“You’ve seen Heaven and you’ve seen Hell, and by and large they work. Souls are rewarded and punished justly. What no one seems to be able to do anything about is how fucked things are on Earth. It ain’t fair. It isn’t fair, and God’s a bastard.”
– Garth Ennis, Chronicles of Wormwood
So I think about things. The same things everyone thinks about. Life. Death. God. Justice. Purpose. So I thought I’d get a few of those thoughts down. Share them with the world instead of leaving them to sit on a notebook or a hard drive saying nothing to anyone but me.
Maybe this is a bunch of high-minded bollocks for a blog that’s mostly movie reviews and fiction, but what the hell. It’s my blog, and I have the microphone.
1) The older I get, the more I understand why someone would want to believe in a Hell. The Bastards get away with it in this world, and the idea that they might get away with it forever is unbearable.
2) That said, if we’re judged not just on what we do but what we fail to do, on the unintended but avoidable consequences of actions and inactions that we chose because it was easier to look away, then my only hope of a positive afterlife is the mercy of a forgiving god.
3) To elaborate on #2, I am not a good person. Not good enough. I do my best to be there for my friends and family when they need me, but that’s not good. As D&D alignments go, that’s Neutral. Or, as a more prestigious book of moral philosophy would say: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6:32) So I give a few bucks to the homeless here and there, donate to a few charities when I remember to, sponsor a couple kids on Children International. I attend a few rallies for causes I think are worthy. That’s not Good. That’s petting the dog. There are people who spend their whole lives and all of their resources doing whatever they can to help whoever they can. I don’t measure up to that. I like my Netflix subscription too much.
4) Not that this mitigates anything, but it’s probably healthy for me that I feel like this. As far as I can tell, the quickest and easiest way to become a monster is to convince yourself that you’re Good, and that your decisions are all good because they rise from the good intentions of your good heart.
5) To move on to a new topic: I don’t trust karma. My old friends Abraham, Martin, John and Bobby all died young, while Richard and Ronnie and Maggie all died old in their beds, and George and Dick are almost certainly going to do the same.
6) The older I get, the more I understand why it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. When you have more money than any human being could ever spend in a lifetime, all you have left to want is power and prestige. And people who want power and prestige have a tendency to crush everyone beneath them as they climb. Or, as another wise man once said: Poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king, And a king ain’t satisfied till he rules everything.
7) Only your victims can forgive you. Even God can only forgive sins. It doesn’t matter if it happened fifty years ago. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the interim to atone. It doesn’t matter if you were just a kid (former bullies, I’m looking at you). It doesn’t matter if you’re a completely different person now. It doesn’t matter if everyone around you tells you that they forgive you. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know where to find them. It doesn’t matter if they’re dead. If you don’t even remember it, that actually makes it worse, because it means that this thing you’ve done that left someone scarred was just Tuesday to you. If your victims haven’t forgiven you, then You. Are. Not. Forgiven.
If your victims are vindictive bastards who want grossly disproportionate revenge…I dunno. That’s a problem you see in the movies a lot, but I see it in real life a lot less often than The Bastards Getting Away With It.
8) A lot of this column has been talking in Christian terms, because that’s the tradition I was raised in, but I don’t think I can call myself Christian anymore. All I know is that if there really is a God, then His Plan doesn’t take any particular mortal’s happiness into account. Over the course of history, millions if not billions of people have died screaming or whimpering His name. So you out there praying for a football victory? You’re ridiculous.
9) By the same token, if there is a God or a Devil, I don’t think they care nearly as much about what a bunch of hairless monkeys do with their genitals as we do. To paraphrase The First of the Fallen from Hellblazer (until I can get the quote): “What would I want with a bunch of useless hippy layabouts who smoke too much dope and screw all the time? No…the ones I want are the total bastards.”
Greed matters. Cruelty matters. Abuse matters. Pain and indifference matter. Orgasms? I don’t think so. A pre-marital tumble in the sheets isn’t going to damn you, even if it’s with another man. And if you’re a greedy, cruel, callous abuser, the fact that you never had one isn’t going to justify you.
A few years ago, before DC’s latest cosmic reboot (will you knock it off, guys? You’ll never catch the Crisis On Infinite Earths lightning in a bottle again, and it just makes you look lazy), there was a Superman story where Lex Luthor became omnipotent, with one caveat: he couldn’t use his power in a negative way, or he would lose it. That is to say, he couldn’t kill Superman with it. He could have made everyone happy forever, he could have been worshipped as God, but he would have had to let Superman live and be happy in his new universe. If he wants to keep infinite power, he can’t even use that power to make it rain when Clark Kent and Lois Lane go on a picnic.
I think you know how it turned out. Not just because it’s Lex Luthor, but because of how it turns out every day, all around the world.
We could make any paradise we wanted to. We really could. But there are too many people who would rather that Paradise not happen if it means that the Welfare Queens/Infidels/Whatever aren’t punished first. Paradise isn’t Paradise if they have to share it.
And that’s probably what’s going to damn us in the end.