Greek-American Stories: A Hell of a Subject

To begin with, according to my research, hell is a fictional place. No telescope, map, diggings, or atmospheric proof has ever substantiated its existence. Yet, the word is widely used in a myriad of ways. “What the hell…?” is when a state of confusion arises. “It’s a hellish situation!” tells of a situation with enormous misrule or pandemonium. “The hell I will!” means the person is adamant in not accepting a demand. “Oh, hell!” tells you that someone is negatively surprised. In order to control or threaten punishment of an individual when committing some ‘hellish’ act, they are told to go there or that they are destined for that place. Religion has mentioned hell as the inferno that awaits those who go against expected behavior or go against the written word in scripture. They go so far as to say some places are ‘hot as hell’, describing fire and brimstone – hell being a place of torment and where evil people torture and apply evil treatments for transgressions – even though when you’re dead you have absolutely no feelings or anything else.

And, having no written rules of law there, there is no chance of reprieve or a hearing by our peers. So, it’s gotta be a hell of a place!  You’ve heard said, “being with that person was a living hell’ – that refers to someone dealing with a very difficult person.

‘Hell’s Bells’, warns something bad is oncoming and to take precautions. “Who th’ hell do you think you are?” comes from someone who has reached the end of patience or is trying to get the better of a losing argument. When one hears, “Oh, what th’ hell,” it’s from someone who has decided to take a chance no matter the odds. ‘Hell on wheels’, describes someone who is exceptional in a sport or has gone the limits. “All hell broke loose!” means a riot or chaotic situation turned an area into lawlessness, or, as the Greeks say, ‘ataxia’. “You’re taking a hell of a chance,” is self explanatory. Mostly, the word is used to describe power and conviction. There are, probably, many more instances that invite the use of the word, like, ‘sure as hell!’ Sorry! No such surety. How can someone be, ‘good as hell,’ or, ‘bad as hell’? Where’s the distinction? The word is used more often to warn or to describe anything to the limits.

So many people are sent there in common speech because an argument didn’t go as wished, forcing an end to discussion. The word ‘hell’ is indicative of an abyss, place of torment, and wretchedness. You hear of someone ‘hell-bent’ on doing something and will bridge no argument. Or, “it scared the ‘hell’ out of me!” Maybe that was a good sign.

I once read, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” That guy better leave the country. Or, “I’ll see you in hell!” meaning the sender will be part of the jury that condemns him. What about, “Come hell or high water.” Here, either frying or drowning is the decision. Swimming is a better option.

But, throughout history and literature, where there is bad, there’s good, where there is up, there’s down, where there’s high, there’s low. So, there’s got to be somewhere, or something that is the opposite of hell. Accordingly, heaven is a place of felicity, bliss, or as the ancient Greeks described, ‘Arcadia’. It’s a place that soothes the wounded soul, brings tranquility to the tormented mind, a place that promises reward for goodness. Now, to set things straight, according to my research, and I claim no experience for archeology, astronomy, or aerospace, there is no such place as heaven either. No telescope, no map, diggings or atmospheric proof has ever substantiated its existence. It is a state of mind, only. It’s not even a philosophy. It’s a warning! It sounds idealistic, blissful, the ultimate paradise.

Well, the same way I’m entitled to my humble opinions, you are entitled to yours. But, by being realistic and claiming a little common sense, whatever the premise of one or the other, it can, and usually, turn a conversation into a hell of an argument.

‘Hell awaits,’ is a prophetic warning. There is also ‘Heaven can wait!’ I’ll bet the line forming at heaven’s gate is short and hell has a waiting list. Ether location will always be a subject for argument or wonder. Oh, for heaven’s sake who th’ hell really knows?



Τhe feast of the Three Hierarchs traditionally coincides with the celebration of Greek Letters.

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