Newsweek Article or Drug Trip?

Newsweek - Heaven Is RealErowid is an organization that provides information about drugs and the experiences that drug users report. From the earliest days of its website (that predates the organization by about a decade), it has more focused on psychedelic drugs (but it covers all of them). On the site are lots of “trip reports” where people explain what happened to them while high.

The deliciously evil Max Read over at Gawker has created a test to see if you can tell the difference between passages from Erowid trip reports and the recent Newsweek cover story, Heaven Is Real. Let me offer you a taste of this with one passage each from the Newsweek article and an Erowid trip report. I’ll tell you which is which after you read through them.

First:

As I walked deeper, I could see, standing in the middle of the room, an object similar to an hour glass. It was slowly turning over. I became aware that this vessel, as it tipped over, transferring its contents from the small red end to the larger blue end, was transforming me.

Second:

The message had three parts, and if I had to translate them into earthly language, I’d say they ran something like this: ‘You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.’ ‘You have nothing to fear.’ ‘There is nothing you can do wrong.’ The message flooded me with a vast and crazy sensation of relief. It was like being handed the rules to a game I’d been playing all my life without ever fully understanding it.

This is really hard. The truth is, even after looking at the answers, I keep mistaking one for the other. I’m pretty sure that the first one is the trip report and the second is the Newsweek article. But if you really want to be certain, you should click over the the Gawker article and see for yourself.

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about this. I am not ridiculing the drug trip reports. These things are beautiful and meaningful. They say much about what we are as human beings. The problem is with the Newsweek article. It claims to be something that the trip reports do not: a report of some external reality. The human mind—under the influence of drugs or not—has an astounding[1] ability to create narrative structures based upon the smallest of external stimuli.

It’s pathetic that Newsweek doesn’t seem to understand this. But what do you expect when a major news magazine puts Tina Brown in charge?

Thanks to regular reader Andy for pointing me to this.


[1] It’s astounding:

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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