needed God to exist for their world views, they just couldn't reconcile what they knew about the world with an actual God existing.

    Atheist thought has since moved on, and atheists today don't struggle with these thoughts at all. We seem to have accepted that a world without God will be fine. We don't need a God to have meaning.

    Lovecraft invented the literary genre called "cosmic horror".

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lovecraftian_horror

    The driving force behind this horror is that there's forces out there more powerful than us, and they don't love us.

    Especially quantum mechanics was troubling for Lovecraft. The fact that nothing is truly predictable and nothing is what it seems, really got under his skin. A lot of his stories are about this. On a superficial level, his stories are about the occult, and magic. But he always describes magic as a kind of science. Which people of his day often did. I'm not sure when magic in fiction turned into pure supernaturalism. But fiction in his day didn't seem to see it as supernatural. Just science we didn't understand yet.

    But he's also trapped within a Christian mindset. A reoccuring horror is people trying to cheat death by prolonging their life through magical means. Which to modern minds, sounds perfectly fine. We wouldn't see that as an unforgivable sin. But Lovecraft, in spite of his atheism, seemed to. Which I think is very interesting. Why wouldn't we want to live as long as we can, and use whatever means we could?

    The theory of evolution is also a major influence in his work. There's a lot of talk about tainted bloodlines, and superior and inferior genes. Yes, Lovecraft was a big fan of Hitler and agreed with his ideas on race. But has flipped the script on who's side God is on. Since the gods are a malevolent destructive force, he lets those who are of inferior genetic stock worship the real gods. While the superior people (ie white people) worship the fake gods. Which is quite a mindbending concept. He also has alien races settle on Earth and have them as our ancestors. Which is an awesome idea. As well as having them interbreed with us in horrifying ways (Shadow over Insmouth )

    Most of us here are quite comfortable with our atheism and have no problems with asserting that humans created the gods (for whatever reasons). Yes, I'm willing to make that assumption So for us (or perhaps just me) the idea that new scientific ideas will influence our concepts of the supernatural is only to be expected. Today most Christians have incorporated ToE, Big Bang Theory and quantum mechanics into their world views, and it's business as usual. But it's not. We can see that Christianity today of course, barely resembles Christianity of 1920. The foundation is entirely different.

    It wasn't so much a topic for discussion, as me just wanting to get this off my chest.

    Who here also likes H.P. Lovecraft?
    I love Lovecraft. Unfortunately I can't expound too much on this until I can get to the laptop. Fascinating though.
    A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying in other words that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.
    - Alexander Pope

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    Lovecraft is... Before I ever read lovecraft I wrote cosmic horror from the perspective of the old gods themselves. It was pretty fucked up. I feel I actually do understand the idea of C'thulu and why he was, in fact, rightful High Priest of the Great Old Ones. Some of the others were kind of assholes, but the fact is, the cultists absolutely woke him up too early. The instructions clearly stated, in the poem, that we weren't to be adjoined by them until after we had become as them, where death may die, and THEN we have some weird tentacle vore orgy or whatever for forever in new and fucked up ways.

    I'd totally bang one of those tentacle scientist people too, just for the record.

    I will admit I skipped some of his pre-cosmic-horror writings.

    Edit:

    Also, I very much love that he clearly went to New York and smoked DMT or something with his friend there. There is some history behind the story about the red star, and about sailing in dimensionally complex space in the attic of the witch house...

    The mountains of madness was just... It was great. Almost like a biological version of the AI stories we have made since we discovered our true magic in physics. But with sexy aliens.

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    Contributor DrZoidberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarhyn View Post
    Lovecraft is... Before I ever read lovecraft I wrote cosmic horror from the perspective of the old gods themselves. It was pretty fucked up. I feel I actually do understand the idea of C'thulu and why he was, in fact, rightful High Priest of the Great Old Ones. Some of the others were kind of assholes, but the fact is, the cultists absolutely woke him up too early. The instructions clearly stated, in the poem, that we weren't to be adjoined by them until after we had become as them, where death may die, and THEN we have some weird tentacle vore orgy or whatever for forever in new and fucked up ways.

    I'd totally bang one of those tentacle scientist people too, just for the record.

    I will admit I skipped some of his pre-cosmic-horror writings.

    Edit:

    Also, I very much love that he clearly went to New York and smoked DMT or something with his friend there. There is some history behind the story about the red star, and about sailing in dimensionally complex space in the attic of the witch house...

    The mountains of madness was just... It was great. Almost like a biological version of the AI stories we have made since we discovered our true magic in physics. But with sexy aliens.
    I'm not so sure I buy the DMT story. He was famously a teetollaler. Both his parents ended up in mental institutions and died there. From Syphilis. But it's unclear if Lovecraft ever knew if it was syphilis. Either way, he was obsessed about what he perceived was a tainted bloodline and worried that the same fate will befall him. So I highly doubt he'd do anything that risked him going crazy, ie drugs. He also was broke his entire life. To the point where he had to skip meals and go hungry. So where would he get the money for drugs?

    A major theme in the Great old Ones is the timeline. How they reach prominence at some point and self destruct in various ways and go back into oblivion. Mirroring the fact that this is the expected outcome for humanity as well. The portrayal of them as more advanced than us, yet didn't manage to stay in power, tells us how futile it is to keep trying. Since they aren't gods. Just aliens who at different time settled here.

    All his writings are, if not good, at least interesting. He was an incredibly original writer. Even his bad stories have good ideas. I can recommend The Outsider. It's a short read. The twist in the end is super obvious immediately. It's still a cool mindfuck of a story. The Outsider has no cosmic horror in it.

    I would also love some tentacle sex .

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jarhyn View Post
    Lovecraft is... Before I ever read lovecraft I wrote cosmic horror from the perspective of the old gods themselves. It was pretty fucked up. I feel I actually do understand the idea of C'thulu and why he was, in fact, rightful High Priest of the Great Old Ones. Some of the others were kind of assholes, but the fact is, the cultists absolutely woke him up too early. The instructions clearly stated, in the poem, that we weren't to be adjoined by them until after we had become as them, where death may die, and THEN we have some weird tentacle vore orgy or whatever for forever in new and fucked up ways.

    I'd totally bang one of those tentacle scientist people too, just for the record.

    I will admit I skipped some of his pre-cosmic-horror writings.

    Edit:

    Also, I very much love that he clearly went to New York and smoked DMT or something with his friend there. There is some history behind the story about the red star, and about sailing in dimensionally complex space in the attic of the witch house...

    The mountains of madness was just... It was great. Almost like a biological version of the AI stories we have made since we discovered our true magic in physics. But with sexy aliens.
    I'm not so sure I buy the DMT story. He was famously a teetollaler. Both his parents ended up in mental institutions and died there. From Syphilis. But it's unclear if Lovecraft ever knew if it was syphilis. Either way, he was obsessed about what he perceived was a tainted bloodline and worried that the same fate will befall him. So I highly doubt he'd do anything that risked him going crazy, ie drugs. He also was broke his entire life. To the point where he had to skip meals and go hungry. So where would he get the money for drugs?

    A major theme in the Great old Ones is the timeline. How they reach prominence at some point and self destruct in various ways and go back into oblivion. Mirroring the fact that this is the expected outcome for humanity as well. The portrayal of them as more advanced than us, yet didn't manage to stay in power, tells us how futile it is to keep trying. Since they aren't gods. Just aliens who at different time settled here.

    All his writings are, if not good, at least interesting. He was an incredibly original writer. Even his bad stories have good ideas. I can recommend The Outsider. It's a short read. The twist in the end is super obvious immediately. It's still a cool mindfuck of a story. The Outsider has no cosmic horror in it.

    I would also love some tentacle sex .
    The reason I suspect involvement not with alcohol but specifically drugs is, in fact, the heavy psychedelic imagery. There are just concepts of dimensionality I couldn't understand until on the far side of a psychedelic experience, and it was shortly after his new york visit that he started making such writings. He very well describes breaking through the marigold gate and interacting with machine elves.

    As to where he would get them, I expect he got them from his friend there, in (un)shocking parallel to the story he wrote shortly after one of his visits, a story where he discusses smoking drugs, though unspecific about what, exactly, got smoked.

    As to where he picked up these very DMT-like imageries, particularly the ones that return in Dreams in the Witch House, if it isn't DMT or something similarly available in that epoch, I don't know what it could be.

    Then again, it could be side effects from his untreated cancer, too. Having some foreign and alien thing growing inside you, slowly killing you because suddenly your own cells forgot how to be properly social, that might have something to do with it, too.

    As to the old ones, they didn't reach prominence and decline or self destruct. Rather, they got bored. It is other things that declined, namely the civilizations that birthed the Shoggoth, and often because they made bad decisions. I agree that not all of it is good.

    The old ones never declined, which is kind of the point. Just, they are immortal artifacts of the civilizations that raised them and so have different ethical boundaries than we do (death is, clearly, an important mechanism in the determination of how we ought act with regards to each other). But a deathless ethics doesn't interact well with a death-filled ethics.

    Maybe I'm just projecting sense where none was intended, where none was had by the author... But I have made.more progress philosophically and intellectually not by viewing his treatment of civilization and "decadence" and decline but by trying to empathize with the "cosmic horrors". It's definitely given me a deeper understanding of what motivations may exist.

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    Contributor DrZoidberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jarhyn View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jarhyn View Post
    Lovecraft is... Before I ever read lovecraft I wrote cosmic horror from the perspective of the old gods themselves. It was pretty fucked up. I feel I actually do understand the idea of C'thulu and why he was, in fact, rightful High Priest of the Great Old Ones. Some of the others were kind of assholes, but the fact is, the cultists absolutely woke him up too early. The instructions clearly stated, in the poem, that we weren't to be adjoined by them until after we had become as them, where death may die, and THEN we have some weird tentacle vore orgy or whatever for forever in new and fucked up ways.

    I'd totally bang one of those tentacle scientist people too, just for the record.

    I will admit I skipped some of his pre-cosmic-horror writings.

    Edit:

    Also, I very much love that he clearly went to New York and smoked DMT or something with his friend there. There is some history behind the story about the red star, and about sailing in dimensionally complex space in the attic of the witch house...

    The mountains of madness was just... It was great. Almost like a biological version of the AI stories we have made since we discovered our true magic in physics. But with sexy aliens.
    I'm not so sure I buy the DMT story. He was famously a teetollaler. Both his parents ended up in mental institutions and died there. From Syphilis. But it's unclear if Lovecraft ever knew if it was syphilis. Either way, he was obsessed about what he perceived was a tainted bloodline and worried that the same fate will befall him. So I highly doubt he'd do anything that risked him going crazy, ie drugs. He also was broke his entire life. To the point where he had to skip meals and go hungry. So where would he get the money for drugs?

    A major theme in the Great old Ones is the timeline. How they reach prominence at some point and self destruct in various ways and go back into oblivion. Mirroring the fact that this is the expected outcome for humanity as well. The portrayal of them as more advanced than us, yet didn't manage to stay in power, tells us how futile it is to keep trying. Since they aren't gods. Just aliens who at different time settled here.

    All his writings are, if not good, at least interesting. He was an incredibly original writer. Even his bad stories have good ideas. I can recommend The Outsider. It's a short read. The twist in the end is super obvious immediately. It's still a cool mindfuck of a story. The Outsider has no cosmic horror in it.

    I would also love some tentacle sex .
    The reason I suspect involvement not with alcohol but specifically drugs is, in fact, the heavy psychedelic imagery. There are just concepts of dimensionality I couldn't understand until on the far side of a psychedelic experience, and it was shortly after his new york visit that he started making such writings. He very well describes breaking through the marigold gate and interacting with machine elves.

    As to where he would get them, I expect he got them from his friend there, in (un)shocking parallel to the story he wrote shortly after one of his visits, a story where he discusses smoking drugs, though unspecific about what, exactly, got smoked.

    As to where he picked up these very DMT-like imageries, particularly the ones that return in Dreams in the Witch House, if it isn't DMT or something similarly available in that epoch, I don't know what it could be.

    Then again, it could be side effects from his untreated cancer, too. Having some foreign and alien thing growing inside you, slowly killing you because suddenly your own cells forgot how to be properly social, that might have something to do with it, too.

    As to the old ones, they didn't reach prominence and decline or self destruct. Rather, they got bored. It is other things that declined, namely the civilizations that birthed the Shoggoth, and often because they made bad decisions. I agree that not all of it is good.

    The old ones never declined, which is kind of the point. Just, they are immortal artifacts of the civilizations that raised them and so have different ethical boundaries than we do (death is, clearly, an important mechanism in the determination of how we ought act with regards to each other). But a deathless ethics doesn't interact well with a death-filled ethics.

    Maybe I'm just projecting sense where none was intended, where none was had by the author... But I have made.more progress philosophically and intellectually not by viewing his treatment of civilization and "decadence" and decline but by trying to empathize with the "cosmic horrors". It's definitely given me a deeper understanding of what motivations may exist.
    Hmm... interesting. I always interpreted his dream quest stories as just that. A man dreaming and seeing how far he can push the concept. In Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath it's possible to get a feel for how he developed stories. That story makes no sense. The plot doesn't work. Because he never finished writing it. It's as best a rough draft. That story is just plain crazy. With cats crewing full rigger ships in the space and friendly ghouls, who are evil, yet still nice to Randolph Carter. It's crazy.

    If he truly did to DMT shouldn't he then develop some respect for Maya culture? I never got that impression. He did hang out with bohemians and bohemians famously did a lot of drugs, and the peak drug use period in Western history is 1890-1920's circa. So he must have been in contact with drugs.

    My impression from reading his descriptions is that he picks nouns and adjectives for their rhythm and poetic meter, rather that what they describe. I don't think they're supposed to make any sense. But be a mess of horrific adjectives crawling under your skin. And the image of the monsters is the less important factor. Because that guy, he puts together sentences like no other. It's amazing. It's mindblowing how a guy can use adjectives as liberally as he does, and it WORKS. That's skilled writing. It's almost musical. That's just showing off IMHO. That's a master of language at work. Anyhoo... that's my theory on why he could imagine things outside of the box. I think he worked on the poetic rhythm first, and then shoehorned in the immagery afterwards and saw where it took him. I suspect that's his real super power. And that's how he could imagine all these fucked up concepts. It's a theory.

    I'm reading his stories aloud to my girlfriend now, and it's very easy to read aloud. That's indicative of a guy who knows what he is doing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jarhyn View Post

    The reason I suspect involvement not with alcohol but specifically drugs is, in fact, the heavy psychedelic imagery. There are just concepts of dimensionality I couldn't understand until on the far side of a psychedelic experience, and it was shortly after his new york visit that he started making such writings. He very well describes breaking through the marigold gate and interacting with machine elves.

    As to where he would get them, I expect he got them from his friend there, in (un)shocking parallel to the story he wrote shortly after one of his visits, a story where he discusses smoking drugs, though unspecific about what, exactly, got smoked.

    As to where he picked up these very DMT-like imageries, particularly the ones that return in Dreams in the Witch House, if it isn't DMT or something similarly available in that epoch, I don't know what it could be.

    Then again, it could be side effects from his untreated cancer, too. Having some foreign and alien thing growing inside you, slowly killing you because suddenly your own cells forgot how to be properly social, that might have something to do with it, too.

    As to the old ones, they didn't reach prominence and decline or self destruct. Rather, they got bored. It is other things that declined, namely the civilizations that birthed the Shoggoth, and often because they made bad decisions. I agree that not all of it is good.

    The old ones never declined, which is kind of the point. Just, they are immortal artifacts of the civilizations that raised them and so have different ethical boundaries than we do (death is, clearly, an important mechanism in the determination of how we ought act with regards to each other). But a deathless ethics doesn't interact well with a death-filled ethics.

    Maybe I'm just projecting sense where none was intended, where none was had by the author... But I have made.more progress philosophically and intellectually not by viewing his treatment of civilization and "decadence" and decline but by trying to empathize with the "cosmic horrors". It's definitely given me a deeper understanding of what motivations may exist.
    Hmm... interesting. I always interpreted his dream quest stories as just that. A man dreaming and seeing how far he can push the concept. In Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath it's possible to get a feel for how he developed stories. That story makes no sense. The plot doesn't work. Because he never finished writing it. It's as best a rough draft. That story is just plain crazy. With cats crewing full rigger ships in the space and friendly ghouls, who are evil, yet still nice to Randolph Carter. It's crazy.

    If he truly did to DMT shouldn't he then develop some respect for Maya culture? I never got that impression. He did hang out with bohemians and bohemians famously did a lot of drugs, and the peak drug use period in Western history is 1890-1920's circa. So he must have been in contact with drugs.

    My impression from reading his descriptions is that he picks nouns and adjectives for their rhythm and poetic meter, rather that what they describe. I don't think they're supposed to make any sense. But be a mess of horrific adjectives crawling under your skin. And the image of the monsters is the less important factor. Because that guy, he puts together sentences like no other. It's amazing. It's mindblowing how a guy can use adjectives as liberally as he does, and it WORKS. That's skilled writing. It's almost musical. That's just showing off IMHO. That's a master of language at work. Anyhoo... that's my theory on why he could imagine things outside of the box. I think he worked on the poetic rhythm first, and then shoehorned in the immagery afterwards and saw where it took him. I suspect that's his real super power. And that's how he could imagine all these fucked up concepts. It's a theory.

    I'm reading his stories aloud to my girlfriend now, and it's very easy to read aloud. That's indicative of a guy who knows what he is doing.
    Part of your misconceptions here are in assuming he knew what he was smoking, or that he would have liked the effects.

    As to the Dreams In the Witch House, what I would consider one of the singular most psychedelic imageries I have ever seen in a book (and I read John does at the End, which I would recommend to any fan of cosmic horror).

    I suspect you are right about seeing what new realities abject absurdity would take him to, but I really think you are assuming a lot about what I think his relationship was as regards substance use: I think like my awful ex, the closest experience Lovecraft had with drugs was perhaps a single encounter that he didn't entirely enjoy but which grew in him an even wider appreciation of the bizarraries of his own mind.

    He visits a friend, his friend has some DMT, he says "eh what the hell", and then promptly decides not to do that again. Or perhaps instead it was just his friend and him acquiring a unique and complex-dimensional appreciation of the description.

    Obviously, this is all speculation. But given the relationship the man had with dreaming and his fascination therewith, I absolutely can see him at some point touching that raw wire of experience.

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    Indeed, I don't know whether I want to use DMT again myself. It is not anything you could consider "fun". Nor is Salvia, and I do not see Lovecraft being slave to the poppy.

    At any rate, on the subject of how this has influenced ideas of god, imagine you are immortal.

    A lot of the things that constrain us are due to our mortality. It is the basis for my "problems with eternity" thread, in that I think eternity changes ethics into something we would consider monstrous. If you don't die, and are strong as a Shoggoth, what do the concerns, objections, or intents of others matter to you? It only matters insofar as bigger fish, and all the biggest fish, the great old ones, agree to not really mess hard with one another. They are like those assholes in Absolutely Anything.

    If they want to eat, they do something that makes them more comprehensive: they eat literally everything you are.

    The idea is that they eat each other without killing each other. And in a literary sense, we eat each other, consume each other, let ourselves be merrily addicted to each other. We are no different. We eat each other and do not die, in fact it makes us live longer.

    But we do eventually die of consequence, and of violence. So because those things kill us, damage us, break us, we refuse them. But to partake of all and sustain no harm? You would lose the very perspective, over time, that allows you to understand that you can't just do anything you want. Mostly because you CAN. That is the deepest abyss of YoggSothoth. That is the most terrifying aspect of altering the carbon. Death is, thusly, what makes us obligated to be good. Not because of a threat of after, but because of the probabilistic threat of less THIS.

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