Tag Archives: purgatory

Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, Heck and Helven…Choices for Eternity

I was reading the comics yesterday when I found this great Dilbert.  I have loved the strip for years and some of the funniest strips for me have been those dealing with religion and spirituality.  Be it Saint Dogbert and his “Out out Demons of Stupidity” or Phil the Prince of Insufficient Light who rules over “Heck” with his pitch-spoon where people are “darned to Heck for minor infractions,” I have always gotten a chuckle or even a belly laugh out of them.

Of course many people and religions have different conceptions of the afterlife for both the saved, sometimes known as the elect or the unsaved that are sometimes referred to as the damned.  Without getting into anyone’s knickers I want to just have some fun with what can be a subject of speculation and even controversy.

Of course heaven is the place of the elect and is usually characterized by streets of gold, angels, pearly gates and lots of time around whichever Deity that the religion in question believes in.  Heaven is a good place and probably where you want to be going if you have to spend the rest of eternity, which I am assured sports fans is a very long time.  Now there are variations on heaven. Some religions have different concepts about it and others have looser or tighter rules as to who gets in, everything from the “All dogs go to heaven” of universalists to the 144,000 of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to the real strict fundamentalists of various religions (fundamentalists of all religions tend to be peas in a pod) who are even more select that the JWs.

Some even have different levels of heaven.  To go back to the JWs they have “real heaven” where the 144,000 go and then a perfect earth where the rest of the JWs go to pick fruit and pet animals for eternity.  If you ask me that kind of sucks because it is a works system based around how many people you convert to be JWs.  The thing that would suck is like you thought you had gotten the last of the 144,000 available spaces and someone that you converted knocked you out of the competition.  If you are not a JW forget it, you just get annihilated, not even the eternal punishment of hell to look forward to.  The Latter Day Saints have a cool belief that if you are a super cool Mormon man you get to be God of your own planet while everyone else gets regular heaven and only the really bad people go to hell. Of course some Moslems believe that if you are martyred for your faith you get to have 72 virgins in heaven to have eternal sex with, no mention of what happens to female martyrs but I wonder if their virgins would be the ones with pimples and wearing rape control glasses, Moslem nerds so to speak.  The Hindus have a number of different beliefs but the prevailing trend is that heaven and hell are things to help get you perspective in between periods of reincarnation.  Since the soul is immortal and you keep getting reincarnated this sounds like summer school.  Have you ever noticed that a lot of people who believe in reincarnation believe that they were someone famous in a previous life?  I think that Kevin Costner playing “Crash” Davis in Bull Durham asked the same question to Susan Sarandon but regardless why don’t you hear people say that they were a flea on Napoleon’s horse at Waterloo? In Buddhism the endless quest is to attain Nirvana whose lead singer Kurt Cobain off’d himself.  Actually it is to attain Nirvana but that has nothing to do with Curt Cobain.  Nirvana is a state of nothingness which in my mind is kind of boring if you worked really hard to get things right for a multitude of lifetimes.  I guess that I’m too western and wonder what the payback is for working hard only to end up as nothing.  I am also uncomfortable that there will be no more “me” if I am successful, I like me.  The folks who are Jewish have a number of ideas about heaven and hell that are not too much different than those of Christians except the little fact of who gets in. Now this will vary between the three major groups of Jews from the pretty open minded Reformed Jews, to the Conservative and then to the Orthodox Jews who come in various strains of strictness.  The Reformed folks are pretty open-minded and the more extreme versions or Orthodox don’t think that anyone apart from them will get in.

Now as far as Christians we have a wide number of interpretations of both heaven and hell and to whom might be qualified to be admitted to either location. The Calvinists that are really serious believe in something called double predestination which basically means that people were either saved or damned before the creation of the world.  Not much room for choice in that theology.  There is a subgroup of these folks who sometimes are called Antinomians who believe that since they are saved that they can do anything that they want, any sin, no matter how big and still be saved. Personally I think that is really pretty presumptuous and downright scary.  Then those who are more Wesleyan or Armenian weigh in on the side of choice even including that one can “lose their salvation” after they were saved this is often found in Wesleyan and Pentecostal groups.  A similar stream is found in Catholicism and Orthodoxy, where though not technically losing salvation keeps you on edge wondering if you made it or not until you die.  In Roman Catholicism this might mean that you end up in heaven, hell or purgatory.  There are a wide number of interpretations within the Christian faith other than these but these are probably the most common views and interpretations.

So since I have in a nutshell (you are what you eat) in a manner of speaking have presented what different religions think of heaven and hell I shall move on to some of the interpretations of what this means.

As I said heaven, regardless of the religion is “good” unless of course that your religion does not have one in which case it is what it is.  Of course the opposite is true as well, if you don’t have a hell that can’t be too bad, unless of course you guess wrong which would really suck.  It would be almost as bad as when Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson missed the Rapture.

Moving on the Roman Catholic Church has a doctrine that is called Purgatory.  Now Purgatory much to the disappointment of some is now “junior hell.”  It is a place for the elect, or the saved to go to clean up their act and learn to love Jesus better before getting admitted into heaven proper.  It is a place like being elected to the baseball Hall of Fame you may get elected to the Hall but there is a period of time that you get to wait before the plaque goes up at Cooperstown. Likewise there must be a “Purgatory” because the state of West Virginia is described as “Almost Heaven” which would mean that it is in reality Purgatory. Since that is where my family originally comes from and from where my current driver’s license is issued that I too am headed there?

Map of Hell

Now Hell, with the exception of Hinduism is pretty much universally a place that you don’t want to go, kind of like Detroit.  There are many images of Hell including the best which come out of Dante’s Inferno which should not be confused with Disco Inferno even if you despised Disco.

I like the image of Hell as the “Lake of Fire.”  This conveys to me the image of a lake in the deep south which is painfully hot, overwhelmingly humid and swarming with flies, mosquitoes and other vermin.  I cannot imagine anywhere worse.  Rowan Atkinson has a great skit called Welcome to Hell where he plays the Devil welcoming a fresh group of the damned to the infernal regions. I’ve linked that here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFGrQMD6Uqc

Now I have already mentioned “Heck” which is ruled by Phil the Prince of Insufficient Light who “darns you to Heck for minor infractions and Helvin the place that souls are outsourced to due to the unionization of the Angels and Demons.   It seems to me that heck is not a particularly bad place however Helvin may not be too great of place to be.  I really don’t want to know how they would give my harp to me.

So anyway, I guess I shall invoke Saint Dogbert to banish the Demons of Stupidity as I go to sleep dreaming of the real heaven where the baseball diamond is the lushest green field with foul lines that extend to eternity.  In this heaven the game never ends and you never get tired.  Not much longer until the earthly baseball season begins again.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, faith, Just for fun

The Journey to Mudville

Friends: I wrote this in several parts over the day on my trip. I do thank all those who have expressed sympathy as well as voiced prayers on our behalf. Thank you. Peace, Steve+

There are those times in life where one wonders what the hell is going on.  I sat in my seat between two other gentlemen on the fully booked Southwest Airline flight to Chicago. This was the first stop on my journey home to Mudville, sometimes known as Stockton, California.  The legend is that the poem Casey at the Bat is set in Stockton, and for a couple of years the Stockton Ports were reflagged as the Mudville Nine.  So in a sense I can claim Mudville as part of my baseball lineage.

The journey had begun inauspiciously enough when my cell phone’s alarm clock went off at 0430 to the tune of John Foggarty’s Centerfield.  That’s military time for 4:30 AM, or too frickin’ early… even by my standards.  Now true this is only 15-30 minutes earlier than I normally arise, but I have never been a morning person.  If I had been able to get to sleep at a decent hour this might not have been too bad.  However, I had spent a full day trying to get my shit together on Sunday and did not get to bed until after midnight.  Thankfully my sleep meds worked and I did get to sleep.  When the alarm went off I got my sorry ass up and set the snooze for ten minutes more. Molly the dog glared at me.  Evidently this was too early for her as well.  I finally got up and out of bed, showered and went downstairs to call a cab.  Of course the cab company couldn’t promise a cab before 0600 and since my flight was scheduled for 0645 I knew that this was definitely a no go.  Molly the dog decided that it was now time to come downstairs and demand to be let out so she could do her business.  This being done she collected her payment of a Milk Bone and went back to bed.  After having paid off Molly I loaded my suitcase and backpack into my trusty 2001 Honda CR-V and started off to the airport.  After Iraq I now consider airports as the gateway to hell.

Radio tuned to ESPN Sports Radio 1310 AM I received the news that my San Francisco Giants had beaten the Evil Dodgers at Chavez Ravine 7-5 in 13 innings, taking two of three from the now Mannyless Dodgers. While the Norfolk Tides had taken 2 of three from the hapless Buffalo Bisons which in the Mets organization had once been the Tides. The Mets as usual have decided to treat their AAA farm team badly and people in Buffalo after years of competitive seasons as a Cleveland Indians affiliate are opening complaining.  With the good news I stopped by my local 7-11 for a 24 ounce coffee with 4 French Vanilla creamers and 3 packets of Splenda and zipped off to I-264.  It was then that things started to get interesting and not in a good way.  I managed to find every stoplight and get behind every timid driver who couldn’t drive anywhere near the speed limit.  I’ve driven the Autobahns of Germany and cut my teeth in L.A. and a lot of people in Hampton Roads can’t drive nails, much less cars. I put my CR-V into warp factor eight, set the cloaking device and dodged in and out of traffic and took the secret wormhole into the airport to avoid even more stoplights.  It is patently a good thing that I know such things as I would shortly discover that I would need every second.

I pulled into the parking garage and saw that there were 26 spaces available on the second deck. I drove onto the deck and discovered that there were not 26 spaces but a big fat zero spaces available. Muttering a few things about the questionable parentage of the idiot who couldn’t count the difference between 26 and zero I drove my CR-V up to the 3rd deck.  The sign here said 16 spaces available…good I thought, certainly they couldn’t screw up two floors.  Damned if I wasn’t screwed again.  Here again the parking space counter of the previously mentioned questionable parentage had miscounted.  Instead of 16 spaces there were…you guessed it, zero, nada, nicht eine, yea even nary a single space available. Now calling to mind the probable oedipal practices of the individual of questionable parentage I moved up to the 4th deck.  Here I found success; albeit at the end of a row far from the terminal, but I had my spot…at least I didn’t have to keep going up.  I looked at my watch and knew I had to run. I did the O.J. (racing through the airport, not killing my wife) and I got down to the ticketing area where I was greeted by the sight of at least 250 people in the Southwest line.   I now only had 50 minutes to my flight departed.  Normally with Southwest this is easy. They are efficient and the line, if they have one at all it tends to move fast.  Today was like something out of the hell known as the Orlando International Airport.  Some group of 100 or so people had bumped everyone else aside. Likewise one of the big TSA baggage X-rays was down, turning this into a nightmare is grumbling people stewed wondering if they would make their flights.  I uttered some more #*@#%! words under my breath and then asked the Deity Herself to give me a break. Thankfully the Deity and the good people at Southwest ensured that line moved fast.  We received some help when the group who had gooned up the line was finished.  Then the agent called for my 0645 flight.  At this point all of now very late passengers stormed the ticket booth like revolutionaries storming the Bastille. Thankfully I had good position based on my position in the line. Expert that I am I weaved through the lesser experienced travelers. I slid into a self serve kiosk that no one else had spotted like Ricky Henderson would slide into second. As I got my boarding pass a pushy woman tried to bump me out of line. I didn’t like it; she was trying to crowd me out of line when I was there first.  Thankfully she was too dense to know that she needed to check her bags despite having a boarding pass in her hand.  The Southwest agent told her to get in a different line and I got my bag checked.  That task completed I did the O.J. and flew up the steps to the TSA checkpoint.  Jumping over a bank of chairs I managed to pass about 50 people only to discover that the nefarious group of 100 was already at the TSA checkpoint.  Once again the pushy lady tried to elbow her way through the line.  Since she obviously was a narcissist with no sense of propriety I cut her off. She looked at me like I was stupid, forgetting that we had had this little discussion just a few minutes before.  I said “ma’am, most of us are on your flight and are ahead of you.” Her jaw dropped and a TSA agent told her to get back echoing my words.   She looked at me and said “Will they hold the flight for me?”  To upset her, having faith in the Deity and Southwest, I lied and said, “Probably not.” Of course I didn’t believe this with so many of us in the same predicament. Yet I kind of enjoyed the look on her face as she moved back to her rightful place at the end of the line. Not the nicest thing to do, but some things need to be done.  I’m sure it was a sin.  As I asked one priest in confession: “Is it still a sin if they deserve it?” He told me: “Yes, but there may be some mitigating circumstances, but that is still a sin.”  Well there’s some more extra innings in Purgatory for me. Thankfully I am an expert traveler now, so when I got to the screening station I flew through it. Looking at my watch I knew that I had to be screwed. I had heard the final boarding call in the TSA line and it was past time for departure.  I raced down the concourse I saw that the Deity had already spoken to the kind folks at Southwest and had them hold the aircraft for all of us…the pushy lady included, proving that the Deity even cares for pushy narcissists. I guess that the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.  Somehow I got through this episode without having a PTSD meltdown despite not having either a Xanax or beer to calm down.  Lot’s of deep breathing I guess helped this time.  Had I not made the flight I might have cracked, but the Deity Herself looked after me.

We arrived at Chicago Midway a little bit late, but in plenty of time to make my connecting fight to Sacramento, the alleged capitol of the State of California.  I say alleged because though there is much in the way of a state government in it there is painfully little evidence of effectiveness, despite having the Governator. Getting to Sacramento I picked up my luggage, which thankfully despite the lateness of my check-in got through.  If I had done the same on either Divided Airlines or U.S. Scare I’m sure that the luggage would not have made it on my flight, but would have ended up God knows where.  While waiting for my bag I had an e-mail from my mom about a run in that she had with a lady from hospice.  She was pretty spun up and my brother confirmed this.  I got my rental car, a 2009 Black Nissan Altima and headed down I-5 to Mudville.

When I got to Mudville I stopped by Raley’s to pick up the flowers that I told my mother would be arriving through a special arrangement with the florist.  Since I figured I should play this up for all that it was worth I decided to call and let her know that I had gotten her message.  She immediately launched into what was wrong with the world as I sat in my car in her driveway. I assured her that my brother and I would take care of things and that everything would be okay.  I knocked on the door with my phone in hand still talking to mom.  She told me someone was at the door and I said I would call back. She looked out the blinds which cover a window by the door, and then closed them, and then in disbelief opened them again. She was floored and stared in disbelief as I stood at the door, flowers in hand. I took her to the nursing home to see dad.  Somehow my nephew’s and niece managed to keep the secret the last two weeks. The surprise was total. He was glad to see me and immediately asked where Judy was.  He was disappointed that she was in Virginia. Unfortunately he looks in a lot worse shape than he was last year.  After the visit which included talks with the nursing staff and billing office I took my mom to Chile’s.

Now the hard part really starts.  Have to go up and see my dad.  I’ll be getting mom to the funeral home as well as make arrangements with their church for the memorial service at a date to be determined.  Following this I will be helping my brother with selling my parents old grave plots back to the cemetery in Napa where they lived a few years back. Then I will work on insurance issues between the insurance company and the nursing home.  The insurance company is being stupid right now.  The first 6 months they paid and now despite no change they are claiming that the nursing home is entering the wrong billing codes and say that they have the case “under investigation.”  However, since they have set precedent they should keep paying.  If they don’t start soon my brother and I will have to sue their sorry asses for putting my mom through hell.  If dad was with it he would be pissed.

So now that I am in Mudville I have work to do.  Take care and keep us all in your prayers.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under alzheimer's disease, Baseball, healthcare, PTSD, travel

Let Lying Dogs Sleep

her-sulking-majesty-resized

Frieda glaring and sulking after surgery to remove a tumor on her tail at the age of 10. We sometimes refer to this picture as “The Ass in a Sling.”

The term “Little Shit” in reference to  a Wiener Dog is one which may offend some people who have not been owned by one.  However as a descriptive term there is little better to describe them.  Those of us owned by them who struggle against them also mean it as a term of endearment.  Using the term in this post I mean no offense to the unenlightened, yet as we who know and love them understand deep in our hearts, that these little shits are to be treasured each in their own way.

Wiener Dogs, sometimes known as Dachshunds are among the most peculiar animals. Almost anyone who has been owned by one can tell you stories of how these little shits manage to do things that, well….to put it mildly convince you of the existence of purgatory.  They will make your life Purgatory for the 12-16 years or more that they will own you.  Sorry Protestants who don’t believe, if you aren’t owned by one here there will be one in Purgatory.  She is a Wire Hair named Frieda to run your life until you get straightened out enough to get to heaven.  After all, Purgatory is, like my home of record, West Virginia, Almost Heaven.

Judy and I have had these little wonders for oh… the last 25 years or so.   We have grown attached to them, much as hostages attach to their terrorist captors in the Stockholm Syndrome. We are convinced John, no I’m not having fun Calvin had a Wiener Dog.  Probably a Wire Hair, although I don’t think that the Wire Hair was around quite by JC’s time.  I do think that they came later.  However, that being said and despite the influence of Augustine’s understanding of predestination, Calvin had to have one of these little shits to come up with the doctrine of  Total Depravity. There is no question in my Anglo-Catholic mind of this fact. Likewise,  I’m sure that the Deity Herself will confirm this someday. Maybe John Calvin himself will thank me for bringing this up as we warm up on heaven’s lush green outfield.

For those of you who don’t believe, all you need to do is look at the first chapter of the orginal edition of Jame’s Dobson’s book The Strong Willed Child. Even Dobson cannot escape a power fight with his Wiener Dog named Max.

For us we had Frieda, a beautiful classic Wire Hair Dackel (what the Germans call them) from deep in Bayern (Bavaria). Frieda  took ownership of us on Christmas Eve 1984.  We also had Greta, a fat little red Dachshund from San Antonio who we got in 1988. Finally we have our current little shit and mischlinge (mixed) Long Hair Dachshund-Papillon and defender of the realm, Molly, in 2001.    We lost Frieda at the age of 16 1/2 in 2001. Greta at 15 1/2 in 2003.  Molly still acts like a puppy at 8.  Molly though a mixed breed flips from being the happy and obedient papillon to the obnoxious and stubborn Wiener Dog in nothing flat.  There is no in between setting for her, she goes from the good side of the Force to the Dark side at a moment’s notice.  Sometimes I think that she is channeling Frieda when this happens. Though they never met, they are somewhat kindred spirits.  Molly is not nearly as extreme as Frieda and  we can thank heaven for that. As it were we spent 16 plus years in a constant power fight with Frieda. Despite being a  little shit, Frieda weighed in at 28 pounds and had teeth and jaws like a German Shepherd.  Patently the little shits in Germany are bred to hunt badgers and foxes.  They are incredibly strong and have an attitude just this side of a Klingon in a bad mood.  Most dogs, once you have established dominance as the “Alpha Dog” in your little pack accept their place.  Not Wiener Dogs, especially Frieda. She spent 16 years trying to force us into doing what she wanted be it through passive or aggressive means.  If you have ever seen the Peter Sellers movie The Pink Panther Strikes Again where Inspector Cleauseau visits Oktoberfest and gets a room at a small hotel, you will see what I am referring to here. The good inspector sees a dog laying on the floor near the front desk. He asks the desk clerk if his dog bites.  The clerk replies no and Cleauseau reaches to pet the dog who attacks him.  Cleauseau tells the desk clerk “I thought you said your dog did not bite.” To which the clerk replied; “that’s not my dog.”  The dog is a Wire Hair, who looks just like Frieda in her early years. This was our life for 16 years.

Going back to the subject line of this post, it is more about Frieda than the other two. Although both Greta, as we affectionately called her Poo had her moments, and Molly like I said sometimes channels Frieda.  Frieda was unique. From what I hear from others owned by Wire Hairs that some of what she did are common to all of these miscreant creatures.  I can’t go into too many details and like John the Evangelist I would have to say that there are many more things that Frieda did which cannot be contained in this one blog.

Among other things, Frieda was a liar.  This began early when as a puppy in Germany she would try to fake Judy out about taking a pee.  She knew that if she went outside that she would be rewarded.  Rapidly catching on the little shit began to do “touch and goes’  faking the pee and hoping to still get a reward.  Judy noticed this and thus began an intricate dance of death with the little shit attempting to fool us, and us trying to catch her.  This usually involved looking to make sure that there was wetness where wetness should be on a female dog after they urinate.   If there was no wetness Frieda would not get her reward.  Likewise, Frieda lied about other things.  When she did something that she shouldn’t and you discovered it she could act more innocent than a Nazi at the Nurnberg Trials.  “What? Me? Do something wrong, I was in the Hofbrauhaus while the others we making those decsions.”  If you decided to push the issue she became 28 pounds of razor blades.  Actually it was more like a Sherman tank blundering into an ambush by a Wehrmacht Jagdpanther with the long 88.  Not a fun and often violent.  I think Judy and I still have scars from some of these encounters.

Frieda lied in other ways, occasionally we would catch her.  Once while living in Texas we went to take a blind friend to the store.  This was just before Christmas and Judy had just made a butt-load of cookies.  We didn’t expect the call from our friend so we left the apartment rather quickly.  When we got to our friends’ house we were struck by a terrible thought, the cookies were in striking distance of Frieda and Poo.  Reacting quickly I asked our friend for his phone. This being in the dark ages before cell phones we affordable to the average person.  Calling my house I waited for my version of Bill Clinton’s voice to play through the message on the machine and as soon as the “beep” signaled I was live I began to talk.  “Dammit, get away from the cookies now! I’m coming home and if I catch you you’re dead!” Slamming the phone down I ran to the car and raced the 5 miles back to our apartment.  As I rushed the door I noticed that indeed to cookies had been pilfered, However the dogs were nowhere to be found. I found Poo hiding in the bedroom and Frieda behind the toilet.  I can only imagine the looks on their faces when my voice called them out in the middle of the crime.

Frieda would also play dead.  I mean play dead enough to make that you think that she was dead.  She would be on her back, eyes fixed forward and unblinking, chest not moving. She would do this until we or her various puppy sitters were screaming “Oh may God she’s dead!” When she was happy the little shit would wag the very tip of her tail as if to say gotcha!

If you asked if she knew about the ripped up clothing, eaten socks, opened child proof medicine bottles her eyes would turn to steel.  Molly can do this too when caught.  Thankfully she is only half of Frieda’s weight and not as heavily armed. She also being a mischlinge has to fight the Papillon urge to please, something that Frieda did not have to contend with being fully in tune with the Dark Side of the Force.

As I said before the stories about Frieda could fill volumes.  Those who knew her can attest to these and many other nearly unbelievable stories.  Maybe she was an X-File. I don’t know, but if so she was our X-File and we loved the little shit, we still miss her.  One thing that we know.  Always let lying dogs sleep.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under dachshunds, Loose thoughts and musings