With lots of physical pain thrown in for good measure
What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.
- Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881)
Bar Bar Bar - Another planksip Möbius From Within The Hellenic Hegemony
“What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me!”
- Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-1866)
…I am pretty sure, at least
They say Heaven is a place on Earth. I am not so sure about that, but I do know one thing for certain: Hell is.
I would know – I used to live there. In fact, up until not very long ago, I did not even realize that I was able to live anywhere else; I just assumed that we were all meant to be trapped in our own personal nightmare worlds, forever helpless and in pain. This pain is most clearly epitomized in the modern suburban mother, who must navigate a ghastly realm of slithering serpents with smiles sewed onto their faces, a sort of “Stepford on steroids” realm where nobody is truly your friend but they all stick around to chat anyway, likely for the sole purpose of gathering information to spread throughout the neighborhood like the good for nothing gossipy hens that they are.
That is the most typical corner of Hell in which most people (at least most people living in first world countries) tend to find themselves standing (there are no chairs in Hell, of course). It is far from the only corner of Hell that can be entered, however; indeed, there are so many different doorways that lead to so many different chambers within the highly layered lair that is Hell, to list and detail all of them would actually be counterproductive, as you will likely be so wiped out from trudging through this brochure of least desirable travel destinations that you will end up retaining none of the information and, in effect, more confused than you would have been had you not read any of this to begin with.
Therefore, I am not going to discuss the particularities of each realm. The nuances are simply too subtle. Just know that there are a whole lot of different ways to experience Hell, and all of them have to do with losing one’s capacity to give and receive love.
You see, in Hell, there is no love; of course, that means that on the flip side, in Heaven, there is no hate – a reality that, for many of us, is impossible to even imagine. This place beyond the clutches of hate cannot be fathomed, and yet nobody has much trouble conjuring up a mental picture of the loveless world.
Why is this? It is simple: because most of us – the vast majority, I would say- are longtime residents of this world. To paint a picture of Hell to the average bloke is to provide them with a professional quality snapshot of their life – one taken at an angle that manages to include all of the various mechanisms at play to keep them firmly submerged in it.
If we are aware of all this misery that is seemingly inherent to the nature of our existence, no matter how different the specifics may be, then why do we do nothing to address the situation? If we all know about this Hell, why don’t we all just get together and have a “humanity team meeting” (we really need to start having those, by the way; why we still choose to fight wars when we all have desks, note pads, and writing utensils is beyond me)?
Well, just think about it logically, mate: You are stuck in this horrid pit of suffering and hatred. Somebody you know has recently taken a vacation from this pit (either incidentally or through a series of conscious, intentional choices that led to a temporary escape from perpetual desolation. While away from the pit, this person discovers an entire world populated with flowers and good Samaritans, where the birds and the wind between the trees join together to sing sweet songs in praise of the divine love that pervades all, like Jehovah’s favorite choir, and the pancakes are never burnt along the edges (yet still crispy enough to where the syrup does not cause them to fall apart like a crumbling volcano).
Naturally, upon returning to the pit of doom and utter despondency, your former fellow partner in pain is now going around and telling everyone about this magical place where everyone looks after one another and there is always something to be grateful for. You look around and see the exact opposite of that. You think, “wow, clearly this person has lost their damn mind” and write the whole thing off as the ramblings of a raving lunatic. You remain blissfully unaware of the existence of this world free from all that afflicts you and, as a result, you stay hopelessly padlocked in a casket that you spend your days decorating.
This is typically how it plays out. As humans, we are highly resistant to anything that strikes us as a serious challenge. We are always up for a frivolous contest, like answering mindless trivia questions or trying to toss a plastic ring around a traffic cone. When it comes to anything that would require bold and, more importantly, consistent action, however, we tend to opt in favor of the far less resistant path, where we get to essentially keep doing things the exact same way without ever letting the thought of an alternative to this lifestyle so much as graze the vicinity of our consciousnesses (consciousni? No, that sounds like a Mediterranean salad accessory).
Learning what true love entails, how to cultivate it, when and where to apply it, and how to avoid being duped by one of the many counterfeits floating around is an immense challenge. It is a challenge so grand and all-encompassing in its scope that to even be aware of it is, in itself, a burden one must carry (at least until one is finally ready to address the challenge, once and for all).
The simplest course of action is to avoid being made aware of it by any means necessary. Surround yourself with only those who will confirm your deeply held convictions and beliefs regarding the nature of all existence – snakes and sycophants, of which there is no shortage down in Hell. If you do this, you will never worry about having to feel uncomfortable, as you will be perfectly content living out the rest of your days in this intricately knotted web of endless confusion…with plenty of physical pain thrown in for good measure (boom, title drop baby).
If you decide, instead, that you wish to abandon this dim realm for good, then you must be prepared to actively seek discomfort. You must put yourself under duress, intentionally. As the old saying goes, growth and comfort do not hold hands. I do not know the origin of that saying, nor its age, but I do know that it likely is a legitimate saying since it was first introduced to me by my roommate, who, in turn, heard it from one of the guys who lives in the building we just moved out of, who himself was told it by his ex-girlfriend.
This alone makes it a saying. It has to. If enough people say something, at what point can it be referred to as a saying?
This is a very good question. I have not really thought it through, as it never occurred to me to even think it up and ask it to myself in the first place. If I had any internet connection at this new apartment, I would look it up; alas, we are living in the dark ages for now, where my only frame of reference is my mind and whatever I have managed to keep contained within its confines.
So, I am really not working with much here.
Nevertheless, I am always willing to exert all of the effort I need to in order to perform what is required of me, across each and every task that has been assigned to me – and not just the ones I get paid for, either.
By the grace of God and his messengers, I was pulled up into the higher realm. This has had such a profound impact on the trajectory of my life that I cannot imagine a day in which I cease to wake up bursting with gratitude and excitement.
I used to dread being alive. Many of my “friends” were the same way – fixated on all of the world’s faults without ever stopping to consider the possibility that these perceived “faults” were mere projections of our own, internal issues. Life was one big cross to bear because each of us refused to take the time to stop and address our individual crosses. It is too overwhelming of a process to begin, we reason ourselves into believing.
However, once I realized that the act of starting this process is the only thing overwhelming about it, and that the rest just sort of unfolds and comes together naturally, with less and less effort required to maintain the process over time until, eventually, there is no longer a “process” to maintain and you have fully transitioned into a happy, healthy, self-actualized existence – once that became clear to me, I gave up resisting and immediately noticed several marked changes in my life.
First of all, I began to see that a large portion of my social circle was comprised of people that did not actually care about me in the least bit – they just wanted another figure to cite in their traveling presentation entitled “Here Are All The Metrics I Use To Evaluate The Quality Of My Life, And After I Am Done, I Would Like To See Your Presentation”, which they are prepared to deliver at any moment to anyone who will give them the time of day.
This is not necessarily due to any malicious intent from them. Most people are unaware of the role they are fated to play in the game of life. As a result, they feel that they have no choice but to continue to fill a position that makes them miserable.
But you always have a choice…or do you?
Here is where it gets tricky (even for me):
Do you always have a choice to trade in a life of sin in the flaming depths of Hell for a life of selfless service under the glistening, auspicious light of the Lord? Or, is this “choice” merely an illusion meant to convince us that we are able to decide where our lives take us when, in reality, they will always take us to one of these two places (and, in the end, really just one of them)? Is learning to do what is necessary to reach Heaven (and stay there) part of our destiny?
If the answer to those last two questions is “yes” (and I tend to believe that it is), then that means the process of growth is inevitable, which means that if you are not currently engaged in it, then it is on your horizon. So, if you happen to find yourself standing in a big, steaming pile of suffering (wet, too, and seeping through your shoe), then guess what? Not only are you about to step into a brand-new pair of kicks, courtesy of cosmic karma – you are about to step into a world where the only thing “steaming” is the complimentary coffee (and, by coffee, I mean compassion and respect).
You no longer have to live in fear that you are simply not meant to be happy in this life, for the unrelenting light of joy – true, lasting joy that comes from an abundant source - will begin to tickle your eyelids open until all you see are rays of love.
And there is nothing you can do about it. One way or another, love is going to find its way into your life, and save you from Hell.
I look forward to seeing you in paradise soon, my friends.
It smells great here.
Make Love, Not War and How to Identify the Underdog Fallacy
Inspired by Mark Twain (1835-1910)'s quote, "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog." The titled responsion is akin to the inner daemon, that little voice inside you that will snap if backed into a corner.
One of my favorite quotations, 'The Small Dog is the King of the Fight,' has been attributed to Mark Twain. I've read a number of biographies and other works about Twain and have never found a direct connection between his words and the actual story of the Dog and its owner. However, as a dog owner myself, I can tell you that the Dog was indeed the one with the most to lose in this fight, as there were not only his pride, but also his life!
'It is not the size of your dog in the battle, it is the size of your dog in the war,' said Twain. This quotation is often attributed to Twain, but this is definitely not true in any primary source. In fact, when I first read the poem, I assumed Twain was saying that dogs have the least to fear because they are so small and easy to deal with. As I sat reading this, I realized Twain was talking about fighting dogs, not small dogs! This is the real reason the Dog was allowed into this fight.
The Dog was a trained Pit Bull. It was trained by an owner who didn't realize that he was actually getting into a deadly conflict when the Dog attacked the owner, not a small dog. The owner tried to get the Dog away from the attack, but the Dog wouldn't move. Instead, it kept charging him back at the head with its mouth. Finally, at this point, the owner decided to pull out his gun and shoot at the Dog, thinking this would scare the Dog and get it to go away. When the owner did this, it caused the Dogs face to fly open and blood to spurt out of its mouth.
The Rise of the Anti-Logos
Inspired by Thomas Sowell (1930-present)'s quote, "If you are not prepared to use force to defend civilization, then be prepared to accept barbarism." The titled responsion is bar bar barbarism.
The caption for the meme suggests, in responsion, the movement towards a plurality of bar bar dialog. This is the pacifist approach. Not to be confused with, pass me the fist cockroach. I mention this sans swollen amygdala. I prefer my thinking stirred not shaken, even the thought of a head pounding mixes my metaphors.
In his 1999 book, Barbarians Inside the Gates and Other Controversial Essays, Thomas Sowell makes a compelling case that one of the greatest social evils of our day is rampant anti-intellectualism. Thomas has had some experience with this, having been a professor of economics at Stanford University. So, what exactly is it? In his book, Sowell explains that "Barbarism," the state in which an individual thinks, acts and feels like a barbarian (or "bastard," to use the French word), is basically a combination of irrationality and violence, which have been applied through the ages to different cultures. So, if you think that it is a bad idea to be an intellectual in today's society, than you are in total agreement with Thomas Sowell on that subject.
Here are a few quotes from Thomas Sowell: "The march of civilization does not mean increasing intellectual complexity in peoples' lives. It means more freedom for people to choose their way in life. It means more rational articulation of the principles that they hold dear. It means more tolerance and openness to change. It means more moral responsibility for other people. It also means a higher respect for human life and dignity."
As I said above, Barbarism in America is a very compelling book. I read it in a couple days because it was so engrossing. The author was very careful to point out that he was not saying that anti-intellectualism is a bad thing. What he was saying is that certain practices and attitudes toward intellectuals lead to a lack of intellectual debate in our society and eventually to an increase in anti-intellectualism. And what will we do without a robust debate of ideas?