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Friday, April 9, 2010

HELL

        Somewhere around the summer of 1967 a rather peculiar attraction opened in the Smoky Mountains tourist town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  It was called TOUR THROUGH HELL.  According to the promotional brochure, the attraction was put together by a preacher of some sort.  The tour promised to show visitors the lake of fire, to see the vilest sinners consigned to eternal damnation, and to walk on burning brimstone.  TOUR THROUGH HELL guaranteed to deliver horror, agony, and suffering.  It was not the typical fare of families on vacation, but I was sold-- I was ready to go to HELL.

        The attraction was housed in a stone-like structure that had the appearance of a volcano. The building would have been ideal for a Flintstones attraction.  The TOUR consisted of a series of wax museum type dioramas and Coney Island-like funhouse scenes garishly painted in ultraviolet orange and reds set in darkened corridors.  It was much like a guided tour of a carnival haunted attraction lead by a preacher.  Though somewhat cheesy, the attraction fascinated me, but did so little business that it was soon closed down.  The structure remained for a year or two until it finally burned down.

        Several years later, in the mid 70s I believe, I began formulating a novel which contained a scene inspired by my visit to the TOUR THROUGH HELL.   The novel, which remains unfinished on a back burner, I call The Spiritual Adventures of Larry Tibbs.  The novel, which might be compared to a John Updike style of story, relates a summer in the life of one ordinary man who is married and has an eight year old daughter.  The story takes place in 1963.  In my outline, the novel is basically divided in three parts:  "Larry Tibbs on Vacation", "Larry Tibbs Mows His Lawn", and "Larry Tibbs Buys Life Insurance".   There is little in the way of action.  The novel would be mostly character driven and connected by absurdist encounters, comic situations, and spiritually philosophical reflections.

        Much of the first section written years ago is completed.  My son had read this sometime in the 90s and continues to try to persuade me to finish this as he thought it showed great potential.  I have numerous notes concerning the other two parts, but I have not been inspired enough to do any thing with the novel.  Perhaps after I wrap up the current projects on which I have been working I will return to this novel.

        Hell has been a fascinating vision for many artists and writers throughout the centuries.  Dante Alighieri's poetic epic The Divine Comedy famously depicts the realms of the Inferno in the first and most famous section of the work.  Painters have often depicted the horrors of hell.  Hell has probably been depicted in film far moreso than heaven.  Frequently the depictions of hell are comic and absurd.  Why is it that the concept of hell is not taken seriously by many?  Could it be that the depictions that we often see and read about are inadequate in conveying what hell really is?  What does the concept of "hell" mean to you?

       

34 comments:

  1. Hmm, this is pretty a pretty deep (excuse the pun) post. I absolutely adore the depictions portrayed in Dante's Divine Comedy, especially inferno. I also love the medieval 'doom paintings' that offer up a vivid and frightening picture of Hell.

    Personally, I believe Hell to be an endless void where nothingness is absolute. An eternity where you cannot see, hear, feel, smell, taste, touch, speak, but where you are still aware of what is happening. That would be my Hell. I take my version of Hell as a mix between the movie Johnny Got His Gun (famously reinterpreted through the Metallica song One about a man who loses almost all of his senses, his arms and legs, but is still alive and conscious) and a deleted scene from Kevin Smith's Dogma where Azrael (Jason Lee) explains how Hell was originally the absence of God (which, he explains, 'if you'd ever been in His presence, you know that was punishment enough').

    I think Hell is often seen as something lighthearted and comical because deep down we are too afraid to accept that something so terrible could exist.

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  2. Very interesting post. My opinion of Hell (and earth and heaven) can be read here :)
    http://thealliterativeallomorph.blogspot.com/2010/03/living-in-limbo.html

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  3. I love the idea for your book! Please continue to work on it and I will line up at Border's Bookstore to grab a fresh copy!
    Hell has so many definitions. But, either way,I'm trying to avoid it at all costs!

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  4. My husband always said that Hell was here on earth, Heaven comes after we cease our life on earth.
    But I always say that life is what YOU make it and only YOU are responisble for your actions. so to be honest I have an open mind.

    Yvonne.

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  5. Interesting idea, Arlee.
    I see hell as a place of pain, anger, sorrow, and regret.

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  6. Morning Lee, thanks for sharing this.

    That attraction sounds weird and fascinating at the same time, kind of like your story. Maybe you should try to complete it.

    As far as Hell I think you ask some great questions, and I have to agree that especially in contemporary film it seems that Hell is most often portrayed comically. I imagine it's because it's a very uncomfortable subject.

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  7. Wow! Not what I expected for H day. Hell is someplace I won't go - thanks to my savior. Conceptually - we know about the fire and brimstone. What I cannot wrap my mind around is the complete and total separation from God. There are no words to describe what this must be like - and that is more frightening and disturbing than flames.

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  8. I think that hell is a cross between the Jacob & Marley chains and a 'god of war' video game. The more bad things you do in life, the more you chain your soul down to what you've done and where you've done it (that's why so many spirits 'haunt') But instead of being alone, you're surrounded by crazy evil people just like you. Not fun.

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  9. I'll have to ponder your "Hell" question. Your description of the "Hell" display though, reminded me of Salem, Massachusetts, where there is an entire industry of dark caverns containing wax depictions of events that occurred during the Salem Witch trials, which, of course, to a great degree, were fire and brimstone inspired.

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  10. To me Hell means that I would be eternally seperated from God. When Jesus was dying on the cross, paying the price for all of the worlds sins, He was separated from God, which was so much more painful then anything that happened to him prior to His death. God bless, Lloyd

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  11. Great post!! I would have loved to visit that place. In college I did a dissertation on Michaelangelo's Last Judgement and everything that influenced his mural as well as all the artist he later influenced. Hell is definitely a fascinating subject!

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  12. I figured someone would take H and do Hell, I didn't know it would be you. Excellent lead in - I was unaware of the "tourist attraction."

    Hell is something thank cannot be taken lightly. Jesus certainly believed in the existence and the reality of hell as a place of eternal suffering and punishment. He taught on hell some 56 times and he taught on heaven some 28 times.

    If we really had a glimpse energized by the Holy Spirit, this would be not be taken so lightly by so many belivers. Revelations states the the smoke of the torment of the dammed with rise toward heaven for all of eternity.

    The greatest punishent of hell, amid the flames, fire, sulphur, will be the separation from the glory of God for all of eternity.

    Satan, the great deceiver, has secured a great victory when people, deny the reality hell, reduce its suffering, depict Satan as some minion is a red suit with a pitch fork.

    Unless a man repents of his sin - his rebellion against God, unless he is spiritually impoverished and cries out for mercy, and trusts in the full atoning work of Jesus Christ, will perish and spend an eternity in a Christless hell to the glory and praise of God.

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  13. Very good post. I agree with Jamie's quote that hell is the absence of God. I'm not entirely sure what that looks like or if it something we can even understand as humans (I feel the same way about Heaven, though I have a few more ideas of what I'd like that to be like I think overall it is characterized by the presence of God and wonder sometimes if the things from it are going to matter at all once it is a reality)

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  14. Hell for me has always meant fire. And lots of it. Pain, pain and more pain.

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  15. Thank you all for your input. There are some really good points make in all of your comments. I agree that hell would primarily be the separation from God and knowing so, leading to eternal sadness, regret, and burning of wanting to be in the presence of God's glory eternally. But the concept of eternity is difficult for me to grasp. The choice is clear-- better an eternity with God than one without.

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  16. Hell is the absence of God and all His glory...Arlee you did a great job here...I am sick and going back to bed, I will make sure to comment some late...God bless you!

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  17. ...great post Lee!!! i'm still laughing about "Hell burning down!" i used to pray before getting on a plane for my hell insurance. no more! it's interesting to read the answers above. as you know, God keeps His promises to us. i'm no longer concerned about hell. one thing i'm just beginning to learn. although my entire life has been hell for me...the rest of doesn't have to be as long as i learn to abide in Him.

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  18. "The structure remained for a year or two until it finally burned down."

    Ha!-Ha! Now that I find ironically funny.

    "What does the concept of "hell" mean to you?"

    Hell is waking up in the morning only to find that my Brother is still here because he took the day off from work.

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" Stephen

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  19. Bud & Stephen -- I was wondering if anyone would catch the irony of the Hell structure burning down. I too thought it was funny, if not a might bit suspicious -- it had become somewhat of an eyesore in town.

    Shannon -- Hope you feel better real soon.

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  20. If only those who find themselves in Hell in the hereafter would be so lucky to have it burned down. To me hell is definitely a place I don't want to spend an eternity.

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  21. Hell is hot and forever is a long time. But all I really know is that I deserve to be there, and knowing that was the first step in understanding grace.

    Love in the Truth.

    PS - I did Heaven for my H!

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  22. I'm back. Twice in one day is like a record for me. After reading all the comments I realized I hadn't commented on what I thought of Hell. Personally, I don't believe in Hell in the Biblical sense, maybe because I'm don't follow any particular religion. To me Hell is a state of mind and at certian points in all of our lives we get "sent" there for a time. I feel the same way about Heaven. To me when you believe in God and not a religion, heaven and hell are states of being, both of which serve a purpose and help us grow and become more enlighted. I believe we lead many lives, most of the time we just don't remember the past one. Both heaven & hell are all around us and in the fiber of everything, just depends on which glasses we are choosing to see the world through.

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  23. Well, I don't believe in hell like a place somewhere deep below with constant torment.

    I don't think you need to go to the center of the earth to reach hell.

    There's plenty of it above the earth. Just read a newspaper.

    I hope you can write that book someday. I have books like that, waiting for inspiration.

    ann

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  24. I agree with Lloyd and Gregg. They presented a biblical definition of hell. Although I don't think anyone can truly comprehend how terrifying eternal separation from God will be on that day when God says, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. Luke 13:27-28

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  25. i had to come back as well, Lee! still laughing at hell burning down! what kind of business do you think the owner went into next?

    selling pine pitch chewing gum at the local farmer's market?

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  26. Whenever my daughter says "I'm going through hell," I tell her keep walking, look straight ahead and soon she'll be on the otherside.
    One hell of a post. LOL.

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  27. I do believe that hell is a real place, but also know that many make their lives a living hell due to their own choices.

    I would say "great H word", but I'm not so sure. :)

    Have a great weekend and see you tomorrow!

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  28. As I am totally unsure there is an afterlife I believe we live our heaven or hell (or even purgatory) on earth. That way my soul goes back to God and I have already paid for my sins (if there were any unsurmountable ones). I sleep better at night as I ALWAYS abide by the Golden Rule. Well, almost always. Just in case ;-) Cheers!

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  29. My interpretation of hell is the ultimate, final, eternal, and irreversible separation from God. Unthinkable agony, no possibility to ever again experience joy, peace and unity ever again.

    The Old Silly

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  30. I love the idea of your book. I hope you end up finishing it. Absurdist humor is very hard to get a hold of. Great post

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  31. Hell = Separation from God and darkness for God is Light. Always burning for that which you made your god on earth, but will never have (the worm that is never satisfied, or, if you will, the eternal torment.)
    If you have surrendered to Christ here and now, you're hope and fulfillment will be made complete when you meet God in Heaven.

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  32. looks like you hit a gold mine of comments on this one,...people def. have their tightly held opinions of what Hell is. Me personally, agree with those that it is an absence of God...and his goodness.--all of our life depends upon his goodness and his light...yes we have the sun, but it is his good ness and his light that keep us alive and breathing

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  33. Hell? wow I never thought about it before but its true, it is told far more often then heaven really is. Being religious as I am, Hell to me is a place of pain and suffering. One thing I have always been interested in, is coming up with a movie with the title 777. Gods numbers, and pretty much making a movie about what to expect. The barcode in the skin, the crazy events. Pretty much telling people "Hey this is what I believe is real, and you may not believe it now but one day you will see the signs." Awesome post!

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  34. Our trials and tribulations in this realm.

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Lee