Heaven or Hell








Here’ s a thing,  it transpires our old favourite ‘Snakes and Ladders’ stems from an old Indian game,  ‘ Game of Heaven and Hell’, which sounds a lot more fun to me.  True fun needs an element of adventure, and risk , and this game provides the ultimate risk, Heaven, or Hell.  Originally it was used as a vehicle for introducing ethics, so could possibly bear a re-introduction to our modern world on that basis.  We could begin with the bankers. then workshops to include politicians, and slowly move through the whole population.  So simple.  Each square has a number and a legend which comprises the names of virtues and vices. If you have the fortune to land on square 17, then the longest ladder will transfer you from ‘Compassionate Love’ to ; The World of the Absolute’.  It reminds me of a prayer from the fourth century philosopher, Augustine ; “Lord , give me chastity and temperance, but not now”.  For more than a short period in our history,  man has been consumed with the idea of what happens when we die. The consideration of this question has occupied philosophers and religions from all creeds and ages,  and the preoccupation has led to the idea that how we live in the here and now somehow determines how we proceed.  I am more of the view that ethics and principles are more likely to be adhered to and valued if they are arrived at from a position of respect and compassion for the world and its contents as we experience it today.  Nevertheless, I have arrived at that conjecture by living in a particular place and  time, and understand that context is everything.  Travelling imaginatively back in time to the Middle Ages,  it is likely that people’s daily lives were very influenced by the fear of everlasting hell.  What a torment.  To own thoughts and deeds that not only impacted on your relationships , but on your very real future, forever.  The question I have to ask, is did it work? Did everyone discard their lousy side?  I doubt that. Anyway, I read Chaucer, well, a bit of Chaucer.  (I have a translation under my bed to start, as I write).  This alabaster panel , dating back to about 1420 denotes a scene from the Last Judgement, as told in the teachings of St Jerome.  ‘The Golden Legend of Jacapo da Voragine’, a thirteenth century text itemized the fifteen signs of the coming of that day, and was almost as well read as the Bible at that time.  The panel shows how men will emerge from caves, unable to speak, and having lost their senses. Other apocalyptic signs will be earthquakes, the rising and falling of the sea, stars falling from the sky, and the burning of the earth.  Oh dear.  I can see where they are coming from.  Natural disasters are , by their nature tragic and gargantuan in scale, and remind us all of our inconsequence in time and space.  They are also useful tools for powerful establishments, and charasmatic teachers to use as portents of   heaven and hell, in order to manipulate behaviours. Our own politicians use fear on a daily basis to distract and confuse the populace.  It is time that modern understanding develops into a deep understanding for personal moral responsibility.  In the meantime, have a game of Snakes and Ladders, and enjoy the ride.







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