A Countdown for the Holidays

The Wisdom of Pinhead: Part Six

Last year for Christmas, I blogged about my favourite part of Hellraiser V: Inferno.  I talked about how Pinhead’s dark, scary message was really a cautionary Christmas tale – avoid superficiality and selfishness and embrace what really matters, or, you know, pay horribly forever.  I realized afterward that Pinhead has always had some very Christmas-y things to say … when seen in the right light.  So this year, I will be presenting a Pinhead-Christmas-personal empowerment-happy-joy-countdown.  At the end of it, I hope readers – Christian and non-Christian alike – are more disposed to find the love and joy the Christmas holiday represents.

And maybe they’ll want to watch the movies too.

 “[to Paul while looking down at the Earth] Glorious, is it not? The creatures who walk its surface, always looking to the light, never seeing the untold oceans of darkness beyond. There are more humans alive today than in all of its pitiful history. The Garden of Eden. A garden of flesh.”

Humans are always looking for something better.  Something prettier.  Something more awesome.  We fixate on superficiality and appearances, striving for some misguided “perfection” that is meaningless in a world – and in bodies – that are ever changing.  We live in constant dissatisfaction with our current lives/weights/jobs/partners because we’re sure that something better will come along.  We focus on failure and flaws, and search for some all-encompassing “success” that remains undefined and unattainable.  Even our religions are steeped in the notion that in some future time or place, everything will be “perfect”, “better”, “happy”, “complete”.

We don’t notice how delightful things already are, how wonderful are the people around us, how perfect we are on the inside where it counts.  We don’t see that happiness and perfection aren’t goals, but rather the way we feel when we like who we are and live with our hearts.  We deny ourselves joy in hopes of future joy; we deny ourselves love in hopes of future love.

Pinhead’s just paraphrasing the birthday boy, who spent his entire brief life on this planet trying to explain to people that this life – this world, this moment – is all we can know about … and that’s fantastic!  It’s full of wonders, and goodness, and love and light – if we choose to experience it that way.  He explained that this world is a gift, and that we should enjoy it.  He explained that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Right here, right now.  In our hands.  Right now.

Don’t let Pinhead be the only one who gets that. Okay?

Happy Holidays.

 

 

A Countdown for the Holidays

The Wisdom of Pinhead: Part Five
“He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake!*

Last year for Christmas, I blogged about my favourite part of Hellraiser V: Inferno.  I talked about how Pinhead’s dark, scary message was really a cautionary Christmas tale – avoid superficiality and selfishness and embrace what really matters, or, you know, pay horribly forever.  I realized afterward that Pinhead has always had some very Christmas-y things to say … when seen in the right light.  So this year, I will be presenting a Pinhead-Christmas-personal empowerment-happy-joy-countdown.  At the end of it, I hope readers – Christian and non-Christian alike – are more disposed to find the love and joy the Christmas holiday represents.

And maybe they’ll want to watch the movies too.

“It is not hands that summon us. It is desire.”

Pinhead refers to the young girl who has been asked to solve the puzzle-box by the evil Dr. Channard.  The doctor wants to know what secrets the puzzle-box holds, but he doesn’t want to pay any consequences for opening it.  He has coerced the young girl, Tiffany, to open it for him … but Pinhead knows who the true “client” is – and unfortunately for Dr. Channard, where he is.

He seeks out the doctor and leaves Tiffany alone.

The world can be quite ludicrous, in far too many ways to describe here.  But by following Pinhead’s excellent example, we can be a force of love and logic against the absurd.  His message here certainly seems clear enough:

– Children only know and only do what they have been taught.  They are inherently innocent, even when they are in the wrong, because they’re still figuring things out.  You might say, “Well, how long could it possibly take to figure things out?!”  To you, I say, “Do you have things figured out?  How old are you?”

– Grown-ups are responsible – for ourselves, for the world we’ve created, for the children we’ve created, for any messes we’ve made, for the evil we watch, for the evil we allow.  We’re responsible.  If we don’t accept that responsibility, “unpleasantness” occurs.

– Whatever higher power there may be is likely very hard to fool.  Why, for the most part, we can’t even fool one another.  Far too often, we can fool ourselves … but in the end, our guilt remains.

– Having other people do your dirty work does not make you innocent.  It makes you a coward.  And if Pinhead catches you, it makes you a coward whose skull is pierced by a giant, sucking worm that drags you around by your brain.
[This outcome was for Dr. Channard.  Other clients may experience different results.]

This holiday season, let’s try the love-and-logic strategy.  Let’s be kind to children even when they push our buttons.  Let’s acknowledge our sins and crimes, apologize for them like big girls and boys, and make amends where we can.  Let’s take responsibility for our lives.  Let’s be brave and confident.  Let’s be honest – with ourselves, with others, with our gods.

It’s not so hard once you get started.

* “Santa Claus is comin’ to town” by Coots and Gillespie

 

A Countdown for the Holidays

The Wisdom of Pinhead: Part Four
“He sees you when you’re sleeping; he knows when you’re awake …”*

Last year for Christmas, I blogged about my favourite part of Hellraiser V: Inferno.  I talked about how Pinhead’s dark, scary message was really a cautionary Christmas tale – avoid superficiality and selfishness and embrace what really matters, or, you know, pay horribly forever.  I realized afterward that Pinhead has always had some very Christmas-y things to say … when seen in the right light.  So this year, I will be presenting a Pinhead-Christmas-personal empowerment-happy-joy-countdown.  At the end of it, I hope readers – Christian and non-Christian alike – are more disposed to find the love and joy the Christmas holiday represents.

And maybe they’ll want to watch the movies too.

Kirsty Cotton: I’ve come for my father!
[the Cenobites laugh at that]
Pinhead: But he is in his own Hell, child, and quite unreachable.
Kirsty Cotton: I don’t believe you!
Pinhead: But it’s true. He is in his own Hell, just as you are in yours.

Only in life can we suffer; after our death, our troubles are over, as they say.  But this doesn’t mean that life is only suffering – quite the opposite: life is also beautiful and wondrous and good.  In this quote, Pinhead reveals that his “Hell” is for the living, that his “clients” choose consciously to open the box while alive, and bring Hell upon themselves with their own actions and desires … and after they’re dead, they will be as far from Pinhead’s reach as all those who avoided the box and its delights entirely.

What does this mean for you and me?  It means that we make our hells for ourselves.  It means that we really don’t know what happens after we’re dead, until we die.  It means that, just as life can be suffering, it can also be joy, or despair, or loss, or bliss – and that, far more than we usually realize, what life is for each of us is under our own control.

It also means that, whether we like it or not, whether we believe or not, whatever thing we may believe in, absolutely none of us knows – really knows – what’s waiting for us after that last breath.  Some of us have glimpses, some of us see wonders that give us some comfort, but in the end, even Hell doesn’t know what happens.  In the end, we’ll just have to accept that death is a mystery … because if we don’t, that lingering fear of death and its uncertainty will turn us into little, stressed-out globules of anger who are always quarreling with one another to distract ourselves from our own worry.

Kind of like the way we already do it.

So maybe for the holidays – or all year round, if we feel we’re up to it – we can reorganize some of our burdens.  We can agree to be in charge of our own lives here – to accept the consequences of our actions, to recognize that so very often we make our own pain and suffering.  We can stop wasting our living moments searching for death, and instead allow whatever god may exist to be in charge of the afterlife.  We can stop creating Hell on earth in all manner of creative ways, and instead let Pinhead be in charge of Hell.

He seems to doing a much fairer job of it than we do.

* “Santa Claus is comin’ to town” by Coots and Gillespie

A Countdown for the Holidays

The Wisdom of Pinhead: Part Three
“Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.”*

Last year for Christmas, I blogged about my favourite part of Hellraiser V: Inferno.  I talked about how Pinhead’s dark, scary message was really a cautionary Christmas tale – avoid superficiality and selfishness and embrace what really matters, or, you know, pay horribly forever.  I realized afterward that Pinhead has always had some very Christmas-y things to say … when seen in the right light.  So this year, I will be presenting a Pinhead-Christmas-personal empowerment-happy-joy-countdown.  At the end of it, I hope readers – Christian and non-Christian alike – are more disposed to find the love and joy the Christmas holiday represents.

And maybe they’ll want to watch the movies too.

 

“There is no good, Monroe. There is no evil. There is only flesh.”

As individuals and as a society, we make a host of rules and criteria with which we judge … everything.  Sometimes, the rules are no-brainers:  we dislike murder, physical assault, theft.  But all too often the rules simply exist to make ourselves “good” and others “bad”, to justify our decisions, to buffer ourselves from change, or to try in some way to make life a series of guarantees.

But in fact the world has only one guarantee:  if you are alive, then one day you will die, and chances are that you will not know when.  And the world has only one rule:  eat or be eaten.  Only humans have placed emotional and ethical criteria on being part of the food chain … and on most of the other aspects of our lives.

We lose our ability to evaluate or handle our elected governments because we begin to assume that “law” is inherently good … because many laws seem good, and we don’t want to take the time and responsibility to assess each law on its own.  We assume we are “right” and “good” when law is on our side, because we want to feel “right” and “good” … but when the law changes, suddenly the good are bad and the bad are good.  New laws make former followers into the bad guy; other people’s laws that differ from mine are obviously “evil”, “misguided”, “wrong”.

Do I mean that we should all be lawless, or that there is no right or wrong?  Hardly – and Pinhead would agree with me, I think, since the laws of Hell are rather … totalitarian, and he is in charge of enforcing them.  No, I simply mean that we should be more detached from the rules and criteria we create.  We should create the laws to reflect what we feel is good and bad, rather than to feel that “good” and “bad” are some concrete, separate things about which we can do nothing.  We should look dispassionately at ourselves and ask which of our rules and judgments are based on love-versus-harm and which are based on justification, fear, wanting to appear good, and expecting stress-free joy 24/7.

And I believe we should ultimately decide to focus on love-versus-harm, to accept others as long as they hurt no one else, to celebrate our differences rather than fearing them or penalizing them, to be willing to change for the better – not just today but every day, so that we are constantly evolving rather than falling apart and rebuilding.  We make the rules on this planet; we should all be a little more aware of that, I think … and a little more willing to do the work.

 

* “Santa Claus is comin’ to town” by Coots and Gillespie

A Countdown for the Holidays

The Wisdom of Pinhead: Part Two
“He’s makin’ a list.  He’s checkin’ it twice …”*

Last year for Christmas, I blogged about my favourite part of Hellraiser V: Inferno.  I talked about how Pinhead’s dark, scary message was really a cautionary Christmas tale – avoid superficiality and selfishness and embrace what really matters, or, you know, pay horribly forever.  I realized afterward that Pinhead has always had some very Christmas-y things to say … when seen in the right light.  So this year, I will be presenting a Pinhead-Christmas-personal empowerment-happy-joy-countdown.  At the end of it, I hope readers – Christian and non-Christian alike – are more disposed to find the love and joy the Christmas holiday represents.

And maybe they’ll want to watch the movies too.

Pinhead: “Ah, Kirsty. We thought we lost you.”
Kirsty Cotton: “I didn’t open the box!”
Pinhead: “Oh, Kirsty. So eager to play, so reluctant to admit it.”

People have curiosity about things; curiosity has little to do with any other emotion, such as love, empathy, fear, or ethical consideration.  It’s simply … curiosity.

People have inner darkness, mostly because we are creatures much like all the others on the planet – we have basic instincts for survival, which include the ability to kill if necessary.  Of course, we’ve complicated those instincts with layers of civilization, cognitive development, social development, and a complex world full of thousands upon thousands of rules, scenarios, guidelines, circumstances, etc.  We have come to a place where we try to be “good” – to kill only when it’s incredibly necessary, to avoid hurting others, to do things to help others with or without recompense.  We value social connection; we value love and all the selfless things that go along with it.  We work to have a world where we all feel safe, and where no one has to kill anyone.  But underneath it all is the instinct, which gets translated as darkness by our “sophisticated” brains, and suddenly we’re submerged in the guilt-ridden world of things-we-think-about-that-make-us-feel-weird-about-ourselves.

And what’s the harm in that?  Well, when we put a lot of judgment words like “bad”, “dark”, “evil”, “weird” on entirely random thoughts, we don’t just judge the things society has excluded, like murder; we also judge ourselves, and begin to mistrust our thoughts, and to shove them away in a dark place, and to ignore them even though they keep talking.  And suddenly a random thought becomes an insistent, subconscious buzzing that stimulates our imagination – because that’s the only part still listening – and transforms itself into whatever the imagination decides.  Basically, this unacknowledged darkness ferments into something the thinker never thought, and ordinary people can suddenly find themselves behaving in ways that would have shocked them cold earlier in the day.

If Kirsty had been more willing to acknowledge her curiosity, she might have been able to control herself better.  She might have been more able to make sure her actions matched up with what her goodness and ethics and wisdom guided her to do.  She had pushed her darkness away for so long that she was now completely unaware of it, and this allowed her darkness to do, well, pretty much whatever it wanted. And so, even while her brain told her, “Good people don’t want this,” her hands just kept picking up the shiny puzzle-box.

Look inside yourself.  Look at your weaknesses as well as your strengths – not with judgment or revulsion, but simply to know.  Know your darkness.  Know your limitations.  Know yourself.  Once you know yourself, then all your actions will truly be yours, and your goodness will be deliberate and true.

 

* “Santa Claus is comin’ to town” by Coots and Gillespie

 

The Thing I Like About …

… Hellraiser VI:  the comment on good and evil.

[Warning:  Spoilers]

Hellraiser VI brings back the character of Kirstie, the heroine of the first two films.  In the first film, she has no idea, of course, what opening the puzzle box will do; she convinces Pinhead and the other Cenobites to take instead the man who opened the box on purpose.  In the second film, her connection to the box is to help save innocent people from her evil stepmother, but she is confronted once more by Pinhead, who believes her repeated experiences with the box indicate her true feelings – that deep down she wants to explore Hell and all the “sights” he offers to show her.  She is hard pressed to escape him and return to her safe, relatively pain-free world.

In the sixth installment, however, we see a Kirstie we didn’t expect.  When her husband brings the box home with him – curious about what secrets it contains – she is justifiably frightened and angry.  She knows what secrets it holds; she’s seen the Hell that lies beyond it, and what the people trapped there are subjected to.  She has had trouble with her husband already – lying, infidelity – but she has no wish to lose her soul to his selfish stupidity.  So, when Pinhead again confronts her about this third “coincidence”, she once more offers the man who opened the box on purpose – her husband.

She goes a bit further, though.  She offers the souls of five others – her husband and the people in whose company he became dishonest and unfaithful to her.

Well, of course, so few people want to go to Hell; it makes perfect sense that she would implicate the truly guilty party – even if it is her husband – to avoid going to Hell.  But to offer, as though they were hers to give, the souls of others – others who had done nothing to her personally but become part of her husband’s double life – is quite another matter.  Especially when, in the second film, she had actually defeated Pinhead, why decide now that the only option is to sacrifice five people for her own safety?

From the beginning of the film series, Kirstie is presented as the “good guy”, the one who faces the Cenobites’ evil and defeats it with her good spirit.  But the sixth film suggests that fear and desperation lead us to make choices we would otherwise not have made – choices at odds with what we have said was “good”.  It suggests that “good” and “evil” are so defined more by relative comparison and a habit of thinking than by actual evaluation.  But is it suggesting that “when you look into the abyss, it looks back into you”?  I’m not so sure.

It seems more to me that Pinhead was right all along – that Kirstie and the box seem to find each other with surprising regularity.  She may be right too, though – she may not be seeking it out, desiring secretly to be tormented in Pinhead’s Hell.  It may be, instead, that the box sees something dark in her – that the box is looking for her, rather than the other way around, and that, rather than being Pinhead’s willing victim, she is in fact someone who could give him a bit of competition.

What sort of person do you think Kirstie really is? – and how much of her is inside each of us?