Shakespeare wrote, “Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” This comes from The Tempest. I come from a place called Project Earth. My location is often in the city that never sleeps. I am born of this and from this; I have devised that I am me, a New Yorker (Or Nu – Yawk- a, as my accent implies).
I have seen many things from the great to the grand and from the poor to the sad. I have witnessed comebacks that were beyond my belief or comprehension.
I have seen destruction at the levels of war and as a witness, I was there to see my skyline fall – I was there when my City nearly fell; only to rebuild itself differently. Regardless of the holes in the skyline or the missing towers or Twin Towers to be exact; equally, I witnessed a call to join hands. I saw what happens when people stand together, to build back what was destroyed, brick by brick.
It is easy to see the demons in our world. They exist. They come in all shapes and sizes, colors, genders, brands and otherwise. I used to see a person who claimed to have tickets to the resurrection. They were selling these to people who hoped to find salvation.
I saw a person claiming to be Jesus on the shuttle to Times Square and yes, I’ve seen this person and more.
I have seen the silky seductresses in the night. I have seen the high-heeled temptresses as they parade themselves for sale and yes, I have seen the sinking bodies, drooling in a slow nod, hanging from invisible strings which dangle from opiate phantoms. I have seen the weevils and the various species of cocaine bugs and then there’s the winos, the drunks, the homeless and the street life gangsters.
I have witnessed thug-life royalties whose crowns exist on the hanging pendulums of street lamps that shine with rainbow halos that beam like glowing pendants, or glow like the yellowing tears over the late night street corners. I have seen where the sick come to find merchants who traffic poison and for them, the world turns, but only in such a way.
Hell is empty they say.
Oliver Stone wrote, “Hell is the impossibility of reason.” This comes from the film, Platoon which is a movie about war. And war is hell, or so said General William Tecumseh Sherman who stated, “War is hell. Know it better than those who merely write the stories of war and those of us who read or view their analysis. To know war as a soldier is to know that it is horrific.”
I do not know what war looks like on the battlefield. However, mine is not the position to decide which is war or which is hell. I have seen battles of my own and, as such, I cannot judge my wars over yours. Nor do I put anyone’s over mine.
But solely, mine is the position to find hope in the hellish fashions. Mine is the goal to climb from the abyss; to be absolved or to be redeemed. Mine is the effort to be not just exonerated or freed from guilt but to be freed from conflict.
Mine is the movement to be free from the forced arms, to be free from the hostile run-arounds, and free from the promotions that hell is empty – or if it’s not empty or if it’s true, then my objective is to point out the work from above.
There is good. There is beauty even in torturous places.
Mine is the goal to point out that in spite of the rage or darkness; in spite of hate or the riots and corruption; there is good here on Project Earth.
There are good people. There are people who do great things. There are people who look to save lives and they do this away from the spotlight and remain humble.
There are angels in this world. I know there are.
They do what they do because they understand that true charity is anonymous; therefore, any promotion of charity is no longer charitable. Instead, this becomes virtue signaling in which there is no virtue or substance of virtue moral goodness. There is no virtue at all. Just ego. And thus, evil can live in what appears to be a charitable smile. A smile . . . yet, it’s all fake.
I have seen people thrive behind the scenes, never to be noticed or acknowledged and I have witnessed as people waved their hands in the air as if to say, “Look at me!” or “Look what I’ve done.”
Only one will be justified as a true person.
I have seen people who no one would ever guess that behind the unkempt or tattered clothes and good heart was a millionaire who never bragged nor postured or played the so-called role. Equally, I have witnessed people who were otherwise penniless. They only live to give and give more with a special emphasis on more because to them, they know how it feels to go without – so they share their food so that no one around them will ever go hungry.
Sure. I see demons.
All the time.
I have seen heaven and angels on earth. I have seen great works in terrible places. I have seen those who were sick be touched and then somehow; alas, they were healed. Somehow, in some way, I have been gifted with the honor to witness and be part of incredible things.
I was deployed to a hospital one night. My client lay in a bed with a machine tied to their chest to count the heart beats. I had to wait for the client to revive enough to discover if they knew why they were in the emergency room or how they got to the hospital. I was armed with my clipboard and pen. Otherwise, I was only armed as me.
As I waited, there was a man on a gurney. He was drunk and eating his food on a bed outside of my client’s room. His reason for the emergency room visit was equally tragic and equally self-inflicted.
One could say both my client and the man in the hall were on suicide missions, which were certainly parallel, but not the same.
One could say that one path was more deliberate or sudden and the other was slower or eventual.
This man was alone. So, we talked for a while.
We talked about a few ideas. We talked about life. We talked about the ideas or the thoughts that struggle to believe in the possibility to improve.
I shook his hand and once my task was complete, we parted with the kind words, “I’ll see you around.”
I received a phone call from the hospital. This was a few days after my deployment. I spoke with a case manager who knew the man that I spoke with. I was told that he asked for me.
They found placement for this man with the eventual outcome of housing and ongoing aftercare and a plan to keep him alive.
I had forgotten all about this and months later, I was in one of my morning meetings called Breakfast with Benny at a nearby homeless shelter.
There was a man who was in the room awaiting my arrival. He was smiling at me. He was otherwise unrecognizable.
The man asked if I remembered him, which I didn’t. Perhaps my face gave me away. Maybe my eyebrows folded down with an expression of uncertainty.
“You talked to me the night I tried to kill myself.”
“I just wanted you to know that I’m still here,” he said.
I do not know what it means to heal nor am I a doctor and nor do I claim to be anything other than this: I am a space person. I am a person in a suit that has changed several times. I am trying to navigate my way through this portion of the universe and in my efforts, I suppose all I want to do is find the appropriate level of care.
I am a searcher. I am a learner. I am a teacher as well and I am humbled to know that I do not know much. I don’t know anything other than this – hell may be empty, but the heavens are alive. And so am I. And so is a man who did the same thing as me (once).
There is no rule that suicide has to win.
(And neither does hell)
I say hell is only a perspective.
Heaven is perhaps relative but I recall a man who once told me, “Benny, this never promised me a ticket into heaven. But the way I live now is promise to get me out of my own personal hell.”
It took me years but finally, I understand this
In spite of hell, I know there’s heavenly things in this world.
And I know it’s hard to see. I know this can be a hurtful place and the news will never tell you what I’m about to say: The world is a good place.
There are beautiful things to see, all around, each and every day.
Sometimes love is not always on the surface and nor is the goodness of people. But trust me, there are good people in this world.
And me, I just want to be added to the list.
I want to wipe away my past and clear my karmic debt.
My aim is to be absolved or be redeemed.
Or to be clean from the grit of my past excuses or breaches of strength.
Me, I just want to pay what I owe.
I don’t need the front page story or anything like that. Mine is the idea to feel better about me as a person; mine is the hope to see that people do recover. People do improve.
Hell cannot conquer (unless we let it) and that when all else fails, try kindness.
Believe me it won’t hurt.
A little bit of hope . . .
That’s all it takes.