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Going to hell


 
A friend in Program says:

The hero of one of the very greatest books ever written is a ne'er-do-well boy, the son of the town drunkard, who manages without really intending it to steal one of the slaves of the sister of the "good woman" who has had pity on him and taken him in. Despite the best efforts of these two women, our hero just seems to have turned out bad, and proceeds to head down the Mississippi River with every prospect of the slave -- a valuable slave who is a woman's property -- going free.

Eventually, the boy has a crisis of conscience. He writes a letter to the woman telling her where her runaway slave can be found. And then, before he sends it, he starts to think:

[I] got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I'd see him standing my watch on top of his'n, 'stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was ....

I happened to look around and see that [letter]. It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

"All right, then, I'll GO to hell" -- and tore it up.

Our civilized world tells us we should do all sorts of things -- spend money, acquire possessions, worry ourselves sick over things we cannot control and can do nothing about. Steps 10 and 11 offer a liberation from this bondage, but the price we pay for our new way of life is that we can never be quite sure that what we're doing is "right." Like our hero, we find that "civilization" as we normally understand it may not be for us -- not once we've tasted freedom. As the young boy says at the close of the book:

I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before.


"The spiritual life is never one of achievement:
it is always one of letting go."

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