A Few Answers To Questions You Always Wondered About

October 19, 2016 | No Comments » | Topics: Answers, Interesting

What’s It Like To Try Ecstasy?

I am a forty-something professional man, happily married. My wife and I arranged to take e one Monday evening during the Christmas / New Year break with some close friends of ours, an older couple whom we have known, loved and respected for about fifteen years. They were “old hands” and my wife had done it once before. We had agreed that this would be the night I tried e for the first time. While I had some slight trepidation, I knew I would be OK as I trusted them all completely. 

Sitting comfortably in our cosy living room, Café del Mar and similar CDs playing in the background, we began at 8 pm. I swallowed one white tablet with water. My male friend then asked us what intentions, if any, we each had for the session. Mine, I decided, was “to lighten up a bit,” as for the last few years I had been having an incredibly heavy time with multiple illnesses and levels of stress that had left me feeling completely beaten up by life. I had become tense, withdrawn and sullen — still able to function and superficially OK, but hardly my old self. 

Over the next hour nothing much happened except that I found myself talking quite openly and confidently with the others, moving very easily into interesting conversations. This was a little unusual for me as I am normally quite shy and overly self-conscious in social situations and it takes me a while to loosen up. In fact, it unnerved me for a moment when I first noticed it — Is this really me talking? — but I soon realised that nothing was coming out of my mouth that was in any way inconsistent with my intelligence or my best intentions, and that I was still very much in charge of myself. What had happened, I realised, was that my neurotic self-checking filters, the ones that have to inspect and approve everything I say before I say it, several times over, had dropped away, creating a clear passage for my natural self-expression. I began to trust the e. 

The next thing I experienced was a striking shift in my visual perception. I don’t mean a hallucination or a distortion, but a wonderful step up in the aesthetic quality. For a moment it was like being in one of those nostalgic TV ads where the world looks all gold and sepia. ‘Everything’s gone amber!’ I blurted. But then I found that my vision was becoming beautifully enhanced. It made my normal visual experience seem like cheap, fuzzy CCTV footage in comparison. Now I was seeing the world anew in sharp, lush, top-quality Technicolor! 

I also began to feel very warm, flushed, and a faint sheen of sweat was now appearing on my face. Yet it was a surprisingly nice sensation, like the kind of cosy toasting you get as you sit in front of a log fire. Well, so far it was pleasant, but not much to write home about. 

On the one-hour point I was given a half-tablet top-up, this being judged appropriate by our more experienced friends. Very soon, things became much more interesting. I felt a new kind of energy frothing up inside me, coursing through my body like champagne bubbles. It went far beyond those levels of energy I was used to occasionally getting from meditation. This was wonderful! And it felt so good! So this is what they meant by being ‘up’! Mmm-mmm. 

I also began to move in time to the music. The music! Oh, the music! Wow! It sounded so good, so organic! It demanded movement from my body, and my body yearned to dance. Royksopp’s Melody A.M is now forever etched in my bones as a think of great joy and beauty. At this point, though, I became aware of a pressing sensation in my bladder. I could have just ignored it, but I was aware of the concerns with fluid management on e, so I decided to go upstairs for a pee. It was great moving up the stairs so lightly, my constant back pain of recent years having totally disappeared. 

But standing in the loo waiting to pee was somewhat disconcerting. It seemed the little muscles down there that would normally do the business had gone offline. Clearly my bladder was full, yet the plumbing wasn’t cooperating. Yikes. The pressure was building. What to do? I decided to just sit on the toilet and wait. And after a few moments, it all came together. I somehow just relaxed and it began to flow. Ahh, nice. Before returning downstairs I decided to take a look at my face in the bathroom mirror. What huge pupils! And what a lovely, smooth, pink glow to my skin. Hey, where have all my wrinkles gone? 

Just at that moment there was a new frothing up of energy. It spilled into my head, my face, and found its way to the muscles around my jowls and cheeks. And then it made me do something which was, strangely, almost against my will. It was awakening nerve endings that seemed to have lain dormant for ages. It almost hurt as some inactive facial muscles stirred back into life, but here it came. 

I smiled. 

I smiled the biggest smile of my life. 

Looking at myself smiling back at myself, I felt like a little infant just smiling for the sheer joy of being. The more I smiled, the happier I felt. And the happier I felt, the more I wanted to smile. 

This was a huge turning point for me, as I had forgotten what it was like to be really, really happy and relaxed, and I had become resigned to spending the rest of my life in some low emotional flatland. Now I realised just how depressed I had been. I also realised that whenever I indulged in alcohol or chocolate, this innocently joyous state, this ecstasy, was the state I was really seeking to be in. Only those things had never really brought me anywhere near it. So why bother with them at all? This was the real deal. 

When I trotted back downstairs I was beaming from ear to ear — no, make that from temple to temple, my smile was so big! Everyone looked up at me with delight as I walked into the room. ‘I’m BACK!’ I cried. And I wasn’t just meaning back in the room. 

We then went into a phase of enjoying closer contact with each other, having intimate conversations and embraces in different pairs. After a while of enjoying the words and hugs of my male friend, I felt a clear urge to make contact with my wife. It was she who had had to tolerate my depressed, withdrawn state for so long. She needed and deserved a break. I told her that I had a heartfelt desire not only for her to see me being in this state, to enjoy me being at my most open, relaxed and happy, but also for me to carry as much as I could from this state back into my normal life. She was so delighted for me, and relieved for herself. 

This was another huge turning point, as we returned to our old close contact and had the deepest mutual understanding we had had in years. We spoke some important truths to each other, all honestly intended and lovingly received. Some heavy weight of recent years had fallen away. It was just us again. 

And so it went on into the wee hours. Warmth, joy, intimacy, peace, insight, contact, bliss. Such a delicious and utterly productive way to spend a night. After a couple of hours there was a clear moment at which I felt the effects begin to diminish – pretty much like when an aeroplane begins its descent. There was a long way to go back down, and it was a little disappointing to think it would be over soon, but the glideslope was very, very gentle. And the next day, though I felt a bit spacey and found it very difficult to concentrate, I was otherwise fine. 

The uplifted state stayed with me and took a long time to fade — at least a couple of weeks. It had unleashed in me a rush of joy that was still accessible when I focused on it weeks later. That little tablet and a half helped me contact joy, revamp my relationship, recover my self-esteem, and have key insights

– Astro



Why was being Aryan so important to the Nazis?

Germany was late to unify. By the time Germany was “Germany” and not a collection of tiny kingdoms to be pillaged at semi-regular intervals by the armies of the great powers of Europe, most of the 19th century had already slipped away. The rush for overseas colonies was over and done with and Germany, though a great power in terms of her military and economy, didn’t feel much like a great power.

She lacked colonies, she lacked seniority in the international system, she was an upstart in a community of real powerbrokers.

It took a war against France (the Franco Prussian War) to really galvanize Germany’s unification and while Bismark was able to build an elaborate and brilliant system of political fakes and double fakes to improve Germany’s position in Europe, that system suffered in that it needed Bismark (or someone as clever as Bismark) to run it.

And so, once Bismark had been kicked to the curb, it wasn’t too terribly long before his elaborate system was ruined by lesser statesmen and WWI broke out.

The problem with WWI was mobilization. The Germans had thought long and hard about how they would survive a two front war in Europe in which both France and Russia conspired against them (Bismark’s solution was to never allow Germany to stand with the minority of the five major European powers) and it depended upon Russia’s railways running East-To-West rather than North-To-South. Russia had trouble mobilizing its army and so the Germans figured they could thump the French (again) and turn around and sucker-punch the Russians before they could get their army into uniforms and deployed to the front.

To do that though, Germany had to jump the gun on war; the moment the Russians started their call to arms the Germans were on a clock and unless the French were prepared to pledge non-aggression, the German army was tempting fate every day Paris wasn’t on fire. The French knew this — everyone knew this — and so they’d fortified the heck out of the border between France and Germany and if this is all sounding rather a lot like how WWII went down that’s because it is.

In any case, Germany rolls through Belgium in order to get around the French defences because they have to, the international community gets very very very upset with Germany over invading a neutral power (and will paint them as warmongers for the better part of the next 50 years) and the entire war gets blamed on them.

So now WWI is over and it was a long and horrible war. France, in particular, has been scared by the conflict and the experience only compounded their resentment towards Germany after the treaty which ended the Franco Prussian war (in fact, the Germans were forced to sign the treaty ending WWI in the same location they’d forced the French to sign the treaty ending the Franco Prussian War). The terms offered Germany are humiliating and debilitating – arms controls, war reparations, the Versailles treaty piles it all on. The result is that shortly after the war the German economy is in tatters and being kept afloat by the Daws Loans from the US which help to manage the war debt and keep the government solvent. Then, suddenly the floor drops out from under the world economy. The loans are recalled and Germany is thrust into the jaws of the Depression in a way that’s much much uglier than what happened in the USA.

The thing with everything up until this point is that it’s all big forces and sweeping changes which have driven Germany into its state of wretchedness. Even to very powerful and very influential members of the German government there seems very little that could have been done differently. Bismark’s system could not endure long without Bismark; shooting first in World War I was a strategic necessity for Germany; invading through Belgium was preferable to being smashed against France’s fortifications; and Germany was well and truly beaten on the field of battle — surrender was a real necessity. Yet in the midst of all this is this extremely eloquent and impassioned politician who keeps telling everyone that it wasn’t supposed to BE like this.

Germany is great, he says. Germany is worthy, he says. Now anyone can look around and tell you that the German government has, worthy, great, or otherwise, taken some pretty hard knocks and that the German state has failed almost completely in almost every measure by which we might judge a country’s greatness. Still with no colonies to speak of, still an “upstart” power, now shamed with the guilt of a world war and millions dead, still suffering economically under the crushing burden of war debt Germany is far FAR from the great nation that it imagined itself, bright eyed, before the Great War.

So Hitler says that the German people are great, the German race is great. Screw the government – it’s been sabotaged from within by the Jews, he claims. Hitler takes the institution of the German government and lays its failures — the surrender in the war, the economy, everything — at the feet of the people who are not, in his view, of the German race: “Aryan.”

In this way Hitler takes all of the failures and catastrophes above and he pins them, not on Germany or Germans but on a group that he more or less makes up within German society. He draws a bright line between them and says that the folks on this side of the line — the Aryans — are good, honest, hardworking, nobel, superior people to whom the good things they deserve have been denied by the people on that side of the line — the Jews, Gypsies, undesirables, etc.

And that renders the German race – the Aryans – blameless in Germany’s fall.

Being Aryan was a big deal to the Germans because being Aryan meant that everything that had gone wrong in the last generation or so wasn’t their fault; it meant that there was someone to blame for the suffering of their nation, someone to fight, something to do. It took away helplessness and gave purpose to people who were serious need of it.

Being Aryan meant being, not part of Germany disgraced, but part of Germany ascendant, Germany reborn, and Germany triumphant.

It’s a very powerful trap.



What kept Jews from “Blending In” during WWII?

There are a number of issues for Jews just “blending in”, which broadly speaking worked differently in Eastern and Western Europe.

In Western Europe, maltreatment of Jews was mostly incremental. The Nazis didn’t start mass murdering people right out of the gate (though it was clear that things were going to get bad for the Jews, and people did openly speak in the ’30s of the possibility of Jews being killed en masse, albeit not on the scale it actually occurred). First, citizenship was revoked, certain rights were rolled back, Jews were de-integrated from society, etc. Eventually you got things like the famous yellow stars. The penalties for pretending not to be Jewish were pretty steep, and being killed for being Jewish wasn’t an immediate threat. Additionally, records were used over time to make it difficult to hide Jewish lineage. While Jews “passing” would’ve been relatively easy in Germany, the environment pre-war made it an unlikely choice.

In Eastern Europe, the Germans essentially rolled in followed by killing squads and created ghettos in cities. However, there were a couple of issues. First, you did have some of the same effect as in Western Europe, where people feared the Germans finding them unregistered more than they feared what’d happen if they didn’t. Creating ghettos and killing everybody wasn’t announced.

In Kiev, for instance, Jews were told that they had to assemble with their possessions for resettlement a few days after the occupation began–anyone violating the order would be shot. But upon their arrival, they were all shot in a ravine at Babi Yar–only a few who managed to slip away survived. While some Jews might’ve feared what would happen, the prospect of being hunted down was present, and culturally speaking restrictions on Jewish residence in Europe wasn’t exactly a new phenomenon.

Additionally, in Eastern Europe much more than western, Jews weren’t very integrated. It’d be a dead giveaway if someone could only speak Yiddish (which would’ve happened in rural areas, though most people could probably converse in the local language) or couldn’t find non-Jews to vouch for them or couldn’t document a name that wasn’t Jewish.

In all these cases, the penalty for trying to “pass” was death, and the Nazis had whatever historical records were available to hunt down those who tried.

However, some people did. While it was difficult to do it, among the millions of Jews some were bound to try it, and some succeeded. Just yesterday we had someone here asking about documenting Jewish genealogies because their Litvak (Lithuanian-Jewish) ancestors intentionally obfuscated their Jewish heritage. And I know a woman (this anecdote is illustrative, not a source–that’d be against the rules) who survived the war as a girl in a Belgian orphanage–it was assured that there was no documentation tying her to being Jewish, and by all appearances she was just a young girl who was abandoned.

A better-known example is the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, which sheltered thousands of French Jews (and others escaping Nazi persecution). Note that France had an integrated Jewish community (so people could “pass”) and didn’t have the incremental persecution increases in Germany, so there was more incentive to try to avoid the Germans figuring out you were Jewish at all. It required a organized effort, and lots of forged documents–if you mysteriously had no record of birth in the local church, the Nazis wouldn’t just shrug and move on.

So in short, you’d have to decide way in advance to pass in Germany, and it’d be difficult to in Eastern Europe. In either case, the incentive to hide being Jewish wasn’t immediately apparent, but the risks of it were.



How do you spot a pyramid scheme recruiter?

— Did a friend, family member, classmate, co-worker, acquaintance, nice guy from the gym, customer or total stranger ask you out to coffee in order to discuss a *unique business opportunity*? Is it a time sensitive offer? Is the opportunity only open to a select number of investors? It’s probably a pyramid scheme.

— Or, they might ask you if you ever wanted to own your own business. Or what you would do if you didn’t have to worry about money. If you’d like to retire by the time you’re XX years old… because they just so happen to know someone who actually *DID* retire young and is now sitting on their ass rolling in “passive/residual income”!

— The most dedicated of pyramid scheme recruiters are typically well dressed and well groomed. We’re talking flashy business suits and wing tips for men, and cocktail dresses and heels for women. You’d think they were hitting an upscale lounge for a New Year’s Eve party or something. **THEY ARE TRYING TO CONVEY SUCCESS.** Of course, you’ll also get some that are dressed in smart/business casual. You’ll easily recognize a pyramid scheme recruiter when you see them, because they look completely out of place at Starbucks.

— If you do go for coffee with them, try to make them pay for your coffee. They won’t, but force the issue (“C’mon, *you’re* the one who wanted me to meet with you!”) and watch them try and weasel their way out of it. They probably have a half dozen meetings lined up for the day, so they can’t afford to pay for so many expensive venti lattes. Or, they might pay because they want to keep you happy and more receptive to their scam.

— The recruiters will often “work” in pairs, as a married/engaged/dating couple. This helps make them appear more trustworthy to you. They’ll want you to bring your significant other along to the meeting if you’ve got one. They act VERY, VERY nice and charming and seem like they really want to get to know you and be friends. They’ll pay you inane compliments, like how you seem to them like you’ve got a good head on your shoulders and you’re smart and shit. When you arrive for your meeting with them, they’ll greet you with a hug; and another one at the end of the meeting before you leave. It’s a cheap way for them to further build rapport with you. A hug conveys a higher level of personal intimacy and friendship than a mere handshake.

— They will say that they work as mentors, life coaches, entrepreneurs, or business owners. They initially won’t be very specific as to what type of business they run. They will dodge any probing questions you might have.

— They’ll tell you all about *their* mentors and life coaches, about how successful they are in life (“My mentor owns the most expensive apartment in Seattle!” — an actual quote I heard) and how grateful they are to have been taken under their wings.

— In their first meeting with you, they WILL NOT discuss business. Instead, they will tell you all about themselves — where they grew up, things that they’ve done, and how they’ve become the shining beacon of success sitting before you today. Then, they will try to get to know you and “evaluate” if you’re a good fit for the business — this is pure bullshit, but it makes you believe you have a chance of being qualified enough to join their exclusive club. They are propping up your ego and trying to make you feel special.

— They won’t tell you *how* they make money. They will never outright say the names of the companies they work for, because they know the negative connotations associated with Amway/World Wide Dream Builders, ACN, World Financial Group, Primerica, Mary Kay, Herbalife, Vector Marketing, etc. They want to get you curious and hooked first.

— They will ask if you’ve ever read any of Robert Kiyosaki’s books –[ *RICH DAD POOR DAD*] [*THE BUSINESS OF THE 21ST CENTURY*] These books have dark purple covers and are easily recognizable. Another book that’s gaining popularity is [*THE GO-GIVER*]. In general, be weary of any self-help/financial advice book they try to assign you as homework to read. Reading one single book ≠ a business degree.

— They may try to wow you and tell you about all the conventions they get to fly out to and attend in pseudo-exotic locations… like say, St. Louis! WOW, indeed!

— Do you work a crappy retail job? Are you a server at a restaurant? Are you university-aged (20’s)? Are you in debt? Pyramid scheme recruiters know you’re unsatisfied with your minimum wage job/life (especially in *this* economy!) and try to exploit your burning desire to “get ahead in life” by acting as a life line.

— Most recruiters are *usually* Caucasian and in their 20’s or 30’s. I’ve seen them begin to target immigrants from the Philippines  and the Afro-Caribbean islands, who presumably have no reason to believe that the well dressed, rich-looking white person offering to share the secrets of wealth with them is actually trying to scam them.

— “It’s not a pyramid scheme!” Instead, they’ll call it multi level marketing (MLM), network marketing, direct selling, referral marketing, etc. They’ll resort to saying all the bad things you’ve read online/heard about Amway are rumors and lies, or were from bitter people who didn’t have what it took to make it in the business.

— They will usually have their coffee shop meetings on weekends and after dinner (~7 PM) on weekdays. That’s because they have day jobs (like pretty much everyone else.) The ironic thing is they won’t hesitate to talk shit about day jobs and how MLM will supposedly free you from the shackles of the 9-5 grind.

— That one friend you have on social media who only ever seems to post motivational quotes and status updates about how hard they’re “killing it”? Odds are pretty decent that they’re involved in a pyramid scheme. Motivational quotes are like scripture to pyramid scheme recruiters.

— When in doubt, use Google and common sense. If someone knew the secrets to financial success, why would they ever share that knowledge with pretty much anyone who crosses their path? Why are they doing YOU such a huge favor? Why is this sharkskin suited yuppie conducting high powered business meetings at the Second Cup if he’s already got it allllllllll figured out? Why won’t he pay for your coffee? Do not for a second believe when they say they want to “pay it forward” or “give back”. Nobody ever offers something in exchange for nothing. Be vigilant and skeptical.



What’s It Like To Go To Harvard?

Harvard is a very extreme place. You go there and everyone is extremely smart, extremely driven, extremely focused on attaining their goals. It is so extreme that it can become scary sometimes. When you have a bunch of people with high intelligence, but who are not necessarily mature or moral, you can get some pretty nasty results (that’s how you get so many insecure, bright students going into Wallstreet to make a lot of money even though it’s screwing everyone else over). 

Even the clubs are extreme. You don’t just write for the newspaper. You have to go through a semester long competitive process to be selected into the Crimson. And after that, if you want to do well in the Crimson, you have to work your ass off and neglect your studies to be considered a true trooper. Kids here consider their extracurriculars a job. All social interactions have some sort of shady networking pre-professional slime to them.  

A lot of students are really full of themselves. They spend all their time climbing the ladders of success and trying to win everything. Everyone is super busy all the time. You have to arrange lunches with your friends about two weeks in advance. 

Harvard is not the type of place where you backstab your friend, but if your friend fell in a race, you would keep on running and not bend down to help. Students, for the most part, are only interested in their own benefit and will do things that look good, rather than things that are good. 

But then again, there is the other extreme too. There are people who come to Harvard, not because of legacy or money, but because they are genuinely interested in the truth. I’ve met people who are so gifted at their focus, whether it’s poetry, writing comic books, musical composition, or biomedical research, and they work on these things night and day. They thrive in the guidance of their professors, and I have faith that they will make a meaningful contribution someday. I try to stick to those people. 

If you ask any student what they think about Harvard, most will say that they hate it, but that they found a great group of friends who keep them sane. Those who really really really love the place have some serious mental problems–either in that they are super disingenuous or are psychopaths, or are there really only to network and join the super elite circles of final clubs and whatnot.

Harvard is still a very elite place. You will feel out of place if you are anything but a white male. You will feel a bit uncomfortable if you come from a normal middle class family, because bit by bit you see just how much money your fellow peers have.

You will realize that Harvard doesn’t care about you. Professors have office hours, yes, and they say to come, but their heart is not into it. Everyone at Harvard is there for their own benefit, for their research and for advancing their careers. Occasionally you will find professors who genuinely care, but they are the exception. 

I knew going into Harvard that it wouldn’t be easy, that Mother Harvard does not coddle. And I was right. It has been hard as hell. And it’s sad to learn the truth about Harvard. But truth does make you stronger, and I would not be as strong as I am today if I didn’t gain these hard lessons from my undergrad years.

– My-Ngoc ToHarvard undergrad