Thursday, September 29, 2011

the tomorrow factor

In the hazy and speculative realm between getting out of bed and making the usual attempts to be awake, it popped up in my mind:

Wouldn't it be natural for a good Christian to pray to go to hell? In what better place could s/he find condemned nitwits in need of comfort and, perhaps, conversion ... two of God's suggestions according to my hazy and speculative understanding of Christian lore.

But of course no one prays to go to hell, whatever its definition. Everyone, in whatever spiritual persuasion, makes a bee-line for heaven, for improvement, for relief and release: Harps and halos, here I come! Bright lights and bliss and get-thee-behind-me-Satan! Today may be iffy, but tomorrow ... tomorrow everything will be ahhhh. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus ... OK.

Well, it's just a mild and teasing thought ... with what I think is a quite serious edge.

Human beings suffer. They resist the pain they are offered and they suffer. This is no joke and has fuck-all to do with religion or philosophy. It's what actually happens. And within that framework, who wouldn't seek a way out, a way up, a way to make things better? Look under a microscope at a single-celled paramecium in a drop of toxic water: Even without a 'brain,' the critter tries to get away. If this is the way of the 'brainless,' how much ornate must the efforts of the 'brainy' be?

So there's heaven: If you make an effort today, you won't get burned tomorrow. This is the invitation. Those accepting the invitation make determined efforts ... to improve, to escape, to be good. Who could criticize such an effort? Not I. Suffering is no goddamned joke!

Some even express their determination not by envisioning a steady-state better tomorrow, but by challenging suffering with still more self-inflicted suffering. Flagellation, for example, or having themselves literally nailed to crosses, come Easter. Mortification ... a means to humility and the smothering of a lawless self.

But I imagine there are more who hew to the brighter-tomorrow than challenge the gloomy today. A promise is more appealing, more in line with actual-factual, here-and-now suffering.

But wouldn't you think that at some point, the yearning for a heaven that divided the saints from the sinners, the wise from the ignorant, the good from the bad would take on a revised character? Promising and praying for a brighter tomorrow among the anointed ... well, wouldn't God prefer a soul who came to the aid of those less fortunate? How could you do God's work -- or the work of whatever promise was premised -- by entering the very hell anyone might long (at first) to flee and escape? How could anyone do God's work otherwise? So perhaps it would be a natural progression ... pray your ass off to get to heaven (or whatever improvement was promised) followed by praying your ass off to get to hell, the realm in which God's efforts (or your own) were most dearly needed?

Lord, let me go to hell!

But this approach too finds a fly in the ointment. Praying to get to heaven (tomorrow) is followed by praying to get to hell (tomorrow). All the determination and effort and good work is still premised on an improvement or delight or despair that isn't here yet but will be ... tomorrow. Tomorrow, after I'm dead or once I've improved or after I have entered some incalculable bliss.

And tomorrow never comes.

Here I am today, working diligently to get there ... tomorrow.

And perhaps that is the final challenge: Today. Now. Here. Heaven and hell and blissful relief are never missing and no where to be found. Today. Is there really any other option? It's not a matter of better or worse, it's just a matter of fact.

A matter of fact and the effort to actualize what was, is, and will be a fact.

Calling it "today" overstates the matter.

Inhalation, exhalation ... home.

PS. It all makes me think that for as long as anyone prays to go to heaven, for that long exactly they will be in hell.

And vice versa.

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