In case it wasn’t clear from the title of this post, I’m going to use the word Hell a lot. Mom, you might want to turn back now. “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.*“
I left work today to go to my monthly massage appointment. I can tell you right now that the massage was absolutely not what inspired this post. The massage was divine and I feel SO much better.
It was the walk from the Chiropractic Office back to Kendall Sq to catch the shuttle that got me thinking. What the Hell is up?
I got to work at 7:30 this morning and I spent the entirety of the day inside. I was supposed to leave at 2:30pm but having more stuff to do than time, I got out the door at 4:00pm to walk to my 6:00pm appointment. I knew I’d have time to kill, but what I was not prepared for was the weather.
It apparently hit a high of 89 (all temps are in Fahrenheit for reference of my non-American audience) today. When I left the office it was in the upper 70’s according to my phone. The dew point was somewhere around 1000%.
It was revolting.
I wasn’t in a hurry so I took a relaxing and shady walk to the chiropractic office. By the time I got there I was dripping with sweat. I got to sit in the waiting room reading for an hour with the AC on full blast and I was barely cooled off in time for my appointment.
Why do I bring all of this up?
Because I went through all of it again, along with a shuttle and a bus ride to get home and I realized that conventional notions of Hell are all wrong.
“And what is hell? Can you tell me that?”
“A pit full of fire.”
“And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there for ever?”
“What must you do to avoid it?”
I deliberated a moment: my answer, when it did come was objectionable: “I must keep in good health and not die.”
― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Sorry, Charlotte, there’s no fire in Hell. There’s none of this either.
Fire dries things out. Fire consumes, unless it’s the eternal kind. Fire is for parched hillsides and dry leaves. Fire =/= Hell, sorry, George.
“So, have a little fun. Soon enough you’ll be dead and burning in Hell with the rest of your family.”
― George Carlin, Brain Droppings
Hell is a swamp. Hell is Louisiana in August. Hell is dimly lit and sticky with a moisture that seeps into your bones. It is filled with mosquitoes and ticks. It is always just about to rain, but it never does. There’s rot, mold, mildew, and fungus everywhere. Slippery slimy things slither through the swamp. Stinging insects swarm the moist air but you can’t really see them. There’s no brightly burning Hell fire here. Just bog lights and the occasional far off flashes of lightning that promise relief – relief that never comes.
Nothing is dry, nothing is solid, and just when you think you can’t sweat any more, another trickle gets in your eyes or runs between your shoulder blades. And, of course, there are other people there. All the coworkers you can’t stand. The people who turn right from the left lane without signaling. That guy from the bus with the really bad BO. The Koch brothers. Sartre had that part right.
“So this is hell. I’d never have believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture-chambers, the fire and brimstone, the “burning marl.” Old wives’ tales! There’s no need for red-hot pokers. Hell is—other people!”
― Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit
Lucky for us here in New England, we’ve got several more days of this to endure before that far off thunderstorm finally arrives. Until then, I leave you with this little tidbit of wisdom.
“Hell wasn’t a major reservoir of evil, any more than Heaven, in Crowley’s opinion, was a fountain of goodness; they were just sides in the great cosmic chess game. Where you found the real McCoy, the real grace and the real heart-stopping evil, was right inside the human mind.”
― Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
Can I get an Amen?
* “All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”
― Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy