03 April 2008

A glimpse of hell

On this cool grey day I am droopy-eyed, having had little sleep through the night. For lots of reasons I'm not going to elaborate on the specifics except to say that I walked into a situation where I was not wanted. Knowing that, but also not able to leave once I'd arrived, I stayed quiet and attentive, largely taking the stance of an observer.

Not only did I have a close-up view of hell right here on earth, I also had to remain alert not to get dragged into it myself, this is not about me, a recurring whispered thought. I've not felt such sadness in a long time -- for the people who have for one reason or another decided not to love or to receive love and for myself and my own susceptibility to the suction of mean-spirited negativity.

The essence of the following quote, which I had to find after I had guided the car back into the garage and found my way into the welcome of home, nudged around in my head while I was away from this safe haven late at night.

If you are, in Christian terms, following Christ, or in Unitarian Universalist terms, completely and wholly in love, then you are in heaven no matter where you are. If you are not in love, you are in hell, no matter where you are.

The stories we tell of heaven and hell are not about how we die, but about how we live.*
It took a long while to find my way into restless sleep. I had to simply sit and be quiet, fighting off the residual fear of the relentless pull emanating from the black hole at the mouth of which I had so casually stood. Even now, grateful as I am that it's the next day, I cannot claim to be completely OK. I do know, however, that I was given the grace to resist something frightfully real and quite terrible.

* Kate Braestrup, Here If You Need Me (New York: Little, Brown,2007) 135.

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