Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Reality of HELL

The other night I was watching Ghost Hunters. I have no excuse for this other than I was bored and that show, believe it or not, relaxes me. Anyway, they were investigating an old TB sanatorium in Louisville not far from me called Waverly. In the course of the investigation one of the crew asked the ghosts "Are we in Hell?" Meaning, "we" as in all of humanity. There was no answer.

When I was a bright young thing in high school, I had a journalism teacher who had then just recently been diagnosed with MS. She was a woman who kept her emotions hidden, especially from her students. I was the co-editor of the yearbook and got to know her since she was the advisor working on it with us. One afternoon when it was just the two of us in the journalism lab we somehow got on the topic of the afterlife. More specifically, Hell. We wrestled through the various incarnations of the place and when I mentioned that maybe we were in Hell already, that it could only get better from here, her eyes lit up. I imagine my eyes looked the same to her because the idea had only just come to me then.There was a strange comfort in the thought, and I think we both felt it.

Growing up a Jehovah's Witness, I was taught that there was no literal Hell. There was a literal Heaven, but only 144,000 anointed by God would see that and I wasn't one of those. Hell, in the JW belief, is simply death. You die and you never wake up. Jw's believe that after Armageddon there will be a resurrection. Everyone who has ever lived. (Can we say "over-population"?)Those who are not of the 144,000 will live peacefully on a paradise Earth for 1000 years. Then, there will be a...ahem, cleansing of sorts, wiping out those who went back to their ghastly heathen ways, i.e. the gays, the feminists, etc. Those that remain are the ones who get eternal life. It always sounded a bit Orwellian to me. What a mess. Anyway, my point is, no literal Hell.

Whether it be the underworld of the ancient Greeks or Dante's Inferno, Hell has always brought to mind agony and twisted pain. As if anything in the afterlife could be worse than what we think up here, worse than what we do here. Just turn on the evening news. If you listen to them, Hell is right next door. I am left to wonder how many people actually still believe in a literal Hell. I for one think that if there is a literal Hell then God is a jerk who doesn't deserve my worship. He's but an omniscient sadist. 

Hell is different for everyone. I think it does exist, but as a state of mind. 

Hell is indeed other people sometimes. 

Hell is doing the same thing over and over, a trapped spirit in a dark house. 

Hell is being trapped in paralysis. I had a brief taste of that. Very brief, but it felt forever. 

Hell is the situation you can see no way out of. 

Hell is being alone. 

Hell is shattered dreams.

But buck up, Bucky Boo! There is a way out. There is always hope. I think, like everything, change and evolution happen because people will it to happen. Human will is a powerful thing, an almost supernatural thing. The great collective soul says, "We've had enough of this. Let's move on." And we do. Sometimes slowly. Sometimes with the simple nudge of a book or a film. Our minds, our beliefs, have given us great leaps in evolution in the past. I think it's time to jump again. Let's make better hells. Ones that are easier to control and ones that we can eventually get rid of altogether.


  1. Lots to think about here, Eric. Well done! (Do you post your blogs on Open Salon? If not, you should think of doing so.)

    1. Thanks, Dorien! I looked into it a while back. I don't know why I didn't pursue it. I'll give it another look. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. I'm more inclined to think of Hell as something more esoteric or "shattered dreams-ish" than anything else (and being Jewish, I don't believe in going to Hell, anyway). Hell right now is doing lunch duty and watching the 9th, 10th, and 11th graders eating at the trough like farm animals (something we 12th grade teachers have to endure since all our students leave early for the year). :)

  3. Great pondering post, Eric. Growing up, one side of my family were devout JW and the other side fire & brimstone Baptists - Throw being gay in the mix and you can imagine my thoughts as a child! Nice, thought-provoking posting.