HUMOR: Sudden Combustive Enlightenment

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Wed, 28 Apr 1999 04:47:58 -0500

I was rooting around my hard drive when I found this piece, originally written at age 14, by way of making fun of the War on Drugs. Hope you guys enjoy.


Sudden Combustive Enlightenment: Three words that strike fear into the heart of every parent today.

In 1996, over 400,000 teenagers died of Sudden Combustive Enlightenment. A teenager meditates for the first time every 2.3 minutes. American inner-city ghettos are littered with broken statues of Buddha, and the thick smell of incense and the sound of koans fill government housing for the poor.

Police have failed to stem the massive tide of Buddhic statues flowing in from China and Japan. Adding to the problem are the statues made in the U.S. "Everybody's making them." says Chief of Police Steven Miller. "They're a quick source of money for anyone who needs it. We busted a teacher who had children making them out of Play-Dough."

Government efforts at prohibition only raise prices and profits for dealers in meditation, known as "Masters" to their helpless addicts. The average statues, or "street statues", cost up to $100 apiece. The
"good stuff", made from jade and ivory, can cost thousands or even tens
of thousands of dollars. The typical "Master" has twenty "students" and makes hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

Police tell horror stories of what they find in government housing.
"There was one room that was so filled with the smoke of incense that we
had trouble breathing." relates Sergeant Foster. "Cockaroaches scurried all over the place. All the lights had been ripped out and replaced with meditative candles. In the basement, twenty or thirty teenagers sat with hands in their laps and a glazed look in their eyes, chanting. We put handcuffs on, and most of them didn't notice. One of them died on the way to the police station. He'd meditated for too long. He achieved oneness with his inner self and fused his brain. There was this huge spike of flame...Thank God we kept them in flameproof blankets."

Meditation was once a relatively minor social problem, with most forms providing a minor buzz that was only slightly addictive. Then more dangerous forms of meditation became available. "I'll admit it, we ignored the problem," says Chief Miller. "We thought it was just harmless fun. But that was Zen. This is Tao."

Parents say that even if their child doesn't die of Sudden Combustive Enlightenment, meditation can ruin their grades in school. "Jeffrey was always at the top of his class," tells his mother, Mrs. Burns. "Then he and some friends went out for a night on the town. One of his friends gave him this crude idol of Buddha, and told him to try it sometime. Soon he was chanting and burning incense. His grades started to go down. His answers at school were always obscure. Then one day he snapped completely. He wrote 'the Tao that can be integrated is not the true Tao' on his math exam. He wrote something about a tree in a golden forest on his history essay. It was like a nightmare."

Gangs of "students" often have "theological disagreements" that end in violence. In 1996, there were 3,000 shootings over disputes on the
"Eightfold Path" alone. "Students" rob banks and start health-food
stores to buy incense and statues of Buddha.

Continued meditation rapidly leads to complete mental and physical disintegration. One of the first side effects of meditation is baldness and a tendency to chant. The "student" invariably refuses to give straight answers. Once hard-core meditation begins, answers become completely irrelevant. In the advanced stages, five out of four
"students" become schizophrenic. And then there is the dreaded Sudden
Combustive Enlightenment, in which too much time spent meditating leads the "student" to become "one with his inner self". In SCE, plutonium atoms in the brain undergo nuclear fusion, absorbing large amounts of energy and lethal radiation.

Psychiatrists who speculate why teenagers turn to meditation believe that it is the result of an inability to answer the moral questions of a complex world. "Their friends tell them 'meditate, and all shall become clear'. That can be very tempting to teenagers who want easy answers." On the other hand, "students" say much the same thing when asked why otherwise sane people become psychiatrists.

Can "students" be cured? At the Medititational Rehabilitilitation Center, scientists are looking for a way. Hardly a week passes without some new sign of hope. Recently published results indicate that three out of four "students" constitute almost 75% of those who have fallen prey to this debilitating addiction. Despite this, the hold of meditation, once established, is almost impossible to break. The best cure, they say, is not to start.

If you find your teenager meditating, call the Rehabilitilitation Hotline at 1-800-DON'T-ZEN. Remember: Tomorrow may be too late.

--          Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.