Two weeks ago, I went for the first of my two daily walks. I have adopted this ritual in part to support my self-deluding belief that I am doing everything possible to stay in shape. It is also a good time to think, to listen to audible books, music, or to chat with my wife, Lynda. So, whether it qualifies as exercise doesn’t need to be debated. It’s always productive in some way or another. As I mentioned, Lynda generally joins me on my first walk that provides an opportunity for us to chat about weighty matters; like how many wild bunnies we have spied over the past many weeks since the beginning of Spring and how much the little ones have all grown. Every morning we sight at least one sitting not quite perfectly still in a neighbor’s garden. Their noses twitch, their eyes are fixed and alert, and their mouths busy chewing grass, some sort of shrub, or, the prettiest flowers in the garden. Our walk is a series of diverse encounters. We greet with a wave or brief conversation the regular cast of characters we know. Others, less well-known to us, we offer a casual nod or smile, and finally, a few seem to enjoy a lengthier visit and draw us into longer conversations. The park is the center of the community and about eight tenths of a mile around. Most people, in the course of their walk, circle the park’s perimeter, sometimes expanding outward, adding a new block or two beyond the park to achieve a more strenuous workout and a change of scenery.
Scott lives in a home with a façade that looks like it once was a storefront. Everything in this neighborhood was once something else. Most of the homes in the area served as boarding houses at one time or another. Scott’s storefront façade has a wrought iron fence anchored into what was once the sidewalk. It extends maybe four feet beyond entrance to his home and runs the length of his property- I’d guess maybe 30 or so feet. Worn AstroTurf covers much of the concrete sidewalk inside the fence, creating a narrow run for Jack, his year-old Staffordshire Terrier. Generally, it’s Jack who greets us. He spends the better part of the day outdoors welcoming passersby and playing with the collection of toys that litter his run. His black and white markings are remarkably similar to the Little Rascals’ Staffordshire for those of you old enough to remember. All he needs is the ring around his left eye to complete ‘the look’. Jack just celebrated his first birthday, marked by balloons and decorated drawings posted by neighbors along the fence wishing him a happy first. Scott calls Jack a Staffordshire but most people would describe him as a Pit Bull- stocky and muscled with unusually wide jaws that vaguely resemble that of an alligator’s if you can imagine shrinking the long snout. But, his looks betray his playful and friendly demeanor which is not unlike any puppy’s. Nevertheless, I am always grateful for the iron fence that separates us because Jack is a mass of muscle who plays very hard. No matter how early we walk, Jack’s welcoming bark draws Scott out to chat with us for a while about anything and everything. He’s lived here a long time and seems to be well informed. Or to put it plainly, he acts as a repository for the neighborhood’s gossip so it’s always fun to ‘catch up’ to put a euphemistic spin on it.
This morning he asks, “Have you seen the new telephone towers they’re installing around the neighborhood? One right around the corner.” Scott is an eighty plus year old, good humored, intelligent, and friendly fellow who clearly enjoys the company of others.
Recently, Scott saw us walking and pulled over his SUV to greet us. Jack hung halfway out the backseat window.
“What are you up to?’, I asked.
“I’m taking Jack for a ride because I don’t want to take him for a walk.” While we all laughed at the absurdity of this explanation, it really was the reason they were in the vehicle.
Scott now continues his explanation regarding the location of the new cell phone tower and nods in the direction of Clementine’s Ice Cream Parlor on the street that runs adjacent to his.
I too had noted the work going on in the area and wondered what it was all about. “I saw them pouring concrete and running electricity to the grass strip in front of the house next to the apartments that had the fire.” I have this weird compulsion to know the backstory of every little construction project in the neighborhood and what it aims to accomplish. Or, I’m just nosey. Is somebody renovating? I wonder. If so, what are they doing? What’s it going to look like? Will I like it? Probably not, I suspect because no one sought my input. My wife has jokingly suggested I set up a permitting business. Any project that goes on in the neighborhood requires application for a permit. I review and comment, make suggestions, changes and alterations before said permit is issued. We laugh, but I have to admit her idea has a certain appeal to it.
“Well”, Scott continues,” they’ve got something up that doesn’t look quite finished. It’s not very attractive but…” Scott shrugs, resigned, and offers a ‘what are you gonna do?’ smile.
After we say our goodbyes, we round the corner looking for a big ugly sky-high tower covered with panels designed to catch and send the wireless signals that invisibly clutter our airspace. Still, I comment to Lynda before spotting the tower ourselves, that I have read about them. They are 5G towers and designed to resemble street lights, and most importantly, are essential to delivering high-speed internet access. I’m all for faster internet, so, I think, ‘not so attractive? What are we gonna do?’ Nothing. That’s what.
We continue our walk and encounter one of many couples taking their dogs for their early morning walks as well as the internet tower/street light. “Hey look. I say pointing at a streetlight-sized black pole. There it is.” It really isn’t terribly invasive, nor does it look out of place among the street lamps, telephones poles and wires draped like garland between that clutter the space above our heads and obstruct our views of the skies. The new pole appears bulkier than a normal street lamp pole and its base has a wider footprint than a simple telephone pole. It is painted satin black, again, distinguishing it from the other poles. I note the husky black pole does indeed have a lamp attached to it to, no doubt, partly disguise it as a street light and accentuate its capacity to perform multiple functions.
“That’s not so bad, if that’s it.” I remark to Lynda. The couple we encountered are standing and staring at the black pole suspiciously looking it up and down. They move closer to inspect details, then, step back to size up the whole business. I wonder what they’re thinking. They nod hello, indifferently, clearly preoccupied with the black obelisk. I see it has some sort of hole about the size of a man’s face located just below eye-level. Set back in this face-sized hole is housed some sort of brass-colored plate that looks to me like it resembles a circuit-board of some sort. It appears that some sort of device will plug into the brass plate and fit comfortably within the hole.
Oh, for God’s sake! Listen to me! I have no idea what I’m talking about. The truth is I’m just speculating and theorizing in ways that the ignorant are inclined to do. Honestly, the fact that I have no idea what I’m talking about generally means I should leave it all alone. The yellow caution tape and neon orange cones circling it lend support to my ‘hands-off’ intuition. But for me, this leaves one to wonder why the unfinished pole was left unprotected except for the flimsy yellow tape and cones in the first place.
Other early morning dog walkers and strollers are gathering now, drawn by the curious appearance of the odd-looking pole and the growing collection of their neighbors. I entertain myself with the thought that we are all being drawn to the black pole by some unseen power it possesses. The pole has been planted by aliens while we slept and now find ourselves irresistibly drawn to it where we will stand in awe before the great mystery it indeed is. Soon we will drop to our knees grateful that it has come to save us. It’s an odd thought, I know. But still, you have to admit the premise would have been an attractive Sunday afternoon “Million Dollar Movie” filmed in black and white sometime in the late 50’s staring William Hudson and Allison Hayes, big name Sci Fi actors back then. I note others are still joining us and sharing ideas so decide I must I abandon my film fantasy to re-engage with neighbors.
“I saw them working on this thing all week and I wondered what in hell they were doing”, someone remarks. We nod or comment affirming that we too had seen that some sort of construction effort was underway.
“I wonder what it is. I mean look here at this hole.” A small older gentleman with a Basset Hound points to the face-sized hole. “Who knows what that is inside there.” He studies the face-sized hole which is at about face height and looks like one could easily get their face stuck in this hole adding another disorienting dimension to the mysterious pole.
“This is not your ordinary street lamp,” pronounces some guy who reminds me of George Costanza.
“I wouldn’t touch it if I were you”, a woman walking a small dog that looks like a rag mop warns us.
And still another explains why, “…unless you want to get electrocuted.” The group seems to take her point seriously and backs away cautiously.
“I think it would be easy to vandalize it” Another newcomer has joined the gathering collection of mystified persons offering this new insightful remark.
“I heard it’s one of the new poles installed by the phone company to support 5G internet.” There, I added my two cents which in hindsight may be an inflated figure since the value of my contribution appeared nil. I don’t know. Maybe I sounded a bit too much like a know-it-all, because nobody seemed to acknowledge my remark. Their many comments, observations and speculation just continued as if I had said nothing at all.
“I wonder what in the world it is.” Someone said for the umpteenth time supporting my having taken offense at being ignored.
“I don’t know, but there’s another one just like it on Park Avenue.”
“I think these are like cell phone towers that support faster phone and internet services.” I commented once more. I waited for a brief moment for someone to acknowledge this as a reasonable explanation but heard only crickets then the maddening question aske by yet another dog walker.
“I wonder what these things are going to be used for?” The dogwalker looked troubled as he wondered aloud. I’ll be damned if, once again, it was like I was invisible and not a soul heard or bothered to listen to how I believe I had constructively participated in this discussion. I was getting impatient and feeling a self-imposed pressure to attempt to bring those in darkness into the light.
“I think these are designed for brain manipulation.” I said, laughing tentatively and very much alone. Lynda, bless her heart, at least snorted.
“They’re BMP’s.” I said authoritatively. “Brain Manipulation Poles.” I clarified. “They’re being installed all over the city for brain manipulation purposes.”
Lynda was the only person among the now sizable group gathered that laughed; mostly because no one seemed to be listening to anything I said or, more likely, had determined it just wasn’t funny. The gathered assembly were lost in the wonder of this mysterious object that seemed to appear overnight and now dwelled among them. Perhaps the black pole had decided to make me invisible, I wondered as no one listened to me.
“What do you think it is?” yet another dogwalker wondered aloud.
“I bet they’ll be vandalized”, a different but equally sincere and concerned older man remarked. That was two now concerned about vandalism.
Lynda grabbed my arm. “Let’s go.”
As we walked away, I commented, “I thought what I said was kind of funny”. I had grown somewhat annoyed. “Not a soul laughed.” Then I started patting down the front of my body as if I had lost something. “Wait! Can you see me? Am I invisible?” I joked. “No kidding. That was kind of weird. No one listened to me… or for that matter listened to anyone except maybe the lady who scared everyone with the electrocution threat. Aside from her, no one listened to anyone. We just sort of pooled our ignorance. Very strange.”
“Dumb hell.” Lynda said and shrugged.
“Dumb Hell. Of course!” I punched the air enthusiastically to signal agreement.
Ahh, Dumb Hell! Thank you, Lynda, for a perfect segue to what I really wanted to talk with anyone who will listen, about. I reckon, this is an appropriate time to share with you what I consider to be a very appealing idea I have had under consideration for some time now. I don’t want to make this political, so, I suppose it is coincidental that this idea was born, evolved, and came to maturity during the Trump Presidency and while the Pandemic raged. You see, I watched a lot of TV and listened to a lot of radio during these years and was bombarded, just as you were, with opinions and actions that sometimes seemed, well, unbelievably dumb. I found myself trying to digest a steady diet of ideas and opinions some of which seemed to me to be absolutely absurd. Others seemed to me to be downright crazy and at odds with what was undeniably true. And many of them seemed to me to be just plain dumb. And while some of these dumb things were not necessarily malicious, they were still dumb and generated consequences that were often divisive, hurtful and over time felt increasingly intolerant of alternative points of view. The more pervasive these dumb things began to be organized into a dumb movement, the more hostile things began to feel. Doing dumb things isn’t uncommon. Saying dumb things isn’t unusual. But consistently overlaying what is obviously dumb (that is to say untrue, inaccurate, wrong, misguided) on what is true, I thought should have cosmic/karmic consequences and have adjusted my own cosmological beliefs to incorporate this.
So… let’s chat about Dumb Hell. That’s right. Dumb Hell. Now,Dumb Hell is a place I initially imagined and developed in conversations with Lynda on our walks mostly for comic relief during these tumultuous times. But honestly, I have come to believe in the fundamental soundness of this idea!
That’s not quite right. I’m not content to suggest it is merely an idea… It is a cosmological reality… for me, that is.
So, I should say, I have come to believe in the soundness of this reality!
Let me explain.
On occasion, and recently with far greater frequency, I see or hear about something so dumb, I think, there simply has to be some sort of cosmic/karmic consequence for the perpetrator of such an extraordinarily dumb thing to do or to say. We know that for every action there is a reaction, right? Many of us believe, what goes around, comes around, right? Consequences! You have to recognize that all actions have consequences. C’mon! How often have you found yourself saying, “That has to be one of the dumbest things I have ever heard! You’ve said it! Or, you’ve witnessed someone do something really dumb and you’re incredulous, thinking, “My God! I can’t believe anyone would do something so utterly dumb.” So, in my personal cosmology I decided there must be consequences for irresponsible dumb things said or done. They aggregate just as the Catholic friends from my youth said they were taught their sins aggregated, staining their souls an inky black. I don’t know about the soul-staining part but I do suspect that a steady stream of dumb statements and dumb actions aggregates and comes home to roost where the consequences of this pool, this lake or, this ocean of dumb stuff threatens to drown you in the muck of your own stupidity. Say or do enough of these really dumb things and you’re headed for some time in Dumb Hell, at least, according to my cosmology.
As I consider Dumb Hell, it’s hard not to think, for example, of those who chose to ingest a medication called Ivermectin used for worming horses and cows to protect them from the Covid virus. Their decision to do this was based on information they found on Social Media. Why listen to some of the worlds most accomplished scientists who have developed or worked on vaccines that have helped stop or control some of the deadliest diseases on the planet? Instead, take a worming medication created to treat large farm animals for a respiratory virus. Why would you do that? It’s dumb!
Let me further illustrate by citing something that started as mere foolish showing off but turned into something really dumb with damaging consequences. Some months back, CNN played a video over and over of some hipster who was at a dance club showing off his moves before a gathering crowd clearly impressed with his skills. Lord knows what inspired him (The Devil of Dumb Hell) to try a back flip on the dance floor. The dancer, so caught up in the cheers of his audience seemed to forget he was a FBI Agent who was carrying a gun at the time he was dancing. What happened? Here’s the sequence in slow motion- FBI Agent attempts back flip… FBI Agent’s loaded gun falls out of its holster…FBI Agent’s gun fires… Bullet strikes a member of the crowd in the leg.
You can almost see the dancing dumb detective’s thought bubble. “I can’t believe I just did that!” Where is the Dancing, Dumb, Detective headed? That’s right, he will not pass go but at the end of this life be tossed like a freshly caught fish into the Dumb Hell bucket the Supreme Judge will determine the necessary length of their redemptive journey. Here I hasten to add, I have no reason to be self-righteous or arrogant. I have no illusions about my afterlife existence. I fully anticipate spending some time there too. A just universe demands it.
Dumb Hell must be like living with the characters from a Gary Larson cartoon. You perhaps recall that Larson had a real gift for capturing the dumb things people do and artistically portraying their facial expressions in ways we look after doing something dumb. In fact, most of us thought his cartoons were so funny because of both the underlying sincerity of the character’s actions as well as their dumb expressions.
In Dumb Hell there will be no chanting “Om”- there will be only the sound of its inhabitants’ intoning the universal monosyllabic “duhhhhh”.
One more item on the matter of vaccinations. I want everyone to get vaccinated and everyone to be well, but the news features of near-death conversions by those who shunned the vaccine and have now have found religion after their obstinance contributed to the overcrowding of intensive care units and hospitals across the nation makes it hard to find a lot of sympathy. Most of those interviewed who dismissed Dr. Fauci, mask wearing, and vaccinations admit they had it wrong. In other words, now that they are sick, they realize how dumb their actions were. It is honorable to admit they were wrong and should have been vaccinated but they have tested my patience along with many others’. There are a slew of dumb things said and done that have to do with the Covid vaccine efforts and current day politics that really deserve to be called dumb, like- the vaccine magnetizes you; the insurrection at the capital was just a run-of-the-mill tour group; Donald Trump really won the election. This is dumb and it has consequences that are destructive. So, in my cosmological view, there must be a special place for these people in Dumb Hell!
As we talked about Dumb Hell on our walks Lynda and I laughed a lot. Lynda loved the idea which only encouraged me to flesh out more precisely what kind of place Dumb hell must be. So, if you think this article is a waste of time blame Lynda. (Dumb) In my mind, it would be wrong to conceptualize Dumb Hell as Hell Hell, with fire and eternal agony. Dumb Hell could just as easily be called knucklehead hell. It’s not filled with really bad people. The really bad people go to plain old hell. Hell hell. Actually, Dumb Hell doesn’t really accommodate evil people. No, Dumb Hell, I have imagined, as a place reserved for people who just say and do dumb things which generate predictably poor outcomes. And punishment consists of having to listen to everyone’s dumb opinions (including your own!) regarding all manner of things with Kenny G providing a musical backdrop.
Before Dumb Hell is construed as a place that is utterly without hope, I would like to emphasize, a redemptive component built into the manner that Dumb Hell operates. In this cosmology, compassion and justice dictate that one’s dumb actions and dumb words can be redeemed by acquiring the knowledge that leads to responsible action. This includes forsaking one’s enthusiastic and willful embrace of ignorance and that which is unquestionably dumb. The redemptive activities of Dumb Hell extend beyond having to experience the dumb opinions and actions of others, to the more powerful and humbling experience of having to encounter again and again your own unfiltered dumb opinions and actions. This is to say, the euphoric filter through which our decisions to act are run is removed in order that we may we see our words and actions for what they really are! So, consider for example, one’s activities in the insurrection. Imagine experiencing these words and actions without the supportive cheers of others, without the crowd jeering the so-called bad guys, but as simply you with your flag pole (read weapon) and the person you had chosen to strike with this pole that bears the American Flag. Imagine it is just the two of you together alone. Imagine having to see yourself without all the surrounding chaos, without the crowd egging one another on, but just you and the person you chose to hurt because you were swept up in the lunacy of what you would know deep down was simply a stupid lie and fundamentally wrong. You will know this because you will see how you were seduced by the euphoria of crowd cheers, rallies, and intentionally incendiary newscasts that celebrate ignorance. You will know this because you will see that your overwhelming need to belong to some sort of tribe has caused you to deceive yourself so you could embrace the lie that brings you into the fellowship of the willfully ignorant. This is the dark path Dumb Hell demands we walk, and, while see what really is shakes our soul at their foundations, it exposes what I have been calling dumb for what it most often is- willful ignorance. The path to redemption is hard but no one ever said that it would be a cake walk.
The upshot of all this is to view Dumb Hell as a place where people find themselves forever cringing and wincing as they gradually come to see the unfiltered mountain of dumbness that that has pervaded their existence and obscured their capacity to see what is true. In Dumb Hell, the truth literally sets you free. Let me again be clear though. Dumb Hell is not filled with those of sinister intent. Rather, it is occupied by the souls of those who have for various reasons embraced deception, ignorance, and misguided ideas and allowed their words and actions to be guided by these.
I want to be mindful and underscore that admission to Dumb Hell is nuanced. Those who promote dumb things they don’t believe themselves, (Tucker Carlson) have no place in dumb hell. Dumb Hell is not for the cynical who have embraced a dumb ideology simply to help disturb the peace, promote chaos, and create conflict. It is not for those who are so hungry for power that they will organize their followers around an idiotic ideology. Dumb Hell is for those who have sincerely embraced something dumb or unconsciously acted out in some dumb way. There is, as it were, an element of purity that suffuses the activities and statements of the truly dumb which Gary Larson seemed to get. So, on the Day of Judgement, sheep and goats will be separated into separate buckets but my cosmology imagines an additional bucket or two into which the souls of the dumb will be tossed. But not forever.
Think about it. In a just and mildly nuanced universe, such a place simply must exist. Life wouldn’t be fair without it. There is good, there is evil, and there is dumb, or ignorant, ill conceived, ‘seemed like a good idea at the time’ kinds of activities that will have consequences and we will one day have to be accountable for. So, as I consider this, I imagine, a four-tiered afterlife structure instead of the more typical western notion of a three-tiered one. Dumb Hell, I like to think, sits perhaps a small step below purgatory, but considerably above hell as, for example, conceptualized by Hieronymus Bosch in his “Garden of Earthly Delights”. If Bosch conceived of Purgatory as including having flowers shoved up your rear end (yes, he portrayed it in the center panel of his famous painting), one can only wonder about the agony that awaits us in his version of hell. Study the third panel in this piece to get some inkling. But Dumb Hell doesn’t embody the lethargy that characterizes purgatory. There is little time for flowers in Dumb Hell. Dumb Hell is dynamic and agonizingly honest which empowers you to leave what is dumb behind while, if not celebrating, at least learning to live with, the truth.
So… there you have it! I’ve just redesigned the Cosmos. I don’t, nor can I know if it’s true. I refuse however, to believe that it’s dumb.
I can’t speak for Lynda, but I’ll tell you what. I get a lot of important shit done on my walks.