Other faith based believes notwithstanding---that is also true here on earth, not of the "hell" as depicted in scripture but those places we find ourselves where we don't want to be.
I was at lunch at a chain Italian restaurant with a group of ladies from a volunteer group. One of them was NOT having a good day, and when our very young waiter came by and asked how we were doing she said, quite boisterously "We're all going to hell and I'm driving the bus!" She meant it as a joke but we didn't see bread sticks for the next 30 minutes.
But honestly, looking back on life, many of the times I found ourselves in, of hurt and injury and loneliness - were my own doing. Sure Mom said I wasn't ready for the training wheels to come off. I looked good in that arm cast anywhere. Sure the posted speed limit is 65, but I didn't buy a twenty year old 66 Plymouth Barracuda to do the speed limit. After that, a hundred Geckos couldn't have saved me money on my car insurance. That guy that stood me up for the prom? Fourteen years later he's staring across from me, wearing a uniform, realizing that I held his job in my hands.
In looking at the world around me, one that grows increasingly dark from a nation of collective "look at me" while ignoring what's happening right around us, I grow increasingly concerned. I can only shake my head at those that continue to say. "Oh, things are better". "We are winning the war on terror", or "The economy is improving!" (because we quit counting people who have been out of work for ages or have given up)
I won't speak further of the camouflage that is politics; but I can speak of readiness. There is more to being prepared than buying a few weeks of freeze-dried food on Amazon and having Google handy in case of a terror attack or natural disaster while Big Brother is out playing or your mom and dad are out of the house. There is more to awareness than seeing who is saying what about us in media. I'm speaking of this, not just as individuals, but as a collective nation--- as we seem to be more interested in what a Kardashian is wearing than a growing darkness that's spreading from parts of the Middle East to the entire globe.
Now, I wasn't an aviation major, interested in science and criminal justice, but it was a lot better way to make tuition than "would you like large fries with that". I remember some of the students vaguely. I remember some vividly, the imprint of their panic stricken Steve Urkel "Did I do THAT" expression burned into my brain. There was one fellow to whom I was demonstrating how to recover from a stall, the event where the angle between the chord line of the wing and the relative wind is such that airflow is disrupted and the wing stops flying. The nose drops, you level the wings and you add power. Piece of cake. Except in this case the student took my words "just gently lower the nose" to mean shoving the control yoke full forward with 180 pounds of push. I didn't know it would go that far forward. Forward, straight into the ground, coming up at 100 miles an hour.
For a moment, the woods below rushed up to greet us with a deathly slap, air rushing past with the speed of infallibility, mocking the effort of lift, the effort of life. But, for altitude and instincts born of hours of repetitive movements, that might have been our last flight. But it wasn't, and with a tussle of controls and the movement of the throttle we were climbing back up, with the power of an engine and the unrending breath of youth. Inhaling life from death, not realizing just how close it was until it was over. In that moment I was reminded that nature did not care if we were young and high up on the food chain. The sky, with it's solitude and freedoms, creates a perfect stage for exultation or loss and we are very small actors in the arena.
I spent my 30's and 40's as an avid outdoors woman and a hunter, bow and firearm. I no longer hunt -finding myself not wishing to take the life, even as I know I could if needed. But back then, I felt as comfortable in the woods as I was in the sky. I loved getting up early, getting into the camo and sneaking through the woods like I was on some sort of covert mission. Climbing up a tall tree stand trying to hold a heavy 20 gauge Belgium Browning semi-auto in one hand was interesting to say the least. I know the pilots I hunted with, more than once, took bets to see if I'd make it into a particularly tricky stand without yelling for help. It might have taken me 15 minutes but I got into my stand solo and the view was incredible.
Right as the last of the days light leeched out of the sky, a big buck came, moving along the tree line in the distance. I sucked in a breath and fired, one shot, at near dark, as he ran for the thick of the forest. As the shot cracked into the frigid air, the buck leaped into the woods, as I stared, still, amazed at how a living thing like that will keep going, and how far, when it is already dead from that single shot through the heart. But the snow was heavy and darkness was on me and by the time I got down, out of the blind, tracking him was difficult.
When I finally got to where he lay, the white tail a small sign in the deepening pool of blackness, I stood, hairs rising up along my forearms, my breath hot in my chest, despite the snow and the cold. I wasn't alone. Something instinctual kicked in and I stopped in my tracks. There, crouching over the remains of that magnificent 12 point buck was a dark shadow, merged onto my kill, hunched over the ribcage, dark on darkness, where I couldn't tell where one shadow began and another ended. Something uttered a low throat-ed growl at me; it wasn't some body's pet and it was certainly not some cuddly woodland creature from a PETA ad. The stink of something primordial was in the air, more than blood, less than my own fear and I knew that I was moving downward quickly on the food chain.
I carefully made my long way back to the safety of the house, the fear seeping out of me like the deer's blood onto the snow. "Don't let it see your fear" I whispered to myself, as snatches of the flow from words drifted behind me into the wind.
We think, as humans, we have dominion over the wild and especially when we are young, we think we are immortal. But when we are in those places, be it the forest or the skies, we are on the edge, and living is accomplished on an edge that is neither a humanitarian or lenient. The slow, the infirm, the careless . . . perish. And there will be blood. I am reminded of that daily. With each scene, each violent stoppage of that which is life, I develop a deeper appreciation of just being here, breathing, living flesh and bone. For it was in that cold wood on that dark night as I stared into the glowing eyes of something toothed and fanged, that I realized that this seemingly sturdy body, that serves me subtlety and so well, is only so much meat, and my thoughts and life history would only be a night's sustenance to some creature of the woods. . . or to fate.
So for today - turn off Facebook, turn off your laptop and look deep into your own capabilities; not as how others view them, but as you see them. Enjoy each day for the gift that is is, realizing that it is just that. . . a gift. You are not owed a good one, or even another one. I look out to a late winter landscape, the white light of the snow shimmering along side of the primordial blue of the sky, waiting for the first refraction of darkness as the clouds move back in again. Here hovers only my God and myself, as I divide man's intent from his actions, even as He divided the light from the darkness.
Noted Jewish Scholar Gershom Scholem said "To the intellect the problem [of evil] is no real problem at all. All that is needed is to understand evil is relative more that it does not really exist. . [but] the POWER of evil is real and the mind which is conscious of this fact refuses to content itself with intellectual tours de force however brilliant which try to explain away the existing of things it knows to be there."
As I came out of the woods that night; having acquiesced the food for my table to something stronger of tooth and claw than I---it was driven home. I had backed away from my kill, quietly, maintaining eye contact, until I disappeared into the brush, hand poised to defend if need be. I looked up into sulfur yellow clouds drifting past a full moon, my tall form an exclamation point on the rise of land, until sliding on down the slope until only a flutter of red hair waved goodbye as I disappeared from view. I am just one person, but I am a wiser one, for I have looked into the face of darkness, and know that even with the shield of my God and my service - I am NOT invincible, for I know the power that is evil, and will not knowingly turn my back on it again.
As a Christian of recently discovered Jewish blood, what is happening out there frightens me and that is their intent. But even further, it strengthens my resolve to be wary and watchful, especially of those that remove our rights and defenses as they placate those who wish us harm. For such acts can lead to actions that go against, not just the Constitution, but both sense and judgement, laying the foundation for increased danger to a nation and a people, which are then inherited by succeeding generations as obvious truth. Such actions frighten me as much as any terror group. In pretending that everything is fine while refusing to name our enemy---we simply show that hell is our only home.