In my article Living The Reward, I proposed – contrary to many religious teachings – that we are actually in heaven right now, but simply don’t realize it. Now, for the sake of balance, and as an intellectual and creative writing exercise, this article is going to offer the following, opposing point of view: despite our religious teachings, we are all at this moment, living in hell.
Although hell is presented as an individual destination – if we’re good we’ll spend eternity in one place, and if we’re bad, then we’ll end up in another – this version of hell applies to everyone in the universe. No matter who you are, where you live or how nice you’ve been, we’re all living in hell together. Let me set up this hypothesis by going back in time, to the Big Bang and the creation of the universe. I realize that I’m using a cosmological model to explain a religious construct, but please bear with me as I link together these two disparate and seemingly incompatible subjects.
Most of you are familiar with the Big Bang Theory – not the television series, but the hypothesis that offers to explain how the universe was created. About 13.75 billion years ago, all of the matter in the universe was concentrated in a single point called a singularity, which then expanded very rapidly, much like an explosion. Many people who subscribe to this hypothesis also believe that the universe will end with the Big Crunch – the Big Bang in reverse. At this moment, our universe is expanding (as it has been doing since it was created), but at some point in the future, the universe will stop expanding and then will start contracting. This contraction will continue until all of the matter in the universe collapses into a single point once again, and it will be denser than a black hole. This will be the end of space and time, as well as our universe and everything that was created within it.
At this point you may not care because the Big Crunch will not happen in your lifetime, and therefore won’t affect you. In fact no one can even predict when it will happen, other than saying “billions of years in the future”. However, this is still a depressing thought. Everything that humans have ever accomplished – every book, building, invention, language, medicine, piece of art, music, poetry, sculpture and computer software – all of our accumulated wisdom along with the fruits of all of our labours – will one day cease to exist. Saving our knowledge from our sun as it becomes a Red Giant is a trivial matter – we simply have to emigrate to Mars or to the outer planets in our own solar system, – but there is no escape from the Big Crunch. There is no place in the universe where we can safely store this knowledge, because, ultimately, everything our species has ever created will be destroyed. Note: I’m using a bit of poetic license when I use the word destroyed. I realize that matter cannot be created or destroyed, but during the Big Crunch, the information, knowledge and wisdom contained in that matter will no longer be in a readable form.
No one knows what will happen after the Big Crunch, once everything has been compressed down to a singularity again, but some people think that it will be followed by another Big Bang, and the creation of a new universe. If this is true, then we are stuck in an endless cycle: a universe is formed, and then destroyed, along with everything that all of its sentient beings have created. Over and over again. Forever. To me, this is the cosmological equivalent of a bully knocking over your snowman, sand castle or in-progress chess game. Welcome to hell.
Postscript: You didn’t think that I was going to leave you like this, did you? Come on now – I’m not going to depress you and then abandon you… As you contemplate the Big Bang and the Big Crunch, ask yourself: what if there was an escape route? What if there was a way to take all of our accumulated knowledge and store it in a safe place? I explore this possibility in an article called A Place For Our Stuff. If you need cheering up right now, this will do the trick.