Summer in a beach town is sacred meets sordid, like God going to Burger King. Or the other way around, I guess, Burger King coming to God. It’s weird. Also? I can’t stop running. I mean, I can and do, but I don’t want to. I’ve noticed that I don’t have to stop to smell the roses; roseness is everywhere. Inertia hits me in a fast place. Someone once told me that we don’t like to start crying because we’re afraid we’ll never stop. I don’t think I’d ever stop running unless the trail ended.
Plus, I run in heaven. A heaven. On the ocean, with deer and rabbits and mink and goldfinches. The roseness in this place is beach roses – rosehips – and rosehips are so wonderful, they may be the only thing that really matters. Thorny and fragrant, with papery petals, rosier than roses, and tiny, sour fruit, redder than redness.
Anyway, this morning, a shrew ran across my path, so I stopped running and suddenly I knew what hell was. Right there in a heaven, when I certainly wasn’t looking for hell, thought I’d been there, knew to avoid it. But I’d only ever been to pain: a raging restlessness, a hole in your humanity.
Hell is a question, I think. That’s what the little shrew whispered. But first, it’s a pit we stumble into, full of prizes. I won’t start listing shallow rewards; that’s been done before and it’s preachy. I’ll just say that ego’s Vegas is 2-D. Can spread all over your life, take you to your death bed, but it’s still: flat. Like eating someone else’s birthday cake, you could call it “selfish,” but really, it’s just dumb. Gross. Boring. Lonely cuz it’s a perversion of love, and it makes you sick.
Hell’s question is this: how do you breathe/love/live? Weak and shallow or with strength and depth? Sounds simple. Don’t answer yet. Heaven is not your reward for climbing out of hell. There is no reward for climbing out of hell. There might not even be a heaven; just some real nice places we like. We can’t judge all the people down there in the pit, either, as they seem so suited to it. I do kinda wanna shout down into it, I guess: “You’re life’s up here! And you’re missing it!”
But nobody’s gonna cheer if you claw your way through ego’s Vegas and end up right where you started. All the cheering is down there in the pit. That’s where the prizes are, and it’s noisy there.
All that’s up here is two fists of rosehips, red eyes from crying and another birthday cake. But this cake has your name on it and you get one piece. All the other pieces go to the people who love you. And they love you so much.