Starting from Paumanok 13 Was somebody asking to see the soul? See, your own shape and countenance, persons, substances, beasts, the trees, the running rivers, the rocks and sands. All hold spiritual joys and afterwards loosen them; How can the real body ever die and be buried? Of your real body and any man's or woman's real body, Item for item it will elude the hands of the corpse-cleaners and pass to fitting spheres, Carrying what has accrued to it from the moment of birth to the moment of death. Not the types set up by the printer return their impression, the meaning, the main concern, Any more than a man's substance and life or a woman's substance and life return in the body and the soul, Indifferently before death and after death. Behold, the body includes and is the meaning, the main concern and includes and is the soul; Whoever you are, how superb and how divine is your body, or any part of it!
Starting from Paumanok 12 Democracy! near at hand to you a throat is now inflating itself and joyfully singing. Ma femme! for the brood beyond us and of us, For those who belong here and those to come, I exultant to be ready for them will now shake out carols stronger and haughtier than have ever yet been heard upon earth. I will make the songs of passion to give them their way, And your songs outlaw'd offenders, for I scan you with kindred eyes, and carry you with me the same as any. I will make the true poem of riches, To earn for the body and the mind whatever adheres and goes forward and is not dropt by death; I will effuse egotism and show it underlying all, and I will be the bard of personality, And I will show of male and female that either is but the equal of the other, And sexual organs and acts! do you concentrate in me, for I am determin'd to tell you with courageous clear voice to prove you illustrious, And I will show that there is no imperfection in the present, and can be none in the future, And I will show that whatever happens to anybody it may be turn'd to beautiful results, And I will show that nothing can happen more beautiful than death, And I will thread a thread through my poems that time and events are compact, And that all the things of the universe are perfect miracles, each as profound as any. I will not make poems with reference to parts, But I will make poems, songs, thoughts, with reference to ensemble, And I will not sing with reference to a day, but with reference to all days, And I will not make a poem nor the least part of a poem but has reference to the soul, Because having look'd at the objects of the universe, I find there is no one nor any particle of one but has reference to the soul.
In the last few posts we’ve looked at several aspects of universalism: whether Hell is compatible with God’s mercy, how the saved view the damned, whether people can be said truly to choose Hell, and what this implies for our personalities.
Now as I noted here, one can argue for the traditional view of Hell (TVOH) on Scriptural or philosophical bases; and as I also noted, it doesn’t seem as if the TVOH can be defended purely on Scriptural bases. In any case, I can understand arguments of this sort even if I don’t agree with them. If one believes that a doctrine of hell is necessitated by Scripture or by philosophical reflection, I can respect that. What I’m more interested in here is motivation. In short, what is the motivation that energizes one’s belief? More to the point, what is one’s attitude towards one’s belief? Let me unpack what I mean.
Suppose I go to the doctor and he says I have cancer in my leg, and that this will require amputation. Now there are three things involved here. One, the matter of actual fact: that is, do I actually have cancer? Second is the treatment: is it necessary to remove the leg, or are there other viable treatments? Third, how do I feel about having the leg removed? Obviously, I’m going to want to establish the first two: I’m going to want to be damn sure that I do have cancer and that amputation is the only option. If these are established, then there’s no help for it. The thing is that I’m not going to be happy about the amputation per se. I’ll be happy if it rids me of cancer, because I’ll be happy to live and to have my health (other than in my leg) restored. However, I’d be a lunatic to cheer on the amputation as such. Even more so, if my doctor seemed to enjoy amputating limbs, I’d be very hesitant to have the operation done, at least by him. To be happy to help someone live by surgery is very much different from getting off on amputation in and of itself.
This is where, in discussions about hell, I find the attitude of supporters of the TVOH very much interesting. I can understand that one might, in light of one’s study of Scripture and of philosophy, feel compelled to believe in hell as traditionally understood, just as an oncologist, on the basis of his expertise, diagnoses cancer. I can also understand that there can be differences of opinion among equally skilled experts. Just as one exegete might argue for the TVOH and another against, so different doctors might disagree as to whether the leg, in the above hypothetical, actually needs to be amputated, or whether some other treatment might work. What I don’t get is the attitude. If my doctor said, “Good news! We gotta take the leg!” it would be grossly understating it to say I’d be taken aback and appalled. However, this cheery, positive attitude seems to be the exact attitude of many who support the traditional view of hell. Perhaps I shouldn’t say “cheery”; but they do invest much emotional energy into supporting hell.
Starting from Paumanok 11 As I have walk'd in Alabama my morning walk, I have seen where the she-bird the mocking-bird sat on her nest in the briers hatching her brood. I have seen the he-bird also, I have paus'd to hear him near at hand inflating his throat and joyfully singing. And while I paus'd it came to me that what he really sang for was not there only, Nor for his mate nor himself only, nor all sent back by the echoes, But subtle, clandestine, away beyond, A charge transmitted and gift occult for those being born.
What we will be seeking … for the rest of our lives will be large, stable communities of like-minded people, which is to say relatives. They no longer exist. The lack of them is not only the main cause, but probably the only cause of our shapeless discontent in the midst of such prosperity.
–Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Palm Sunday, “Thoughts of a Free Thinker”, commencement address, Hobart and William Smith Colleges (26 May 1974)
Starting from Paumanok 10 Know you, solely to drop in the earth the germs of a greater religion, The following chants each for its kind I sing. My comrade! For you to share with me two greatnesses, and a third one rising inclusive and more resplendent, The greatness of Love and Democracy, and the greatness of Religion. Melange mine own, the unseen and the seen, Mysterious ocean where the streams empty, Prophetic spirit of materials shifting and flickering around me, Living beings, identities now doubtless near us in the air that we know not of, Contact daily and hourly that will not release me, These selecting, these in hints demanded of me. Not he with a daily kiss onward from childhood kissing me, Has winded and twisted around me that which holds me to him, Any more than I am held to the heavens and all the spiritual world, After what they have done to me, suggesting themes. O such themes—equalities! O divine average! Warblings under the sun, usher'd as now, or at noon, or setting, Strains musical flowing through ages, now reaching hither, I take to your reckless and composite chords, add to them, and cheerfully pass them forward.
Starting from Paumanok
9 What do you seek so pensive and silent? What do you need camerado? Dear son do you think it is love? Listen dear son—listen America, daughter or son, It is a painful thing to love a man or woman to excess, and yet it satisfies, it is great, But there is something else very great, it makes the whole coincide, It, magnificent, beyond materials, with continuous hands sweeps and provides for all.
Starting from Paumanok 8 What are you doing young man? Are you so earnest, so given up to literature, science, art, amours? These ostensible realities, politics, points? Your ambition or business whatever it may be? It is well—against such I say not a word, I am their poet also, But behold! such swiftly subside, burnt up for religion's sake, For not all matter is fuel to heat, impalpable flame, the essential life of the earth, Any more than such are to religion.