Hell Defined

by Glenn Fairman3/23/16

To believe in your heart of hearts that no intrinsic good exists and then posit one’s own transitory good as a sufficient star to steer your life by, is a bitter cluster of madness, despair, and delusion—and would probably function nicely as a working definition for Hell.


Glenn Fairman writes from Highland, Ca.
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18 Responses to Hell Defined

  1. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Maybe this is why the Left is so keen to gain converts. Misery loves company.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      And their lives revolve around being miserable. No doubt that at least explains why their policies are designed to reduce human happiness. The converts (by way of public miseducation, as in Poul Anderson’s Orbit Unlimited) are also important for maintaining their political strength. (And the Inner Party has to find Outer Party members somewhere to do all that work.)

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Glenn, I think there is an inherent madness to moral relativism. Or maybe its deceit and delusion more than madness. Enlightenment does not occur sitting under the Bodhi tree and finding special radiance in fortune cookie wisdom. (“We are all one,” for instance.) It comes from noting, “Gee, I’m so full of shit.”

    One of the worst judges of reality is emotion. Emotion is necessary but not sufficient for finding one’s path. The same with the intellect. Both can fool. Both are regularly, perhaps unconsciously, used to fool ourselves so that we can get what we want and feel good about it.

    The person who doesn’t understand the phrase, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it,” probably has no business being a Christian. Only when you are ready to peel pack the onion and dispense with the seven layers of bullshit masquerading for what you suppose is real can you find the real. And even then, there is no guarantee.

    I suspect many support Trump precisely because he makes them feel better about their own vulgar layers. This is the way of the world. People are crazy and bound for hell until they’re not. And personally I think the journey begins by just setting aside the need for drama and ego gratification. And those who chase Jesus for ego gratification are just fooling themselves. When you feel something has died, well, then you might be getting somewhere.

    The rest of humanity is just in various stages of devouring delusion. And one can have some sympathy for them for, being a social species, we tend to take our cues from everyone else. And if everyone else is beating a path to hell, that’s going to seem pretty normal.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      The rest of humanity is just in various stages of devouring delusion. And one can have some sympathy for them for, being a social species, we tend to take our cues from everyone else. And if everyone else is beating a path to hell, that’s going to seem pretty normal.

      I understand why some people seek solitude. The old hermits and monks weren’t necessarily wrong.

      As the old saying goes, “If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas” and much, if not the majority, of humanity can be pretty mangy at times. Perhaps it is best to avoid those entangling relationships which are likely as not to first numb us to evil and then lead us astray without our even realizing it.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        “I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain. It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain. . . . Don’t talk of love. Well, I’ve heard the word before. It’s sleeping in my memory. And I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died. If I never loved, I never would have cried. . . . Hiding in my room, safe within my womb, I touch no one and no one touches me.”

        These are from Simon and Garfunkel’s haunting “I Am a Rock”. It ends with a sad-sounding, “And a rock feels no pain. And an island never cries.” Where this can lead is perhaps given in their song “He Was a Most Peculiar Man”, though theoretically the songs aren’t connected.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I know the song well. I believe that in general, this type of song appeals to teenagers who might feel awkward about themselves. Clearly the singer is trying to gloss over a fragile ego and love lost.

          If one wishes to function in the world, it is best to develop a good sense of humor, firm belief in oneself and a forgiving nature.

          But I do believe a good case can be made for distancing oneself from much of society and all its distractions, especially as one grows older.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Another song that deals with the theme is the novelty song “The Place Where the Nuts Hunt the Squirrels” by Napoleon XIV (best known for “They’re Coming to Take Me Away”). The narrator notes all the aspects of modern life he doesn’t like and thinks he’s better off in the booby hatch — but he’s unhappy that “They’re trying to drive me sane.”

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              I loved that song as a kid.

              “Oh, they’re coming to take me away, ha ha, hee hee, ho ho, where life is beautiful all the time, and I’ll be happy to see those men in their big white coats, oh they’re coming to take me away.”

              Or something to that effect.

              And he did mention a “mangy mutt” in the song.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                “Well, you just wait, they’ll find you yet, and when they do, they’ll take you to the ASPCA, you mangy mutt.” The “funny farm” was where “life is beautiful all the time”, and the “happy home” had “trees and flowers and chirping birds and basket-weavers that sit and twiddle their thumbs and toes.”

                I have a CD of songs by Napoleon XIV.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                Oh yeah, “They’re coming to take me away…..to the funny farm, where life is beautiful all the time, …”

                I didn’t know ole Napoleon had other songs. If they are like this one, I think I might like them.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I think the lyrics to “I am a Rock” are a good counterpoint to this general subject, although Mr. Kung may be right that S&G were just writing about the fleeting unhappiness of a failed love affair.

          I think the salient point was written by that earlier rock star, Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 3:

          a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

          St. Francis was about as sociable as a person could get. He loved people and was the life of the party — before and after his deeper conversion. But he needed to go off every so often and be by himself (with one or two friends who shared the same rhythm), for weeks or for months.

          It’s likely people are driving themselves crazy because of iPhones, Facebook, and the internet. They can never get away from people. It’s become a habit not to, to fill every single moment with mindless blather. And this isn’t good.

          Is this because people are inherently bad? No, not necessarily. But “cult” and “culture” are clearly words that are related. To get lost in a culture is very much to be in a mindless cult. You are simply who you are in relation to a mass, amorphous collective mind.

          But S&G are right. If you want to love, there must be another. But if you want to love well, you need to be sane. And although I’m not qualified to give advice on romance, I do think I’m qualified to say that if your life is centered around the relativity of culture, you’re going to pay a heavy price for selling your soul like that. There is inherent madness is collectivism. A little is necessary and unavoidable, even enriching. But there is certainly a time to refrain from embracing the crowd. Most people should spend more time doing so.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            I think the lyrics to “I am a Rock” are a good counterpoint to this general subject, although Mr. Kung may be right that S&G were just writing about the fleeting unhappiness of a failed love affair.

            Although I love music, I find most modern pop is written at the level of eighth to tenth graders. I will say that Simon and Garfunkel’s lyrics were better than most others of the period. But it is pretty clear the song was written about someone who has been badly disappointed in love.

            And as someone who loves books, the lyrics, “I have my books, a fortress deep and mighty. That none may penetrate.” show something more than a lover of books. He’s not going to something, he’s trying to get away from something. The problem is that something is himself, his failure. Not society.

            He has not yet learned the valuable lesson which we all have to take in if we wish to function, i.e. to pick oneself up and dust oneself off. Perspective also helps.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              I like S&G and I think their product was light years ahead of the kind of pajama boys we have now writing lyrics. And I like the fact that instead of boo-hooing over some love affair that ended, Simon is thinking to “man up” and become like a rock. It’s interesting reading a synopsis of his personal life from Wiki:

              When Simon moved to England in 1964, he met Kathleen Mary “Kathy” Chitty (born 1947) on April 12, 1964, at the first English folk club he played, Railway Inn Folk Club in Brentwood, Essex, where Chitty worked part-time selling tickets. She was 17, he was 22, and they fell in love. Later that year they visited the U.S. together, touring around mainly by bus.[59] Kathy returned to England on her own with Simon returning to her some weeks later. When Simon returned to the U.S. with the growing success of “The Sound of Silence”, Kathy, who was quite shy,[60] wanted no part of the success and fame that awaited Simon and they split.[61] She is mentioned by name in at least two of his songs: “Kathy’s Song” and “America,” and is referred to in “Homeward Bound” and “The Late Great Johnny Ace.” There is a photo of Simon and Kathy on the cover of The Paul Simon Songbook.

              Simon has been married three times, first to Peggy Harper in late autumn 1969. They had son Harper Simon in 1972 and divorced in 1975. The song “Train in the Distance,” from Simon’s 1983 album Hearts and Bones, is about this relationship.[62] Simon’s 1972 song “Run That Body Down,” from his second solo album, casually mentions both himself and his then-wife (“Peg”) by name.

              His second marriage, from 1983 to 1984, was to actress and author Carrie Fisher to whom he proposed after a New York Yankees game.[62] The song “Hearts and Bones” was written about this relationship. The song “Graceland” is also thought to be about seeking solace from the end of this relationship by taking a road trip.[63] A year after divorcing, Simon and Fisher resumed their relationship for several years.

              His third wife is folk singer Edie Brickell, 24 years his junior, whom he married on May 30, 1992. They have three children: Adrian, Lulu, and Gabriel.

              That’s a classic theme worthy of a good movie, that first love. She eschews fame and fortune because it’s just not her thing. I hope it worked out well for her. It takes more than a fair amount of wisdom to realize the non-husband one would have in the case of a major rising star.

              And regarding “I am a Rock,” it’s helpful to remember that such poets are intentionally exposing their inner thoughts, warts and all, instead of putting on a false front. I think they should be judge accordingly….mostly with care, particularly if they are good and generally honest poets. I remember getting really pissed off at times as a yute and then thinking how much I would like to be like Mr. Spock without emotions. I might have written, “I am a Spock, I am a Vulcan.”

            • Timothy Lane says:

              To be precise, he mentions the fortress in the second stanza (“I’ve built walls, a fortress deep and mighty, that none may penetrate”) right before his rejection of friendship. The books come in the final stanza: “I have my books and my poetry to protect me. I am shielded in my armor.” If one thinks of music as poetry, this can be extremely haunting to me. (There’s a reason I can cite the lyrics so extensively.)

              I rather like “Kathy’s Song” (“And so you see I have come to doubt all that I once held as true. I stand alone without beliefs. The only truth I know is you.”), which is on the Sounds of Silence album. That album ends with “I Am a Rock”, and I learned in college that if I put the LP on continuous play at the 7-inch setting, it would play “I Am a Rock” continuously. “America” is on the Bookends album and isn’t a favorite, though I recall the reference to Kathy.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    But I do believe a good case can be made for distancing oneself from much of society and all its distractions, especially as one grows older.

    I think that is the essence of it, Mr. Kung. As one ages, particularly in our mass-marketed culture where people turn on a dime to do stupider when stupid was the clarion call of just the day before, one begins to detach a bit from what previously seemed important.

    And in our youth-oriented culture where all the weaknesses and sins of youth are frozen in time, meant to be lived forever, it becomes all the more urgent to begin to explore other avenues of thought. Obviously the creatures in Hollywood — who turn themselves into the visage of skin-graft burn victims as they lift upon lift, stretch upon stretch, and try to replace every body part in order to stay forever young — they do not abide by the idea of distancing themselves from anything.

    No sane person would want to forever listen to same kind of music they listened to in their teens, especially today’s music (Sinatra’s music may be given a special exemption). Growth is the watchword. Available to us is intellectual growth, relational growth, emotional growth, financial growth, spiritual growth, and just a general growth in wisdom — this last of which may throw the perceived value of many of these other “growths” to the wind and lead us to instead seek separation from the rat race.

    As an aside, no religious leader should ever be young unless you’re the actual Son of God, or something like that, or you’ll simply get a cult of emotion and entertainment, not the growth and pursuit of wisdom. Or you’ll get a cult of “prosperity gospel” or something fatuous like that.

    It will be interesting to see what these vacant yutes and others turn to when the face lifts just don’t cut it anymore. Drugs, certainly. Vulgarity, certainly. Distraction, certainly. But there does come a time, or should come a time, when one does indeed hunger to distance oneself from what is ultimately based in little more than the vagaries of the mass and dumb mind.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      no religious leader should ever be young unless you’re the actual Son of God,

      I have the same feeling about political leaders. This is probably my biggest problem with Cruz. After Clinton and the Obamation, I am fed up with 40-somethings being the most powerful men in the world. They do not have the experience or wisdom to lead a nation.

      Because of this, one part of me thinks the best primary result would be for Trump to win the contest and choose Cruz as his VP candidate. Who knows how Trump will govern, but I do think 4 to 8 years as VP would do Cruz a lot of good.

      One of the advantages of growing older is that experience is a wonderful teacher and a person does not even have to be particularly intelligent to learn from it.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Having a conservative VP like Cruz or Sessions would make it a lot likelier that Trump would govern as a conservative, though he does no doubt remember that an executive can get away with feuding with his chosen #2 (cf. George Pataki and Elizabeth McCaughey).

  4. GHG says:

    To believe in your heart of hearts that no intrinsic good exists and then posit one’s own transitory good as a sufficient star to steer your life by, is a bitter cluster of madness, despair, and delusion—and would probably function nicely as a working definition for Hell.

    Yes, drifting through life without the anchor of Truth is hell on Earth, a prelude of what an eternity without Truth will be.

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