Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I have never been a big fan of heat. I am a large person, and large people don’t mix well with heat. You know how some people start getting a little moist and it makes them look dewey and refreshed, glistening with vitality? Not me. I look like a lap dog who’s been hit with the hose. It’s not a good look.
That is precisely why I have committed myself to living in North Dakota. Bitch and complain all you want about the winter, cold is much more easily managed than heat. Feeling a chill? Throw on a sweater or cuddle up under a blanket. But you can’t get any more naked than naked. And THAT just isn’t appropriate at work at 2:30 in the afternoon when the AC fan above your desk decides to give out. Casual Friday isn’t quite that casual.
But lately, you may have noticed that the weather seems to be stuck in one place, and that place is generally not a good one. It’s a place of unending and eternal torment. It’s organized into 9 levels. Not sure what I’m talking about? Pick up some Dante, you illiterate bastard; I’m talking about Hell.
Clearly this atmospheric clusterfuck has put me in something of a foul mood. Usually I reserve phrases like “illiterate bastard” for the people in Grand Forks who inexplicably missed any and all training related to how a 4-way stop works. Which is almost everyone. Seriously people, it isn’t that hard! Being on the right only let’s you go first if we stopped at the same time. But that’s a rant for another day.
All of this heat has got me thinking about the idea of eternal torment. Well, the heat and the fact that Michelle Bachmann is STILL in the news. C’mon, the Muslim Brotherhood? Isn’t it time that you got off the FOX News teat and retired with your gay husband to somewhere quiet and fade into obscurity with the other irrelevant whack jobs? Maybe a nice homestead in Alaska, with like-minded neighbors. I bet Sarah Palin has a few contacts at TLC that might work out for you. But then again, maybe not; no TV exec is going to make THAT mistake twice.
But again, I digress. Where was I? Oh yes: unending torment, the lake of eternal fire, the barbeque pit for the soul. All of those fiery metaphors I contemplate while hiding in my basement with the AC running full blast. I’ve always been a little fascinated with the idea of Hell. I mean, who thought that was a good idea? Trying to get people to buy into whatever spiritual system you’re peddling by threatening them with eternal damnation? Not the best sales pitch. I prefer the softer touch, with lots of coffee and pie. Or like what the Mormons do, sending out hunky young men in pairs to try to convert you. Sure, they like throw out a little bit of hellfire and brimstone too, but who cares? They’re just so adorable in their little pressed white shirts and skinny ties. The Jehovah’s Witnesses could learn a thing or two from the Mormons: if you want to get in MY front door, you’d better be more Abercrombie & Fitch, less American Gothic. If I have to hear someone yammering at me about my eternal soul, I don’t want it to be someone who looks like that muppet thing on Tales from the Crypt.
And what purpose does this obsession with eternal torment serve? What do we think we gain by having this idea knocking about our culture? Does it really make us better people, living our lives on the “straight and narrow” to keep ourselves from hurtling over the precipice into the abyss? Or does it just give us a sick sense of satisfaction, knowing that “those people” over there (whoever those people might be on any given day for any given person) will someday have to answer for whatever it is we think their crime might be? Never mind the fact that “those people” are usually guilty of nothing more than thinking and acting and being different from us.
Or maybe we keep this Hell idea around because secretly, deep down in that dark and vulnerable place we don’t like to visit, we think we belong there. We feel like we don’t measure up, that we aren’t always the good people we want to be or that we present ourselves to be, so we deserve to be punished. Maybe we don’t do enough volunteer work, or we skipped church 3 weeks in a row. Maybe we thought bad thoughts about those people down the block. Maybe we just aren’t good enough.
The problem with that thinking is that it doesn’t lead us to a place of accountability. We don’t have to worry about what we do or don’t do in this life because we’ll be punished later. It’s the metaphysical equivalent of running up your credit cards and not paying the bills. Sure, there will be trouble down the road, but isn’t it fun for today? We don’t have to do any work or address any of our own prejudices and vices. We can just live how we want to live, and wait for another day to pay the piper. Why do the hard work today, when we can just suffer and atone later? As much as we like to describe and hypothesize about Hell, it’s still a pretty abstract concept…much more abstract than having to honestly look at our actions and behaviors, recognize our short-comings, and work on them. Heaven forbid…
Whatever your spiritual path may be, I’m sure we can all agree on one thing: this weather sucks! So whether it makes you philosophical or just plain cranky (or in my case, a little of both), I want to know what you do to beat the heat. What are your thoughts on the idea of a Hell? Heck, where do you think Michelle Bachmann should retire to with her gay husband? I want to know your thoughts!