Friday, July 07, 2006

An instructive parable

So this guy dies. He was shot let's say why not. In a gang war. Or maybe not. Who fucking knows. Or cares. It's really not important. The point is, he's dead. So he's in the office of the dispatcher, who, you know, arranges where people go. And the dispatcher—possibly Saint Peter—let's call him that, at any rate—says, okay, your turn. And there are two doors out of his office. Possibly one of bone and one of ivory. Yeah, that's the ticket. Very strong mythic resonance there. He gestures for the guy to take a seat. Okay, so that door leads to hell, and that one to heaven, he says. Some people have no choice, but honestly, most of you are kind of borderline, so you get to choose: Heaven or Hell. And the guy says, I choose Heaven. Shut up, says Peter. Let me describe them for you first. Okay. So: Hell. You go through here, and you get everything you could possibly want. Seriously. You name it.You wanna soar through the cosmos, learning the mysteries of space and time? Absolutely. Wanna be the world's biggest rock star? Undoubtedly. Or you just wanna spend eternity lounging around on the French Riviera drinking mai tais while being fellated by all the girls who turned you down in high school? No problem. And of course, if you later decide you want something else, you can have that, too. Wait a second! Says the guy, who has seen a few Twilight Zone episodes in his time. That doesn't sound like Heaven—that sounds like Hell! Peter sighs extravagently. A bit slow, aren't you? As I said, if you had only listented: this is indeed Hell. Please try to keep up; there are millions of people waiting their turns. Wait, don't tell me, says the guy. So if I choose to go there, I'll be happy for a while, but eventually I'll realize, hey, not having to do any work, always having everything I want with no effort—this isn't Heaven; it's Hell! You already know it's Hell, Peter points out. You just like saying that, don't you? But no, not really. If productivity is what you want, that can easily be arranged. Pleasure can be effortlessly interleaved with pain. You can have to work for it, no problem. It's perfectly calibrated to meet your needs. Okay, says the guy, so what's the catch? No catch, says Peter. WYSIWYG. Except that it's irrevocable. It's Hell. So you absolutely cannot change your mind and decide, no, actually, I want Heaven instead. Once you're there—you're there. And it absolutely never ends, guaranteed. One hundred percent. Okay, says the guy, I'll bite: what's Heaven like? That, I can't help you with, says Peter. God—or whoever—is a tight-lipped bastard. He (orshee) ain't talking. All I can tell you is that, inasmuch as Hell constitutes every conceivable human experience, I would surmise that Heaven is something completely different—something you cannot possibly imagine. So it'll be a surprise. I'm a Christian, says the guy. So I know Heaven is a perfect place. Transient physical pleasures can't compare with that. Well, they're not exactly transient, but fine, says Peter. Good for you. Heaven, right through there. He points to the door. But the guy hesitates. But I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong...I see what you're driving at with Hell, how it could make you go crazy in the end, but still, that would take an awful long time, and there are a hell (no pun intended) of a lot of really great things I'd have to get completely tired of. Then again...I can just imagine myself a billion years from now, clawing out my eyes just to feel something new. That would be awful. Beyond awful, actually. But I don't know, my faith isn't that strong; what if Heaven's like a Nirvana-type place? I don't want to not exist. The idea just freaks me out. What percentage of people choose one versus the other? If I may ask? Most people don't, says Peter. Huh? says the guy. No, most people get all indecisive, so I end up having to do this. And he pulls a Montgomery Burns-type lever, and the guy falls through the trapdoor. Existential problem solved, he says, to no one in particular. He pauses reflectively. You know, I always say that that door leads to “Heaven,” but a more accurate term might be “broom closet.” And I guess I kind of do know what's in there. Brooms, mostly. Pause. Why am I talking to myself? Must be encroaching senility. Ah well. Next!


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