Monthly Archives: December 2012

Heaven And Hell As I Think It

Daily Prompt: Drawing a Blank

“When was the last time your walked away from a discussion, only to think of The Perfect Comeback hours later? Recreate the scene for us, and use your winning line.”

This is a comeback for two conversations I had at some point, one about world end and the other about sexuality. This was published back in Dec 2012

We have been informed by the Mayan calendar that the world would come to an end today, December 21, 2012, which I took with the proverbial grain of salt. But to be clear I don’t believe that any human on earth can accurately predict when the world would come to an end. Human civilization has constantly evolved over centuries and technological advancement has followed in the same vein. We can now predict the simple ones like rain and the tough ones like hurricanes, earthquakes etc.  But are we there as to be able to accurately determining our apocalypse? I think not. Don’t ask me how I know this, because I can’t really explain it. All we can do is to keep guessing.  I was watching this show recently “Doomsdays Preppers” and it made me laugh profusely. I just thought it was ridiculous that people were actually preparing for the end of life. It just did not make any sense to me. It’s not like getting ready to travel to your hometown, putting toothbrush, shoes, clothes etc together. Do we really know what will be needed when the end comes? Again I think not.

All this talk about world end has got me thinking about heaven and hell. I was born into a somewhat strict catholic household, so the idea of heaven and hell, good and bad was embedded in me very early. It was simple, Do good things: you go to heaven. Do bad things: you go to hell. At the age of five it seemed like a very straight forward and easy rule to follow, the line between good and bad was made very apparent, it appeared quite clear at the time. But as I grew older and got exposed to the complexities of the human existence, it dawned on me that this moral line of good and bad was actually more blurred than I ever imagined. Certain things that I was taught as being good were considered as taboo by other people (e.g. eating pork meat was good, but my Muslim friends were taught that Pigs were dirty animals and should not be eaten).  And certain things I was brought up to write-off as bad were in fact not so bad after all (Homosexuality has always and still is described as the worst thing that can ever happen to you). Still on the issue of homosexuality, when I was growing up, I was taught that homosexuals are spawns of the devil and that they never succeed in life because of the path they have chosen. First off, I have come to learn that sexual orientation is not something a human being gets to pick, like choosing teams during soccer practice. Second is that I have seen a couple of people who are gay and their lives are pretty great. They have good jobs, pay their taxes, live in comfortable houses, have kids (and responsible ones might I add), generally they live like any other heterosexual would. It doesn’t seem to me like they are suffering any type of punishment. In fact the only punishment that they suffer is the one meted out to them by heterosexuals. Living in such a world with a plethora of moral complexities how do we know exactly what takes you to heaven and what takes you to hell?

Usually when people want to refer to the location of heaven, they would point in the upward direction and hell to the downward direction. But is this really the truth? Again I think not. With the privilege of an enlightening western educational background, I know that above the different layers of the sky as we know it, troposphere, mesosphere etc, it is just space. Just free flowing, gravity-less space. And the last time I checked, no Astronaut came back to earth with enough evidence to show that there is a “God” out there in space. Now turning downward, that’s just the earth’s core. Much like space, it is most likely not habited by any spiritual being. But given the normative definition of hell that we have been taught (a place beaming with heat) it is not hard to see why people consider the earth’s core as hell; this is because the temperature of the core is almost equitable to that of the surface of the sun.

My idea of heaven is a place (note: when I say place, I don’t mean a physical location, I am referring to a magical transcendental state) of eternal rest after our struggles here on earth. A place where you just sleep forever and the only time you are active is in your dreams (beautiful dreams). It’s like the reverse of being brain dead, your body is dead but your head is very well active. Many people might not agree with my own idea of heaven, and I do apologize if you find this description of heaven offensive, but that is the way heaven appears in my head when I think about it.

Like I mentioned earlier, this state of moral confusion in which we have found ourselves makes me wonder if the path to heaven or hell is really that black and white. The bible says thou shall not kill. We humans have translated this law to only cover our fellow humans, leaving out the animals. Which begs the question: is it a sin to kill animals for meat? According to the same bible God created all animals and trees and essentially everything around us, and liked them and was quite happy with what had been created. So when you kill a cow to serve as a protein source for yourself and family, is it a sin? Bear in mind that Animals have a mind of their own, they have blood running through their veins, they feel pain and to an extent they are quite capable of exhibiting emotion. These are all attributes that humans also have, so what justifies killing an animal? The answer to this question holds in itself the true nature of the path to heaven or hell.

At the risk of bordering on the “Moral relativism” or even the blasphemous path, I dare to say that there are more ways to heaven than we think. Believe it or not we live our lives in one way or another that is not worthy of heaven in the normative sense. Even those who think they are living a totally pure life (the clergy included) are in fact in the littlest ways living in sin. Going by the staunch prescriptions of most religions, we are all living in sin, and we are all to perish in hell as retribution for all the atrocities we have committed here on earth. But I refuse to believe that “God” is that punitive in his ways as to condemn every person on earth to eternal misery. “God” as I realized on my own, is a lot more forgiving and merciful than we think.  I believe that everyone’s transcendental faith is carefully considered on a less draconian basis. I would not be surprised if it turns out that a man like Gaddafi (Late Dictator leader of Libya, in Northern Africa) might end up in heaven even after all the atrocities he has committed here on earth, and not hell according to public opinion. In a grander scenario, we might all get some type of “global pardon” and all will be let into heaven regardless of the past.

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Shhhh….Quiet Please, It’s Over Already.

To everyone who just wrote a paper or two in the just concluded ACCA (Association Of Chartered Certified Accountants) December examination session, I wish you guys all the best and hope that all those months of studying and attending long boring lectures pays-off good. The ACCA syllabus is usually so broad that studying for an examination ensures that your social life and even your personal life are crushed to the barest minimum during the time being. ACCA is like a jealous girlfriend that consumes all your attention with no recourse, she makes sure you don’t have time for your friends let alone other girls. Which is why during this brief period while she is back at her parents’ house (Aka…while papers are being graded) you should do yourself a world of good by tearing things up. Go clubbing, catch up on the TV shows you missed, essentially everything you would normally not have time for while studying.

As tough as the ACCA examination can be to deal with, one thing or should I say one set of people that are even tougher to deal with are those people who always want to compare notes immediately after the examination. Usually when the invigilator gives the instruction for everyone to leave the hall, you will spot them as the ones who are quicker than most to make their way through the rows.  They are the ones who seem like they are almost running towards the door, you would think they are rushing for another paper or something, unfortunately they aren’t. Why are they rushing? They want to go out early enough to trap people and cajole them into talking about the paper. One time I saw a guy waiting anxiously at the door, he looked like an artiste at the Grammys waiting to be called up the stage for an award. Immediately he saw these two guys, apparently he must have known them previously; he yanked them off the crowd to the corner, and the first question was “guys…how did you solve the number 4 section B question?” when I go further out of the hall, I encounter further small and large groups of people all doing the same thing, talking about an examination that already ended. And I wonder to myself, are these people masochists?

At this point I am sure you would be wondering what exactly my point is. My point is that I believe it to be the most foolish act of self-inflicted deprecation to linger around the examination hall discussing about something to which you no longer have the power to impact any change on. Think about this way, you leave the examination hall and immediately join a group of people who are discussing the examination and then you find out from all these talking that you have missed eight of the ten questions you had to answer. How depressing is that? Why not leave the examination, go home have fun for about a month and a half (ACCA timing) without thinking about if the balance sheet you prepared balanced or not? When it comes to examination result, I like to apply the “delayed gratification” psychology in reverse. Delayed gratification involves depriving one’s own self of small immediate gains in hope of greater gains in the future by being patient.

A research done by American psychologist, Walter Mischel, buttresses this point. In an experiment by Walter and his colleagues at Stanford University, they presented four-year-olds with a marshmallow and told the children that they had two options: (A.) ring a bell at any point to summon the experimenter and eat the marshmallow, or (B) wait until the experimenter returned about 15 minutes later, and earn two marshmallows. The results were quite revealing and educative. Mischel found that children were able to wait longer if they used certain “cool” distraction techniques (covering their eyes, hiding under the desk, singing songs, or imagining pretzels instead of the marshmallow in front of them), or if they changed the way they thought about the marshmallow (focusing on its similarity to a cotton ball, rather than on its gooey, delectable taste). The children, who waited longer, when re-evaluated as teenagers and adults, demonstrated a striking array of advantages over their peers. As teenagers, they had higher SAT scores, social competence, self-assuredness and self-worth, and were rated as their parents as more mature, better able to cope with stress, more likely to plan ahead, and more likely to use reason. They were less likely to have conduct disorders or high levels of impulsivity, aggressiveness and hyperactivity. As adults, the high delayers were less likely to have drug problems or other addictive behaviors, get divorced, or get overweight. Each minute that a preschooler was able to delay gratification translated to a .2% reduction in Body Mass Index 30 years later.

Applying “delayed gratification” in reverse to the examination context; it would be more like “delayed mortification”. It’s very simple, going ahead to discuss an already completed examination and finding out that you have failed woefully will make your grief period start earlier than it should, and thus last longer. Because when the results do come out, and now you have factual evidence of your failure, the sadness, depression, anger etc will stretch out further. My advice is, if you finish an examination you should just leave immediately no matter how well or bad you think you have performed. If you are in fact dragged into one of those potentially self-deprecating conversations, try and limit the length of your responses and never give definite ones. Just say things like “it was ok”, “I am hopeful” things like that. This is because if you don’t it can go two ways. The first way is that, you did in fact do very well on the examination and by talking about your answers you make a couple of people sad about their own performance, you might even draw upon yourself some level of hatred for this. The second way is that you did not perform well and by talking with those who have done quite well you feel quite sad and filled with despair. Your self-confidence is majorly battered. So why not delay this impending period of gloom and just have fun for the time being, do the things that make you the most happy, who knows by so doing you might actually be preparing yourself better for the fall. Plus its Christmas, who wants to spoil the holiday spirit by thinking about failure all thru, that’s just insane.

Again I wish everyone around the world who wrote examinations of any kind, not just ACCA, success, and if you do not pass, well the world goes on. After all Abraham Lincoln lost Eight!!!! elections before becoming President of USA. Perseverance is Key.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS PEOPLE.

 

Simple Advice: If you encounter those overtly insistent one just say to them “Shhhh….Quiet Please, It’s Over Already.”