Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Beelzebub's Bubbly Bane

I've been thinking about Hell. Not in a pill-bottle rattling in a shaky hand at the temple or a pre-suicidal, double-clutched steak knife sort of way, but in a conceptual way. It has always terrified me that Hell is supposed to be a place with no hope. Of anything. So, in other words, there is never anything to look forward to.

Sure. HE gets a snack.

So what you get is this: After the first thousand years, you know that there are ten-times a thousand years to come, with a million beyond that, multipilied infinity. And never, never, never, is there anything to look forward to. No tasty snacks. No rest. No TV. No snow. No anything. It seems to me that never having anything to look forward to would be the ultimate punishment. And . . . well, there it is. Hell.

In prison, you get visits, if you are lucky. Or you get to walk the yard. Or eat. Or you can look forward to the day you get out. So there's that. Even if you are "in for life," at least you can look forward to checkers with ol' Bubba in block A, once in a while. Or, at the very least, to dying.

So I guess the worst state to be in is one in which you have nothing to look forward to. We really need that. And I think we all have things to look forward to, but we don't always do ourselves the favor of looking forward at them when things are worst. The cool thing is that any of us can do this.

Yesternight (yeah, you heard me, spell-check) I was watching Bear Grylls, on Man vs.Wild, crossing a huge canyon by shimmying across a rope on his belly. His arms were burning; his chest was killing him from the compression against the rope; he was losing steam. At one point, he started counting: ten pulls at a time as he slid across the rope. He explained that this helps when things are going worst; it gives you a goal -- an achievement to look forward to. As he got more tired, he counted five at a time. But what he was doing was to dangle a carrot in front of himself. That's it, really. He gets it.

Bilbo, atop the Mirkwood canopy.
We're not in Hell. And if you are going through the toughest time imaginable, don't get mad at me. I'm not saying it isn't bad. But is certainly is not an eternal absence of all hope that we feel here on Earth. I know it may feel that way, but even the smallest hope is helpful is getting us further along the rope and onto solid ground.

In short, I like to transcend my miseries with the promise of things to look forward to, however small. When things are bad, I like to climb a tree and look at the lie of the land. I may have a whole forest to walk through, with an albatross hanging from my weary neck, but if I know an wide open river valley lies due east, at least I'm walking with purpose instead of dying with my back to a pine.

There's always something to look forward to, even if it is only a bag of chips and a cold soda on the way home for the worst day at work, ever. You can crush the proverbial Devil with a frosty Coke, if you keep looking forward. That's what I like to call logical optimism.


  1. I concur whole-heartedly. Looking forward to things and making the simplest things special is part of my way of life. When one can't look forward to ANYTHING, I wonder if it's not that one can't, so much as one just WON'T. Pessimism is quite a kill-joy.

  2. On the flipside, illogical optimism is just delusion . . . But you are right: Pessimism skills the spirit, really.