So, What about the English Channel?

It’s not happenin’.  At least, it’s not happenin’ until I know I’m doing it for the right reasons.

The Wrong Reasons

120px-Carte_de_la_MancheWatch this:  http://www.zimbio.com/watch/wAy4zhIK6kZ/Ice+Cream/Little+Miss+Sunshine

In the movie Little Miss Sunshine the father, played by Greg Kinnear, is afraid of being a loser.  You think, he thinks he wants to be a winner, but it’s not true.  He is more fearful of being a loser than he is excited about being a winner.

You think, he thinks he wants Olive to be a winner; but, the way he goes about it is through the principle of resistance.  “Just say no! Olive, to the ice cream!  Resist!  Look at it, but don’t touch it!”  Any recovering Mormon can tell you how well that bit of wisdom works out.

Resistance

Resistance is wanting.  It is wanting NOT to be and not to be without.  I wanted not to be without the swimming of the English Channel.  Failure was not okay.  I was hard driving myself and not having a good time.  I was showing up to swim practice… exhausted.  I was angry and surly and I just wanted this shit to be over.

I was not joyful, I was not present; I didn’t give a shit.  Even if I had swum the English Chanel, even if I had stood atop the stone on Cap Gris Nez, would I have been happy?  No.  I would have been devastated – my worst nightmare would have come true – I would have gotten what I wanted.  I would have opened a new door into the next thing I couldn’t stand to be without.120px-France_manche_vue_dover

I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense to some people, but think about it:  Ever hear the expression, “Be careful what you wish for; it just might come true?”  How true!  Had I finished the Channel, I would have gotten on the return boat to Dover; I would have felt like shit.  “What’s this all for?” I would have asked myself.  “Why?”  “What does this mean?  That I’m somehow a better person?”  “What for?  Why?”

There was no joy in what I was doing preparing for the Channel.  It took me a long time to realize that; but, luckily I made this decision before I made it to England.  At least I heeded my feelings before the big wedding day.  There was no passion in the pursuit of this goal, and I didn’t realize I wasn’t going to throw in the towel until I was halfway down the Mississippi River.  I knew I wanted to do the Mississippi.  There was joy, there was passion.  It was extremely hard, but I loved it.  There was no hard-driving football coach telling me I had to succeed.  I did it for me.  I did it for the love.  The Channel was not happening out of love; it was happening out of hate – the hate of not having, the hate of being a loser.

But can’t you swim the channel to become a winner?

120px-Strait_of_dover_STS106-718-28No.  You can’t.  You can’t swim your way to success.  You can’t overcome all your past failures through the swimming of a channel.  I interviewed many who had swum the channel; they told me they swam it for similar reasons to my own:  they were dealing with a divorce, dealing with getting older, dealing with failure of some kind.  Though they were proud of their accomplishment, I could tell something was missing – they still felt like losers deep down.  (Mind you!  That wasn’t everyone; but you could tell on some… you could feel it.)  Something still was missing.  The Channel had changed a lot of things, but it didn’t change everything.  And that was a problem.

“This was supposed to be my magic wand!”

“This was s’posed to be my ‘it!'”

“This was… it!  The Channel was going to be my BIG accomplishment.”

Some reading this blog are Channel swimmers and they should comment appropriately.  I think all of them will agree with me, however, that trying to accomplish something to prove that you don’t suck is not a very joyful way to go about life.

There will always more.  What will you do next?  Swim farther and farther until you can successfully fend off the loser feeling?  You’ll never fend it off.  You will “achieve” and achieve and achieve, and then what?  Another thing will show up.  Unless you are doing something for the love, your engergy can never be inexhastable.  Love is the only inexhaustable energy.  Something done out of love is done for its own sake.

But wasn’t the Channel a personal goal?

Greg Judge, who you will meet in The River is Life, said that paddling the Mississippi was reward enough.  It was its own reward, and I couldn’t help but agree with him.  Some force, some spiritual force was egging me on during the Mississippi – I had to do this even through the mosquitoes and fights and anger and pain and heat rash and sore muscles.  I went on and on and on and I didn’t care because I was lovin’ it.

I wasn’t lovin’ the Channel.  The more I trained the more it became apparent that it was not the right goal for me.

Shame.  It would have made an awesome goal… it just wans’t my goal.  And if it was, I wasn’t doing it for the love.

So what now?

On the Mississippi, Phil and I discussed the seedlings of what would grow into the Hell movie.  It was exciting; it had a message I wanted to say, a story I wanted to tell.  I was jazzed.  I knew the road would be long and hard, but I didn’t care.  It was okay.  Love egged me on.

No love in the Channel.  That took a while to admit.  Part of me wanted to hang on, wanted to finish the goal because I said I would, but it would have cost me my sanity.  I would have won the approval of some but not my own approval.  Inside I still would have felt like crap, and no one would have understood.  This goal, at least for now, is for someone else.  Someone else out there has the dream to to swim the Channel, and they feel the same way about it as I did about the Mississippi.

Is it okay to bail on a goal?

Hell yes.  Absolutely.  Some will disagree but that’s okay – they have the perrogative and the right.  France_cap_gris_nez_sbI was listening to a radio show by Michael Neill, a success coach, who was talking about his most financially successful client.  This client seemed to always have loads of money… always!  Michael asked his client how he set goals.  The term goal seemed foreign to the client.  “Goals?” he asked.  “I don’t really set them at all.”

“What?” Michael asked.  “How!”

“Well, I guess I kinda do.  I get together with my wife twice a year; we buy a bottle of wine and rent a really fancy hotel room and then we just daydream.”

“What?”

“Yeah, I get together with my wife, and we daydream.  We daydream about what we’d like our life to look like.  And those dreams I guess could be called our goals.  Oh, and if I realize after a while that that goal isn’t exciting for me anymore, I drop it.”

Michael was flabbergasted.  “So, you change your goals?”  This was completely antithetical to what he had been taught – Never! change your goals.  Commit!

“Yeah,” the rich client continued, “your life is about falling deeper and deeper in love with who you are and what you’re doing.  Why change that?  Why persue something you don’t feel passionate about anymore?”

Amen, I thought.  And amen, I affirmed to myself when I doubted whether I was doing the right thing making the decision to postpone? the Channel.  Just so you know, I might do some smaller swims.  The goal will be to fall in love with swimming, to swim for the right reasons.  It has to be a swim where, gosh darnit, you love being out there in that water!  No one to prove… anything to.

Choosing new and more passionate goals is the way, the truth and the light.

So next time you choose a goal, make sure it floats… or that it swims… to your heart.

Thank you,

Ryan

From the Vault: Hitchhiking with Fred

Ready for some more travel writing?  Let’s go retro and rummage around the Eleven Visions Archives for a story from The Hitchhiking Movie.  Enjoy.

“You move back!  You’re right in my eyesight!”

He said it dry like he was pissed off.  He had a snake-like look to him.  In fact, this man could have been a snake in human form which is, I must add, possible.  Haven’t you ever read conspiracy theorist David Icke?  (Come to think of it, I think we’ll interview Icke.  He apparently will interview with anybody, and if “out there” was left field, this guy clears the left field wall by 500 yards – like Waveland Avenue  at Wrigley Field.)

Snake people, and Rowdy Roddy Piper’s They Live aside, Fred did not represent the conspiratorial, controlling, power-crazed Illuminatus that Icke and other conspiracy theorists imagine; he was extremely kind even if his initial behavior belied that fact.

How we met Fred

Most who have been on this site already know about The Hitchhiking Movie, in which you can see several scenes from our encounter with Fred; but, what I’d like to do now is go behind the scenes and deeper into the psyche of one of the most lovable characters in our documentary.  While the movie is excellent in its gritty capture of a real life hitchhiking adventure, it does not (nor can it completely) capture the internal struggles of the characters involved.

Fred was a reptile… okay, seriously.  Fred was a Native American standing at about 6’2″ (about 185 cm for all you on the outdated metric system).  I walked up to him outside a truck stop in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  I had seen him descend from his 26-ton, Diesel 18-wheeler that had big, metallic letters on the grill:  M A C K.  Mack truck.  Holy shit, I thought.  I did not want to ask this guy for a ride.  Somehow, I did anyway.

Once asked, he looked at me like I had just spit on him.  He seemed irked and responded irked:  “I’m goin’ to Kentucky.”  He popped his head back, started blinking and then looked sharply down.  “I’m goin’ to have to think about this,” he then said and left me flat as he went inside to pay for gas.  A skinny man, he walked like a hulking mass, like he could kick your ass if he wanted to and probably could.  I turned to Phillip.  “I have no idea what just happened here.”

When he came out, he walked right past me towards his Diesel.  Well, can’t win ’em all, I thought.  “You comin’?” he asked already 10 yards ahead of me.  I looked at Phillip:  “Now I really have no idea what’s happening here.”

In the Cab

Fred rearranged his junk in the front seat:  toilet paper, magazines, a general conglomeration of dirtiness.  Not many passengers had been in the cab.  I crawled in and sat in the passenger seat.  Phillip remained on the ground holding the camera.  “Where are you going to sit?”  I turned around.  “Oh there’s a bed back here.”  I moved into the dark back of the cab and prayed not to be greeted by a man with an ax.  Ever see that scene in Silence of the Lambs where the killer pushes the girl into the van with a couch?  Yeah, that’s what was going through my mind.

The Engine…

started and was loud.  It was hard to film.  Shaky, a cursed vibration that killed all intelligibility of sound, and dark, dark, dark.  Fred seemed completely unalarmed.  I know we were concerned for our safety, but Fred looked more annoyed than worried we were going to rob him.  We could have been carrying guns.  We could have maced him, tied him up and stole his rig.  Without going into that much detail, I asked him about that very fact:

“I let the Man upstairs guide me on everything I do.  When you asked me for a ride, he just let me know, ‘It’s okay.'”  His face was placid.  He really could care less if we were dangerous or not.

The line “Move back.  You’re right in my eyesight!” which was followed by, “I can’t see but through my mirrors!” was actually directed toward Phillip.  In the movie it looks like it’s toward me, so we just left it that way for simplicity’s sake.  Somewhere in the first awkward hour, Fred revealed that he was Native American.  WTF, I thought, this guy’s white as cotton.  Studying his face further you could see the stoic undertones of an Indian complexion.  His cheekbones were sharp and could have very well been the cheekbones of a buffalo-hunting, high-plains arrow slinger.  “I’m Cherokee Seminole by my dad, and my mother will tell you she’s a white woman, but she’s got Chickasaw blood in her.”  Ah, he was half white. I imagined his mother, wanting to get away from the Indian label, happy to appear white enough to distinguish herself from the dark-skinned Indians on the reservation.  In Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, one of her characters is an older half white/half black woman in an African American community.  Much as many a human has done, she uses this characteristic to distinguish herself, to make herself feel better by believing she is better than everyone else.  Unfortunately in the human game, it’s not enough just to say you’re better.  You need reasons, fabricated or otherwise.

Well, I guess, “My skin produces less pigment than yours,” is as good a reason as any.  Not enough?  How about:  “The fact that my skin produces less pigment means that I’m smarter and closer to God (check out Mormon doctrine on that one; to be fair they recently changed it, but this idea lingers in many protestant religions across the United States) than you.”  Ohhhh, you need science to back it up?  Okay, how about, “Whites are intellectually superior; I found it in my carefully-constructed testing.”  Nevermind that these “tests” didn’t even take into account their subjects’ socioeconomic background.  (If I’m black and I grow up in a well-to-do neighborhood with easy access to intellectual and social resources, I’m going to be “smarter.”  For the life of me, I can’t see how James Watson – a brilliant scientist – could conveniently forget these factors.  Intellectual rigor, unfortunately, is not necessarily a cure for racism.)

Sorry to bang on about this, but if you’re Bobby Fischer and I put you in an environment where you have to worry about getting shot every day, where you live in a rundown apartment in Chicago with no heat, where you’re friends and some of your family ridicule you if you express intelligence, and where the mass media conveys to you overtly or covertly that the best you’ll be is an entertainer or maybe a shoe-shiner; then, odds are, Bobby Fischer, you’ll be a broke-ass, dumb white kid and won’t do so well on your “scientifically sound” intelligence test.  Would you even feel like taking such a test in that environment?  Go live in a ghetto for six months before you form your opinion.

I could detect in Fred’s voice that his mother used her whiteness to feel better about herself; correction, to convince herself that it was her right; divine, scientific, or otherwise; to feel better about herself.  “I’m better, better than these half-breeds and I don’t have no Chickasaw blood in me.  Chickasaw, plah!”  When will we humans stop playing these games?  It was very faint, but I could detect the pain in Fred’s voice.  No matter.  He was very squarely proud to be Indian and made no bones telling me about it.

Cordiality

I confess that I am an accent slut.  I will whore my accent out to whoever I am talking to.  I have lived in Chicago, Nashville, Memphis, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Minneapolis, Mexico City (yes my Spanish is chilango), and Lyon, France (Can’t say my French is southern, but I do roll out a puteng! out once in a while when I want to make French people laugh; it’s the equivalent of hearing a foreigner say in a Texas accent “weeeelll, shiiiiiiiiiiit.”)  With Fred, I was going southern.  My drawl was extended.  I seemed more folksy.  I wanted to connect.  He started talking about Billy Graham.  A Christian Indian?  Well he did say “Man upstairs;” this guy’s intriguing. A cross between a good-ol-boy southerner and an Indian; if I had a dollar for every time I ran across one of those I could solve the financial crisis.  Phillip and I spent two whole days with Fred.  We packed two weeks of experiences with a person into those two days.  He talked incessantly.  I don’t know if he thought about it this way consciously, but I feel that when we had the camera on him he wanted to share.  He thought this was an opportunity, however small, to share his life with the world.  I want to think that anyway.  If you click here and scan down to Fred, you’ll see a small snippet of what he was like.

Nighttime, West Virginia

“What are you thinking about?” Fred asks me.  Phillip is asleep on the bed in the back… knocked out.  Come to think of it, during this trip, at least one of us was knocked out 90% of the time.  I have no idea how we found time to film.  Fred is eyeballing me, keeping one eye on the road.  This man had an uncanny ability to spot all things natural.  “See that hawk!” he’d say.  “There’s some deer.”  “Eagle, 12 o’clock, high.”  Amazing.  Likewise, he was spotting my animals, those of a demonic nature.  “You’re not going to solve that problem by thinking,” he says.  “You think you are but you’re not.  I don’t worry about anything.  Nothing.  I wasn’t worried when you guys got in my cab; I wasn’t worried when you pulled out the camera.  You – your wheels are turning – always – I can tell.”

“I do think all the time,” I replied.

“Let ‘er go.  You think you have control but you don’t.  You have no control.  God controls.”  He smiled, one of the few times he did.

Fred was a contradiction.  At times spiritual, at times pedantic, at times crass, he was a total human being.  After lecturing me on the dangers of letting your out-of-control mind run your life, he confessed that was on anxiety medication for some horrors of his past.

The Horrors

Fred was a military man.  “Keeping our freedoms free in peace time,” was all he would give me when I asked him what he did for the military.  He said he was in special ops.  Black ops.  “They told me if I died over there, all my mother would receive was a paper saying I was killed in a training accident.”  Nobody was allowed to know what I was doing.”  “What did you do?” I asked fishing.  I had the camera pointed on him just under my right arm.  I thought it looked more inconspicuous that way and the subject would open up more.  Fred knew exactly where it was.  Though he never took his eyes off the road, he saw everything.  A smirk again.  “Keeping our freedoms free,” he said again.  He knew I was trying to get him.  The wily cat wasn’t going to be trapped.

The Diner

The climax of our encounter occurred in a small diner in West Virginia.  The entire waitstaff was comprised of 4 overweight women under the age of 23.  Fred was tired, visibly.  I had no planned material for this encounter, so I asked Phil to turn the camera on and said, “How did you know I was thinking all the time?”  “Give me a question that’s hard,” he said.  He was smiling.  He thought that was hilarious.  “I have an ability.  I’ve never been able to understand it.  Some people call it clairvoyant.  I don’t call it that.  I just think the greater relationship you have with the Creator, the more you know.”  Jesus was his peace.  “I’m nobody special; I’m just a big, ugly sucker that does what the Man tells me to do.  I’ve stopped at truck stops several times for no reason because He told me to, and I find out later why?”

“Did God tell you to stop at that rest stop so you could pick us up?”

“No.  I stopped because my stomach said ‘I’m hungry; you better stop.'”  He thought that too was infinitely hilarious.

The End

The end was bittersweet.  We had shared something, the three of us.  We were all men, however, and didn’t really want to talk about it.  Fred had looked at a map and decided that the best place to let us off was in Lexington, KY.  He wanted us to smoke his prayer pipe first before we left.  (The movie explains the pipe a hundred times better than I can describe it; watch it here.)  He took a side road and meandered through Kentucky’s capitol.  The roads however, not built for an 18-wheeler, produced an eerie scraping sound.  “Fuck!” Fred said loudly.  He’d gone under a bridge.  The top didn’t scrape.  It was high enough, but it wasn’t wide enough.  “I just blew 2 tires.”  He knew instantly how many.  He knew by feel.  We meandered the streets for a while.  There was nowhere really to drop us off.  I told him to just take us to wherever he was going.  “No, no,” it’s gotta be a natural spot.  He looked at the map.  “There’s a spot on the way to Louisville.  I’m not goin’ that way, but hell, let’s just do it.”  Fred drove a crippled semi 5 miles out of his way so that we could get a correct experience of his prayer pipe, so that he could accommodate his new friends, so that he could say “thank you”… just for us being there.  His drive from Pennsylvania to Kentucky could have been boring.  He could have done it with less hassle, without two men who wanted to film him.  But he had people in his car, he had someone to share his life with, and I think he was grateful.  I really think he was.

Out of the Cab

I didn’t really know how to leave.  I didn’t want to leave.  Part of that was selfish.  We’d slept in his cab, we’d had a steady form of transportation (slow and plodding, but safe and reliable).  To look upon the other cars whizzing by you in your 26-ton behemoth is amazing.  You feel like God, you feel invincible.  Now it was time to leave.  Safety, gone.  Security, Fred, love, life, everything good… gone.  Time to leave the womb.  Onto the cold, hard concrete.  Before we left, at the truck stop where he had  settled on dropping us off, Fred tried to radio a ride.  “How ’bout it?” he said.  “I got two young men trying to get out to LA.”  Nothing.  “If you were female,” he said, “you’d have fuckin’ everybody goin’ ‘blblblblbbblbl!”

“Thank you Fred,” I said.  He had spectacles on.  He was looking at something, planning his trip in a notebook maybe, something; but, I got the impression he wasn’t really doing anything.  He was fake planning.  This was hard.  We were saying goodbye, and his way to handle it was to put his attention on something else.  Plans.  Math.  Miles.  “I can tell you’re thinking; don’t think.”  He didn’t think.  “We’ll see y’all,” he said.  Phillip had descended, and  I was supposed to descend now.  I was supposed to say goodbye.  I tried to think of something else.  Nothing.  Fred continued staring at his notebook the same way  he had stared at the road:  seeing everything but looking at nothing.  I wanted him to look at me, just once; but, with nothing to say I left.  It was sad.  I still asked Phillip to film me.  “We need to get a shot.”  Though emotional I still wanted to get something on film.  What an emotion whore:  The bane of the reality TV industry.

Moving on

We had a ride in five minutes.  God wanted us to move on.  It was over, no looking back.  Adios, Fred.  I will miss you. Part of me did not want to contact him again.  He’d given us good material.  God, I hate thinking of people in terms of material; but, as a documentary filmmaker, that’s exactly how you think of them sometimes.  People become tools, just as real emotions and memories become tools to the actor.  Then the emotions lose their flavor; the people lose their flavor.  I didn’t want that to happen so I tried not to think of Fred at all.  “I’ve still got his number,” Phillip told me the other day.  “We can interview him for the hell movie.”

“That’s an excellent idea.  He’d have some shit to say!”  I was thinking about him again.  It was good to revisit.  Floods of emotion came over me.  Floods of… I don’t know what.

“Part of me doesn’t want to contact him.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know.”

“He’d be perfect.”

“Yeah, he would be… he really would.  I just hope the same flavor is there.”

“Ryan,” Phil said, “you can’t control that.  This is a new movie, a new time.”

He’s right.  A rebirth must happen.  Fred is different now.  I am different.  And if we do interview him for the new movie, I will be glad to tell him that I’m not always thinking.

Get Your Popcorn – FREE Online Screening of The Hitchhiking Movie!

iStock_000005504155XSmallEleven Visions announces its very first Online Movie Theater Experience!

We are offering you, our fans, a free ticket! to an Online Showing of The Hitchhking Movie that will take place next Thursday, 9pm Central!

Know nothing about our movie?  Watch this!

The Hitchhiking Movie is a fun, rollicking ride that attempts to answer the question, Is kindness still alive on America’s roadways?

A real life adventure documentary, here’s what some have said about it already:

  • film babble blog (10/19/2009) – “well worth seeking out”
  • The Film Doctor (10/9/2009) – “a winning indie effort”
  • Culture Kills (10/1/2009) – “the essence of independent documentary film making”
  • SPL!NG (9/13/2009) – “more real than reality TV itself”
  • Strange Culture (9/11/2009) – “fun and unpredictable”
  • eFilmCritic.com (9/10/2009) – “different and very entertaining”
  • Hollywood Bitchslap (9/9/2009) – “very different and very entertaining”
  • MyReviewer (6/27/2009) – “it’s a fun ride…an interesting independent film”
  • Film Intuition (6/16/2009) – “compulsively watchable from start to finish”
  • Curled Up DVD (6/11/2009) – “an enjoyable lark”
  • Route 66 News (5/11/2009) – “the right balance of affability, earnestness and wit”

I already know about The Hitchhiking Movie, Ryan; just give me my tickets!  (Scroll down below, enter your name and email and hit ‘Subscribe’ to get your tickets!)

That was for people who are in the know.  If you ain’t in the know, keep reading:

The Hitchhiking Movie follows the journey of Phillip Hullquist and Ryan Jeanes in their attempt to hitchhike across the entire continental U.S. (New York City to Los Angeles)… in under a week!  Twenty-three strangers give the pair the only shot they’ve got of making it from coast to coast before the deadline.

A fun movie, a heart-warming movie, this is an adventure you won’t forget… and we’re giving you, fans new and old, a chance to watch it one time only for free!

This free online screening is our thank you to you.  We appreciate the fact you’ve followed us through The Mississippi River Adventure, The Alcatraz Adventure, and beyond; and, we want to say, “Thanks for coming with us!”

This is a ticketed, one-time-only event with a limit of one hundred people, so you have to sign up fast!  Scroll down to the bottom of this post, enter your name and email and hit ‘Subscribe’ to begin!

That’s Not All!

We are also offering free online chatting with the moviemakers, that is, US! (Phillip Hullquist and Ryan Jeanes) during the screening.  You will be able to submit questions to both Phillip and me in real time while you chat with other moviegoers.  How cool is that!  A real life movie experience done over the internet!  Like I said, grab your popcorn, but don’t get butter on the keyboard. 🙂

Hold on a Sec, We Want to Give You Even More Stuff!

How is that possible?  Easy!  When the screening ends, we’re going to offer you a special offer on The Hitchhiking Movie DVD.  This is big.  REAL BIG! We have an awesome deal for the DVD, so make sure you get your ticket now!

This event is going to be awesome, so don’t miss it.  Tickets are available…… NOW! Sign up below to get your ticket.

One More BIIIIG Thing to Get You to Sign Up for This One-Time Event!

My buddy and pal Kelly Canull has promised that she will give a FREE ten-minute Soul Reading (click here to find out what a soul reading is) to the first 10 people who sign up for the screening.  To put that in perspective, she charges a hundred bucks an hour to top-name clients for this service.  People from all over the world seek her out to help them get in touch with their soul’s purpose and we’re going to give it to you FREE if you’re one of the first 10 people to sign up below.

Just put your name and email in the form below and you’re good to go.  She has also promised a FREE mp3 (a $97 value) for EVERYONE who signs up below.  What have you got to lose?  How much more free stuff can you take?

Put in your name and email below to be a part of an amazing, one-time online event.  This is our thank you to you.

Don’t forget to click Subscribe, and we’ll see you at the movies!





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Maury Davis Takes us to Hell

“We’re here for the hell house,” I say.  She looks like I just farted in her face.

“Judgment house,” she winces and holds her face into a permanent scrunch.

“Sorry, judgment house.”  Scrunchy face leads us into the sanctuary, the waiting room for Tusculum Hills Baptist Church’s Judgment House, an annual Halloween event and a walk-through simulation of hell on earth.

This is Phil’s and my first experience with hell, or rather the prelude to hell because it took these jokers an hour and a half before they told us they had no idea when we’d be able to go in “because I’ve got a few groups ahead of you,” she said and, “I don’t know when y’all’ll be able to go eeun, um, lemme check, are y’all walk eeuns?”

“Yes.  We’re walk-ins.”

“Oh well, groups take precedent…”

“I know, I’ve seen several people go in ahead of us (I must have been really anxious to see hell!) and we’ve been waiting for an hour.”

“Well,” scrunchy face continues, “there’s nothing I can really do.”  I wanna see hell, godammit!

I go back and sit next to Phil slouched in his seat.  More groups are trucking in and filing out almost as fast.  There’s a pew full of Hmong or Cambodian immigrants over there – they go in, there’s a group of trendy white kids over there – they go in, the women with bobbed hair go in and the Southern accents and the non-Southern accents go in.  Why do they get to go to hell and not me! Phillip and I stay put.  A young black kid virtually lays on the seat.  “Bored?” I ask.  “Uh huh,” he nods and I laugh.  “What’d the woman say?” Phil asks.

“She said she didn’t know when we’d get to go in.”  A mixed bag of Hispanics possibly filipinos (neighboring churches) gets led out of the santuary, and I’ve had it.  “Doesn’t look like we’re going to hell tonight.”

“Well that sucks.  The nerve of these people!”

“I know, these church groups have already come to Jesus; we’re the customers they need to take care of.”

“I know, right?  I’ve never had such crappy service.  I’m never going there again.”

“Who do they think they are?  They totally lost my business.  I’ll get Jesus somewhere else!”

“For real.”

Try #2

First of all, try #2 was successful (you can see it in the video above).  We got to see a hell house, or rather an “illustrated sermon” (preacher + live theater + pyrotechnics apparently = illustrated sermon) with a, um, very strong hell theme.  Rev. Maury Davis, whose organization Cornerstone Church did a MUCH better job of filing us into their marketing opportunity and getting our contact information (Phillip filled out a card, and maybe they’ll call us in a day or two.  Much better service!), scared the shit out of us AND offered a way to take the pain away – you got it – Jesus de Veracruz.

Coming to Jesus

It took me a while but I figured it out – Jesus takes the pain away.  While listening to this sermon I experimented a little bit with their ideas – take Jesus into your heart, give your life over to Christ – and I must say that the results were mostly positive.  A lot of you aren’t going to expect me to say this but when I “let Jesus into my heart” as instructed, I did feel better.  I felt like there was a glowing coming from the center of my solar plexus.  It felt extremely positive!

Then the bad parts…

Okayyyyyyyyyy, now the bad parts.  This will scare the shit out of you.  Yes, this happened in church.  Um, I don’t know how I feel about all this yet.  “Give your life over to Jesus,” may be true, but this, this…  I don’t know.  Make sure you’ve watched the video above before you keep reading.

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Maury Davis preaches on through the fire and brimstone.

Do you need to scare people into religion?  Why can’t you just focus on the good parts of Jesus?  “Because the people need the WHOLE truth!”  Really?  This is the truth?  I don’t know.  The same Jesus that infiltrated my heart that day would not set his children on fire and rip their flesh out.  What would be the point?  “Toooo proooove that the non-believers are wrong!”  Does God really need to do that?  Is God so insecure that he needs to torture his own children?  “God doesn’t do it; the Devil does!”  I don’t care who does it; it’s fucked up, and now I have more questions than answers.

Think about your own children.  If you don’t have children, think about your future children.  Imagine that they do something horrible, something really really bad.  Do you forgive them?  Most of you parents/future parents are saying, “No matter what my child does, I will forgive them; nothing they can do or not do will make me withhold my love for them!”  OK, forget them doing something bad.  Imagine that your child comes to you and says, “Mom, Dad, I want to be Buddhist, I want to be Muslim, I want to be atheist…”  Even if you didn’t agree with your son our daughter, even if you KNEW that they were wrong, would YOU set them on fire?

Would you take a knife and stick it into your baby son or daughter’s stomach?  No, no, don’t run away.  Think about it!  FEEEEL that knife in your hand turning in your child’s stomach.  Feel it!

Would you rip out their intestines?  Feel it!  Feel yourself twisting that knife!

Pour gasoline all over them?  Burn them!  Cut off their heads!  Take a rake and rake off their flesh!  Laugh at them!

“God’s not doing it; the Devil is!”  Okay, would you pay someone to do this to your child???

Would you, as a parent, even allow this to happen?

A preachers son discovers himself in hell.
A preacher's son discovers himself in hell.

Even if you were in heaven, would you not give anything, do ANYTHING! to get to them?  Help them?  Save them?  Would you look upon a God who had sent your son or daughter to this torment with loving eyes?  Would you not look upon Him and say, “What are you doing!  Please!  Please, stop!  Please don’t do this to my son!  Please send me instead!”

And you would love a God such as this forever?

I would never send my own child to hell for ANYTHING! he could ever do.  Would you?  Would you send your child to eternal torment?  Think about that for a moment:  Are you more compassionate, more loving than an ALL-LOVING BEING?

YOU, AS A PARENT! WHAT WOULD YOU DO????

Really imagine pouring the gasoline on your child’s body! lighting the match!  Could you do it???? – for not believing something?

Sorry to hit you over the head with this, but these are some questions I need answered.  “But Ryan, we cannot understand God’s way.”  Maybe not, but I know how imperfect I am, and I would not strike that match.  Would you?

Some religions interpret the clause mentioning “eternal damnation” as eternal death – that, yes, God casts you into the lake of fire, but that’s it.  You are dead.  God gets rid of your sinnin’ ass and adios.  No eternal torment.  Damnation = death.  You’re gone.  You’re otta here, sayonara.  I can believe in a God that does that.  I can believe in a dog who’s gone rabid and is a danger to himself and others, whose owner decides the best thing for all would be to put the poor animal to death.  But think of what we would do in our society to the owner who tortures his or her animal with the excuse, “He was just too bad.  I needed to teach that dog the error of his ways.  I needed to poke him with sticks and shock him with a taser, then I cut off his limbs and soldered them so I could keep goin’,”  Getting sick?  You should be. If you’re an advocate for hell and eternal damnation, that’s exactly what you believe in.

11 Visions, What Happened to the Happy, Fun Times?

I know we’re bastions for fun and happiness and adventure; but, this, ladies and gentlemen, is an adventure too.  It is an actual walk into hell.  Perhaps the realest exploration of hell that anyone has ever embarked upon.  There’s a scene in The Da Vinci Code where Sophie asks Langdon why these people are trying to kill them.  Langon explains that it doesn’t matter if this stuff is real or not – they’ve entered a world of people who BELIEVE it’s real.

Whether or not hell is real matters not.  Many people believe it is; and that, therefore, is a world we must explore.

We’re not backing down.  We will explore.  This may be 11 Visions’ weirdest journey yet.