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Existence of Heaven and hell
As humans live in this world, everyone has a different analogy on the goal of life. Besides, as much as people may be happy with life, everyone is kept in oblivion about what would happen to them after death. However, there are several theories that talk about how people would be after death. Moreover, there is an inherent belief that humans are destined to Heaven after death depending on personal actions and behavior of various people.
Nonetheless, existence of heaven and hell has been a contentious issue among various believers. This paper seeks to come up with an argumentative essay on the issue of the existence of heaven and hell with reference to C.S Lewis’ book The Great Divorce. The paper also seeks to analyze a case that would be used in assessing the controversial issue of heaven and hell.
Analysis of the theories behind heaven
There has been a widespread school of thought that the actions of any individual would not eventually affect his existence after death, just in case there is life after death. This idea that purports to support the issue of life and death has been associated with many scholars who have come up with various arguments on the issue supporting their sentiments. However, other scholars sought to dismiss the idea that the final destiny of every human being is predetermined by God and that there exists absolutely no possibility of any person redeeming themselves from the fate decided to them by God.
Through various mythical works, authors have presented both hell and heaven as the ultimate rewards for all the actions that an individual might undertake in their normal lifetime. Some of the essential ideals that are often held in various forms of writings such as the Great Heaven are directly translated from holy books such as the Bible. In the fictional theories of representing the imaginary experiences of the human soul after death, most researchers have created a worthy contest of the philosophy that all human beings will move to the same place after their demise.
In my own point of view, According to Lewis, heaven is presented to the humans as a place where the only factors existing are rest and vastly beneficial possibilities for those who will have their destiny there. However, the thought of heaven being a marvelous place is the direct opposite of how hell would look like. There is the representation of the hell as being comparatively or even exaggeratedly smaller than heaven (Lewis, 32).
This purposeful representation of heaven as a bigger place leads to the notion that there are more people that are worthy to be in the place. Heaven is a place of possibilities and abundance. People have more than they may demand, and there is definitely better than the physical world. Heaven is a reward for the people that have virtues. However, the reign in hell is not worthwhile since most of the people in hell have less inclinations to work towards a common rule.
This means that hell’s ideal of reign is all in the minds of the characters, hence, abstract. “Milton was right," said my Teacher. "The choice of every lost should can be expressed in the words, 'Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.' ..... There is always something they prefer to joy --- that is, to reality." (Lewis, 41)
The depiction of the people in heaven is better compared to the one used to refer to the people from hell. Lewis creates a mental image of the people in heaven as bright and solid. This depiction makes the notion of a second life that has pervaded most of the religions real since the people in heaven are almost as real as those on earth. He notably changes how the people in hell are. They are not actual people (Lewis, 15).
They lack the solid nature and they are just spirits or phantoms. The use of the above contrasts makes heaven more appealing to the reader compared to hell. The readers choice as a theme comes out clearly in the novel. People make many choices as it is indicated in The Hill …
Who played with life all his ninety years,
Braving the sleet with bared breast,
Drinking, rioting, thinking neither of wife nor kin,
Nor gold, nor love, nor heaven?
Most of the phantoms in hell opt to remain in the small area since they have the power to choose what to do. From the Spoon River Anthology, the following excerpt has been used to describe the nature of life after death.
All, all are sleeping on the hill.
One died in shameful child-birth,
One of a thwarted love,
One at the hands of a brute in a brothel,
One of a broken pride, in the search for heart’s desire;
One after life in far-away London and Paris
Most academic resources reveal that the heaven is of more significance to the life after death since it is the final destination for all Christians. This is a contradiction to the representation of the hell in the novel since it is comparatively or even exaggeratedly smaller than heaven (Lewis, 32).
This purposeful representation of heaven as a bigger place leads to the notion that there are more people that are worthy to be in the place. Heaven is a place of possibilities and abundance. People have more than they may demand and there is definitely better than the physical world. Heaven is a reward for the people that have virtues.
In conclusion, it is essential to understand the fact that the actuality of heaven and hell are theories that many humans believe in. As much as everyone know that death is an inevitable plan that will have to take place in everyone’s life, majority of humans do not actually know how they will be after their demise.
Hart, James David. The Oxford Companion To American Literature. 1st ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983. Print.
Inge, M. Thomas. Literature. 1st ed. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2008. Print.
Lewis, C. S. The Great Divorce. 1st ed. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1946. Print.
One theme, in particular, in those papers intrigued me. Prominent in their headlines and articles was a clear admonition: “Come Prepared or Not At All”.
Implicit in those warnings were two commands: 1. If you have nothing, stay away. 2. This new land is Utopia for a few. Translation: no poor former slaves are welcome in the paradise being built here.
What could that mean for ex- slaves — threatened, exhausted refugees with no resources? How would they feel having trekked all that way from chains into freedom only to be told: “This here is Paradise but you can’t come in.” I also noticed that the town leaders in the photographs were invariably light-skinned men. Was skin privilege also a feature of the separation? One that replicated the white racism they abhorred?
I wanted to dig into these matters by exploring the reverse: exclusivity by the black-skinned; and construction of their own “gated community”, one that refused entrance to the mixed race. Considering the need for progeny in order to last, how would patriarchy play and how might matriarchy threaten? In order to describe and explore these questions I needed 1) to examine the definition of paradise, 2) to delve into the power of colourism, 3) to dramatise the conflict between patriarchy and matriarchy, and 4) disrupt racial discourse altogether by signalling then erasing it.
The idea of paradise is no longer imaginable or, rather, it is overimagined, which amounts to the same thing — and has therefore become familiar, commercialised, even trivial. Historically, the images of paradise in poetry and prose were intended to be grand but accessible, beyond the routine but imaginatively graspable, seductive as though remembered. Milton speaks of “goodliest trees, loaden with fairest fruit, Blossoms and fruits at once of golden hue… with gay enamelled colours mixed…; of Native perfumes.” Of “that sapphire fount the crisped brooks, Rolling on orient pearl and sands of gold…” of “nectar visiting each plant, and fed flowers worthy of Paradise… Groves whose rich trees wept odorous gums and balm; Others whose fruit, burnished with golden rind, Hung amiable… of delicious taste. Betwixt them lawns, or level downs, and flocks Grazing the tender herb.” “Flowers of all hue and without thorn the rose.” “Caves of cool recess, o’er which the mantling vine Lays forth her purple grape and gently creeps Luxuriant …”
That beatific, luxurious expanse we recognise in the 21st century as bounded real estate owned by the wealthy and envied by the have-nots, or as gorgeous parks visited by tourists. Milton’s Paradise is quite available these days, if not in fact then certainly as ordinary, unexceptionable desire. Modern paradise has four of Milton’s characteristics: beauty, plenty, rest and exclusivity. Eternity seems to be forsworn.
Beauty is benevolent, controllable nature combined with precious metal, mansions, finery and jewellery.
Plenty in a world of excess and attending greed, which tilts resources to the rich and forces others to envy, is an almost obscene feature of a contemporary paradise. In this world of outrageous, shameless wealth squatting, hulking, preening before the dispossessed, the very idea of “plenty” as Utopian ought to make us tremble. Plenty should not be understood as a paradise-only state but as normal, everyday, humane life.
Rest that is the respite from labour or fighting for rewards or luxury has dwindling currency these days. It is a desire-less-ness that suggests a special kind of death without dying. Rest can suggest isolation, a vacation without pleasant or soothing activity. In other words, punishment and/or wilful laziness.
Exclusivity, however is still an attractive, even compelling feature of paradise because so many people — the unworthy — are not there. Boundaries are secure, watchdogs, security systems, and gates are there to verify the legitimacy of the inhabitants. Such enclaves separate from crowded urban areas proliferate. Thus it does not seem possible or desirable for a city to be envisioned let alone built in which poor people can be accommodated. Exclusivity is not just a realised dream for the wealthy, it is a popular yearning of the middle class. “Streets” are understood to be populated by the unworthy, the dangerous. Young people strolling are understood to be prowling the streets and up to no good. Public space is fought over as if it were private. Who gets to enjoy a park, a beach, a street corner? The term “public” is itself a site of contention.
Eternity, which avoids the pain of dying again, is rendered null by secular, scientific arguments; yet it has nevertheless the greatest appeal. Medical and scientific resources are directed toward more life and fitter life, and remind us that the desire is for earthbound eternity, rather than eternal afterlife. The implication being that this is all there is.
Thus, paradise, as an earthly project as opposed to a heavenly one has serious intellectual and visual limitations. Aside from “Only me or us forever”, heavenly paradise hardly bears mention.
Toni Morrison (Reuters)
But that might be unfair. It is hard not to notice how much more attention is given to hell rather than heaven. Dante’s Inferno beats out Paradiso every time. Milton’s brilliantly rendered pre-paradise world, known as Chaos, is far more fully realised than his Paradise. The visionary language of the doomed reaches heights of linguistic ardour with which language of the blessed and saved cannot compete.
There were reasons for the images of the horrors of hell to be virulently repulsive in the 15th and 16th centuries. The argument for avoiding hell needed to be visceral, needed to reveal how much worse such an eternity was than the hell of everyday life. That was when paradise was simply the absence of evil — an edgeless, already recognisable landscape: great trees for shade and fruit, lawns, palaces, precious metals, animal husbandry, and jewellery. Other than outwitting evil and waging war against the unworthy, there seems to be nothing for the inhabitants of paradise to do. An open, borderless, come-one-come-all paradise, without dread, minus a nemesis is no paradise at all.
Notable in Milton’s Paradise is the absence of women. Eve alone is given the most prominent space in that place. Progeny apparently is not required since there will always be more blessed to enter. Also, besides caretaking, what is there for women to do?
Since the paradise the black newspapers envisioned not so subtly encouraged light-skinned applicants, a major excitement for me in writing Paradise was an effort to disrupt the assumptions of racial discourse. I was eager to manipulate, mutate and control imagistic, metaphoric language in order to produce something that could be called race-specific/race-free prose, language that deactivated the power of racially inflected strategies — transform them from the straitjacket a race-conscious society can, and frequently does, buckle us into — a refusal to “know” characters or people by the colour of their skin. One of the most malevolent characteristics of racist thought is that it never produces new knowledge. It seems able to merely reformulate and refigure itself in multiple but static assertions. It has no referent in the material world; like the concept of black blood or white blood or blue blood, it is designed to construct artificial borders and maintain them against all reason and all evidence to the contrary. And while racist thought and language have an almost unmitigated force in political and social life, the realm of racial difference has been allowed an intellectual weight to which it has no claim. It is truly a realm that is no realm at all — an all-consuming vacancy that is both common and strange.
Material relating to the black towns founded by African Americans in the 19th century provided a rich field for an exploration of race-specific/race-free language. I am aware of how whiteness matures and ascends the throne of universalism by maintaining its powers to describe and enforce its descriptions. To challenge that view of universalism, to exorcise, alter, and de-fang the white/black confrontation and concentrate on the residue of that hostility seemed to me a daunting project and an artistically liberating one.
“They shoot the white girl first. With the rest they can take their time.”
With these opening sentences I wanted to signal 1) the presence of race as hierarchy and 2) its collapse as reliable information. The novel places an all-black community, one chosen by its inhabitants, next to a raceless one, also chosen by its inhabitants. The grounds for traditional black versus white hostilities shift to the nature of exclusion, the origins of chauvinism, the sources of oppression, assault, and slaughter. The black town of Ruby is all about its own race — preserving it, developing myths of origin, and maintaining its purity. In the Convent, race is indeterminate — all racial codes are eliminated, deliberately withheld. For some readers this was disturbing and some admitted to being preoccupied with finding out which character was the “white girl”; others wondered initially and then abandoned the question; some ignored the confusion by reading them all as black. The perceptive ones read them as fully realised individuals — whatever their race. Unconstrained by the weary and wearying vocabulary of racial domination, the narrative seeks to unencumber itself from the limit that racial language imposes on the imagination. The conflicts are gender-related and generational. They are struggles over history — who will tell and thereby control the story of the past? Who will shape the future? There are conflicts of value, of ethics. Of personal identity. What is manhood? Womanhood? And, finally, what is personhood?
Raising these questions seemed most compelling when augmented by yearnings for freedom and safety; for plenitude, for rest, for beauty; by the search for one’s own space, for respect, love, bliss — in short, how to reimagine paradise. Not the “Come Prepared or Not At All” command to make sure you get a ticket before you enter a theme park; but an interrogation into the narrow imagination that conceived and betrayed paradise.
We called him Big Papa. He stood in the vegetable garden peeling a yam with his pocketknife. Then he ate the raw slices slowly, carefully. If he wanted the chair you were in, he stood there, silent, until you got the message and got up. He was too religious for any church. He drew pictures of my sister and me and gave us the gift of chewing gum. Wherever he was — on the porch, at the kitchen table, in the living room reading — that’s where the power and deference were. He didn’t exert power; he assumed it. And it was in part from knowing him that I felt I could understand and create the men in Ruby — their easy assumption of uncontested authority. Big Papa. A survivor. Eccentric, formidable, playful, stubborn, learned. He left me his violin.
Toni Morrison will be speaking at the Hay Festival on Tuesday May 27 and Wednesday May 28. Click here to purchase tickets.
Paradise (£8.99), and the rest of Toni Morrison’s backlist, is published by Vintage. Call 0844 871 1515 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk
READ: A review of Toni Morrison's novel, Home, a deft universal parable set in Fifties America
IN PICTURES: Hay Festival 2014