Do You Feel Lucky?

(and feel free to comment! My older posts are certainly no less relevant to the burning concerns of the day.)

Sunday, October 09, 2011

So Okay, I'll Bite: What the Hell?

Speculations about the nature of hell have approximately the intellectual weight of speculations about the nature of galaxy-spanning alien civilizations. That's not a lot of intellectual weight. In my mind, at least! We're talking feather-juggling. That is some extremely breezy, lightweight talk, as substantial as a zephyr - and just as refreshing, for those who like to work and to play with ideas! Ah.

But as much as I can spend pleasurable hours with someone interested in such a thing, as fun as it may be to busy ourselves working through permutations of possible galaxy-spanning alien civilizations, each of us not-a-moron in that conversation will recognize that #1: there may actually be no such things at all. It's entirely possible there is not one single alien civilization out there, galaxy-spanning or of smaller size, in all the reaches of space. Seems a little on the preposterous side to me, but admittedly I'm anthropomorphizing there. I expect these aliens to exist, because well fuck. People exist! Which is a bit of a shit argument, technically. These aliens may be nothing like us. Just because we exist doesn't mean they do. They may not exist at all. There's no reason we should assume we can apply our standards to them. Talk about existential arrogance.

And #2, each of us not-a-moron in that conversation is going to fully recognize that all our airy talk, all our conception of details, myriad aspects of these alien civilizations we conjure forth from the merely possible - all of that has no relation to whatever reality actually is. Pure conjecture. Fun stuff!

Which brings us to hell. Same deal, really. You want to talk about hell? You want to talk about long soaks in lakes of fire, alternating with thorough sessions under the care of flesh-tearing hook-wielding aestheticians, like some macabre day spa gone horribly Clive Barker? Or do you prefer the dark, mad room, where you sit staring for all eternity at the worst demons your own worst actions, missteps and maltreatments of others can summon up? There's the ever-popular 'poetic justice' hell, where what you get bears some really insufferably cute relationship to some bullshit thing you did, or some attitude you have. Or the increasingly popular "hell-is-merely-the-eternal-absence-of-God" option! (Sometimes conceived in terms practically identically to the atheist's conception of hell, which is: you dead, dude.

Gone. Over. Identity wiped, individuality erased, consciousness not at all transitioned: EXTINGUISHED. Exeunt, defunct - slammed through the buzzer-beaten hoop of the universe on a nasty dunk! And vanished down that well, never so much as reaching the floor to bounce). Theologians, I tell you! Got to love 'em. They get into this stuff! They're every bit as legitimately geeky as sci-fi fans. Sure, I'll be interested if whoever else is! Bring the bring. I can talk about hell with an avid and open-minded conversationalist for idle hours and call it paradise. But where's it going to get me?

No closer to hell, that's for sure.

People who happen to be interested in speculating about various things, that's just an interest. It doesn't speak well of a person, to cherish or burnish some particular idle interest. It doesn't speak at all poorly of a person if they lack the interest. If you could design a boat that would float based on how you buttered your bread, made your bed, and lay in it - well you'd have to show me first before I grant you a patent, but it would probably be a very enforceable patent because that's some kind of crazy boat!

And that's exactly the point: it's your boat. The mechanisms by which it achieves buoyancy are purely your concern, and nothing for anyone to criticize.

I have a pretty good idea about it, though. About where you're headed with this hell of yours - the hell of your preferred conception, I mean. You're leaning toward the lakes-of-fire idea, right? Yeah, you want to see about taking that boat of yours out on those lakes. What a spectacular fucking view that would be, as the sun sets on another picture-perfect day in your favorite stretch of hell! Out by the flaming lakeside, a little piece of hell. Ah.

The only real problem with hell is the monotony aspect, let's be honest. To we easily-bored mortals, eternity's a far more daunting than some suffering. Especially if the suffering is particularly exotic! You know damn well no matter what hell you come up with, if travel agencies could book you a one-week tour and back again, those would be extremely popular vacation packages. Tons of people, lining up to be there, do that, bring back the damned t-shirt. People today are curious for new and extreme travel destinations - and I for one can't think of what could be further 'out there' than hell!

Except...maybe a week in the capital city of the home planet of some galaxy-spanning alien civilization, maybe? Wow. Even just thinking about it. Pret-ty cool!

Nah. Not even close. Hell's way more exotic, no matter how you slice it.

No contest.

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