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Posts Tagged ‘Hell’

31 Days Of Flash Gordon #28

July 28th, 2010 No comments

I love it when an adventure story has a “Hell, yes!” moment. That’s when you realize that Our Heroes have finally gotten one step ahead of the bad guys. There’a great one in Flash Gordon when Flash is pursued into a cloud by War Rocket Ajax…and there turn out to be a million, billion of his Hawkmen allies waiting on the other side.

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Me Of Little Faith: On A Clear Day, I Could See Forever

September 2nd, 2007 No comments

While my family didn’t attend church, that’s not to say that Dad wasn’t interested in the Bible. He’d had an epiphany of sorts when, as an employee of the power company, he’d been caught in a natural gas explosion. He was on a service call when a gas leak ignited and blew up a house. Dad saw its owner consumed by a fireball, and he himself barely escaped. That close call left him looking for God.

He sampled a variety of churches and talked to their elders, but was always dissatisfied by the disconnect between their practices and his own interpretation of the Bible. Because of this, I had little formal religious experience in my childhood, outside of one summer at vacation Bible school.

Instead, Dad took it upon himself to teach me about God, and in later years even cajoled me into reading portions of the Bible. I didn’t get much out of its arcane prose and archaic grammar, so what I did learn about Christianity came mostly out of our long car trips together.

One topic that both fascinated and disturbed me when I was fairly young was that of eternity. Dad said that when people died, they went to Heaven where they lived forever in the presence of God. Superficially, I could see the appeal, but it wasn’t long before I began to think about the ramifications of life eternal.

“How long is forever?” I would repeatedly ask him. The question haunted me. How could anything just go on and on and on without end? Even at that young age, it occurred to me that doing anything, however pleasant, for all time was a scary prospect.

A classic Twilight Zone* episode summed up those fears. In the first season show “A Nice Place to Visit,” a small-time hood is shot dead and finds himself in a heavenly realm in which kindly Sebastian Cabot grants his every wish. For a time it’s all wonderful, but he begins to get bored. He can’t lose at gambling, women never turn him down, and the banks are too easy to rob. There’s no challenge, no chance of failure. At wit’s end, he begs Sebastian Cabot to be sent to “the other place.” Cabot replies with a gleeful cackle, “This is the other place!”

* There are going to be a lot of Twilight Zone references in this series. Rod Serling had a big impact on me.

Even if the afterlife wasn’t likely to be lorded over by a cheerfully sinister Mr. French, it seemed to me that forever was simply too long. I could see myself saying, “Well, this is nice and all, but what else have you got?” Granted, the alternative was equally unpleasant to consider, but we’ll come to that in a later post.

Infinity is something I just don’t deal with very well. Whether it’s eternal time or endless space, the concept just gives me the wiggins.

In my freshman year of college I took a nighttime astronomy class. For most of the semester we learned about the immediate vicinity of our solar system, but on the final night the professor lectured about what lay beyond: millions of stars in our galaxy, thousands of galaxies and unimaginable spaces between them. It might not go on forever, but it was close enough.

When I walked back to the dorm that evening, it was a starry night. And as I looked up, for the first time I felt aware of how absurdly tiny I was, and how little separated me from darkness without end. The sky was too open; it offered too little protection. There was far, far more nothing than there was anything.

There are many who look at the seemingly infinite majesty of the universe and see the face of God, but instead I am reminded that I that I exist as a tiny, brief-lived blob of matter clinging to a slightly larger (on the cosmological scale) blob, with vast chasms of time and space surrounding me in all directions. It’s not a comforting thought.

Next: You Wouldn’t Like Him When He’s Angry