Dave Sim's blogandmail #384 (September 30th, 2007)
Sunday September 30 -
Our Mystery Guest from last week is back again, quoting me from one of my previous Blog & Mails (Blogs & Mail?): "Yes, I was rather pleased with myself when I came up with the idea that for life on planet Earth, the ultimate hell is our sun, beside which the interior of the earth is just a mere blob by comparison."
"The idea of the sun being hell came to me while I was standing in the shower in the fall of 2002. As I mentioned in my previous letter, it was the residual or culminating experience of having researched the sun ad-nauseam for a novel. What happened was, after a long night of sun research, I had a dream that I was looking at a strange, sponge-like ball in the sky – a ball made of squirming, Keith Herring-like humans with chaffed skin and horrible faces, all crushed together. It occurred to me that this ball was massive, high up in the sky, and that the number of people forming the ball was in the billions. Cut to the following morning, I'm in the shower, and the dream imagery is coming back to me. I'm thinking, `ball in the sky…ball in the sky…made up of suffering humans…Ball in sky=Sun. Suffering humans=Hell. Sun=Hell.' As soon as I made this admittedly simple connection, I fell into a state of dread. I tried to "think my way out" of the dread, but it just pounded on in my gut. `The sun is the sustainer of life…how can it be Hell?...oh, God, let me forget this.' Well, you know what they say: once the door has been opened…
"Point offered here is, I can hardly begin to relate to the concept of being "rather pleased with myself" in light of having arrived at this idea. I have come to the conclusion that the level of dread that I experienced when originally considering the sun as hell correlated to the level of the DOG as it existed within me at the time of conception. This, in turn, gave me a great weapon against denial, because it compelled me to form a model of the sun as something that forces me to be aware of my shadow, if you will."
Well, yes, that's the sincere character flaw of being a writer. I was pleased with myself, rather than experiencing dread because I had been HOPING that I had a big finish for CEREBUS up ahead that I hadn't been aware of and that proved to be the case.
A profound sense of dread is something that predates most of my other awarenesses when it came to astronomy in general, to contemplating the vastness of the universe and the immensity of the sun relative to the size of the planets. I'd get butterflies in my stomach looking at the double-page spread in the front of the Atlas where someone had painted the planets and the sun. Here's us. Here are the other planets. Here's the sun. Talk about staring into the abyss. And yet, even with all the tricks of the commercial artistry trade, what I was looking at was dramatically understated and dramatically compressed.
Dread was my response. And yet I didn't know anyone else who responded to it in that way. Oh, yeah. The Sun. Huge. Far away. I know. So what do you want to do today?
Today? Oh, I thought I'd just SIT AND QUAKE WITH FEAR FOR A FEW HOURS. Everything about the sun terrified me. The fact that you couldn't land on it was sincerely creepy. Even if you were completely insulated from the heat, there was no surface to the sun per se. The smooth surface was a complete illusion based on the size of the thing.
Yes, it does force you to be aware of your shadow. That's a good way of putting it. Anytime I doubt that something can ostensibly appear to be physically there and, yet, actually not exist, I just have to think of the "surface" of the sun. Untold millions of miles of complete illusion. The surface of the sun does not exist.
"After grappling with the thought that the sun is hell, I came up with the following idea: the first step in returning to God is becoming light enough – as a soul – to escape the pull of the Sun. Think of the Egyptian imagery – the heart being weighed against a feather."
Personally, I try not to. I don't think anything good comes from anything Egyptian. Yes, there are pagan correlations – Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guards Hades i.e. he/she/it – but they pose a temptation in themselves. What started us on the new, modern road to hell is Egyptian, Roman and Greek revivals among the chattering classes. It's a very easy – but, to me, blasphemous -- step from there to class God as just another god and Scripture as mythology. But, go ahead:
"The idea gets a little more absurd as it goes: out of the billions of people that will live/die on the earth over the course of the earth's history, only one of us will make it past the sun. After that one soul gets past the sun, there is then a long, long (long) journey Back to God, and there are no guarantees. By "long" I mean a duration that dwarfs the lifespan of the earth. The idea suggests that the sole purpose of the entirety of the human race – past, present and future – is to produce that one (and only one) soul."
See, to me now you're getting into pagan territory that verges on complete fantasy (as in fantasy and science fiction). It's similar to what I was talking about in 289-290 but it really lets everyone off the hook. "I'm probably not that one (and only one) soul, so, Hey, let's party!" But, go ahead:
"I do think, as suggested by the above idea, that one soul might actually have what it takes to return to God, and that this soul could in fact be borne out of the cacophony that is the `millions of years of wrong choices' you refer to. The sun's response (?): once this soul is at a safe distance, the sun will `take notice' and will `reach out' to reclaim it. The sun will expand outward in chase, raining destruction down on the system of planets it has shaped and housed for billions of years in the process. `How can this be?' the sun will think. Once the sun truly sees that it is losing the soul, the desire will be to go supernova, to burst out in all directions in one last effort to catch and suck the escaping soul back and down into the resulting black hole, but the sun – not quite up to supernova snuff, thank God – will have to settle for Red Dwarf status (failure)."
Well, again, I don't think that conforms to the model which I was suggesting and which is aligned with the Koranic teaching: "We all came out from God and to Him we are returning." What you've written here sounds a lot more like Pinocchio fleeing from the whale. I don't think any model is sustainable unless it has as its foundation that redemption is available to everyone. It's always right there next to you. The journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step. The movement you need is on your shoulder, etc. I can't see the sun as an anthropomorphized being that can (even in quotation marks) `take notice' or `reach out' or `desire to go supernova'. To me, the point of the sun is that it is an insensate, inchoate enormously large (relative to us, anyway) living consequence of bad choices. On the Grand Scale, this is where Bad Choices get you.
"Another way to say this, I think, is: we don't choose God, God chooses us. I don't think that everyone on earth has the option or even the capacity to come to an awareness of God."
I (very vehemently) disagree. I think if that was true that would constitute an indictment of God that He had condemned however many of His creations to a genuinely futile existence. That just doesn't mesh with infinite mercy and infinite compassion. No matter what, you're going to end up in Hell so you might as well have the best time you can. "Yeah – that sounds like me: no option or even capacity to come to an awareness of God. Let's party." If you're physically capable of praying: your knees work, your hands work, your voice works, then you are capable of repenting and turning to God. Everyone has the capacity to change any part of themselves they don't like and think is wrong into something that they do like and think is right. Every minute of every day. It seems to me that unless that's the case then this whole enterprise really IS pointless. I think all that interests God is that purification of the construct. No, not everyone will get Saved. But, the point is everyone CAN get Saved and that everyone has been given what they need to get Saved. No one is missing that capacity. Making use of it or not making use of it is a protected Free Will choice. No one is going to force you to Save yourself, but safety is always right there waiting. Let go of the bad choices and grab onto the good choices. Pray. You'll get there.
"I certainly believe that all humans are 100% a part of the plan of God, but that only a small fraction get a shot at wiping the dust from the feet of the saints, as it were. I would say that the act of religious conversion is only meaningful if God chooses to use the act of conversion to make someone aware – but that this method is no more or less meaningful than if God chooses to make someone aware through a dream. Or a comic book."
I'm not sure that awareness is quite the core element that you're painting it as being. As I've said elsewhere, I have an inquiring mind, so I spend a lot of time trying to "figure out" scripture, to seek out Real Awareness. But, I don't think that puts me "one up" on someone who has dutifully gone to church three times a day for the last thirty years, completely unaware of Scripture except as a backdrop for dutiful observance. In a real sense it puts me behindhand because it's as if I have to PROVE God to people: prove that the Bible isn't fairy tales, that it is actually an extremely interesting and extremely long intellectual discussion. But who has the greater faith? The person with the need to PROVE God, or the person who, just by living the way they live, is in more complete conformity with their own best aptitudes as CREATED by God?
My approach, certainly, in my view, doesn't put me "one up" on Mother Teresa. All the recent headlines on the tenth anniversary of her death about the extreme black doubt that she spent the last fifty years of her life in. "I have no faith". Much chortling among the atheists. There's a person who spent fifty years of her life with no conscious awareness of the presence of God in her life. And she knew the difference. Profound presence of God in her life, directing her to go to Calcutta to minister to the poor and then PFFT He's gone. But, the point is, she continued to do what she had been instructed to do, what she knew she was supposed to do, for fifty years. That, to me, supersedes conventional perceptions of faith and supersedes awareness by a country mile. How much more valuable in God's eyes is that? How much easier it would have been to be there every morning to whisper "You're doing a wonderful job, Mother Teresa, keep it up." But what a triumph over His adversary! "Look at that, would you? Didn't so much as brush her with My Presence for FIFTY YEARS and yet she laboured on with the patience of a true saint! Doing what she was told to do. Doing what she knew to be The Right Thing!"
Anyway, thanks for writing. Hope to hear from you again, soon.
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If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:
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