Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Boiling Frog

Hell sneaks up on you. That's what I've come to realize.

Salvation, now that can be the subject of dramatic instantaneous conversions, last minute turnabouts, death-bed repentance, and eleventh hour deus ex machina heroism. But damnation...probably not so. Compared to the surprising spontaneity of grace, our free will on its own is simply tediously boring.

It's a well known fact that a frog (or cold-blooded animals in general) will jump away from boiling water just as we would. However, if you put them in lukewarm water, and then slowly raise the heat, they will sit there, adjusting their body temperature to the surroundings, until they are finally boiled to death. At no point do they notice that it has gotten "too" hot.

This is how we are damned. It isn't through monumental acts of evil; those are rare, and those who commit them are often times not entirely sane anyway, which raises questions of culpability. These people are "monsters," but can a monster really sin? And besides, no one sane randomly commits monstrous uncharacteristic acts (once again: grace surprises, evil never does). If someone gets to that point, it's as the climax of a long descent into evil in which they surely crossed Hell's thresh-hold long before.

No, Hell creeps. The lost soul who is fortunate enough to catch himself asks, "How did I get here? How did my life get to this point?" and looking back there are only a thousand little selfish choices, "Oh, I'll indulge this urge, I'll accept this satisfaction, I'll play with this heart, I'll use this person a little bit, I'll tell just a small lie, I'll entertain this doubt" and ten thousand cowardly sins of omission, "Oh, I'll put that off till tomorrow, I'll postpone doing what needs to be done, I won't control my own thoughts, I'll procrastinate on improving myself, on getting help, on saving my soul."

And suddenly you wake up one morning and realize that so many venial sins have become mortal. So many drinks, and you're an alcoholic. So many little things saved, and you're a hoarder. So many days spent putting off facing the music, that you're the grasshopper begging at the door of the ant. Suddenly you wake up, and you're life is a mess, in disarray, but it all happened so gradually! Maybe finally all the evil that has been accumulating slowly under the surface comes home to roost, maybe the consequences you were avoiding come to a head in some explicit crisis, and make you realize that you have, at an imperceptible glacial pace, become a horrible person, become a reprobate.

This is why space agencies have to be so precise: at a million miles out, a tiny fraction of an angle difference upon launch...becomes a huge difference in trajectory. The frog doesn't notice it's being boiled, and the souls in Hell, alive and dead, probably don't notice either.

1 comment:

Tony said...

I'm waiting for part two! This would be one hell of a depressing homily were it one!