NYU Students in Hell

Student Sonya Bonner sees hell not only as death by serpent bite but also the conformity of the suburban lifestyle.
Kathryn Blavat (a student with a tooth problem) wrote the following true story:
A thermodynamics professor had written a take home exam for his graduate students. It had one question:
"Is hell exothermic or endothermic? Support your answer with a proof."
Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law or some variant. One student, however, wrote the following:
First, we postulate that if souls exist, then they must have some mass. If they do, then a mole of souls can also have a mass. So, at what rate are souls moving into hell and at what rate are souls leaving? I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to hell, it will not leave. Therefore no souls are leaving.
As for souls entering hell, let's look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Some of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to hell. Since there are more than one of these religions and people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all people and all souls go to hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in hell to increase exponentially.
Now we look at the rate of change in volume in hell. Boyle's Law states that in order for temperature and pressure in hell to stay the same, the ratio of the mass of souls and volume needs to stay constant.
So if hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter hell, then the temperature and pressure in hell will increase until all hell breaks loose.
Of course if hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until hell freezes over.
It was not revealed what grade the student got.

Hell for student Jonathan Farer would be: "having to spend the rest of my life in Bloomington, Illinois surrounded by clones of both Midwesterners and his mother. Bloomington is in itself a town of clones and the main drag is filled with all the American clones: McDonalds, Wendys, Fridays, Bennigans, Chi Chi's, and many more too numerous to mention." Hell would be to hear his mothers' voices echoing through the endless cornfields.

For student Terry Hagins, hell is as follows:
1. Hell is under the ground, so is the subway.
2. Hell is hot, so is the subway.
3. Hell is red, so are the #2 and #3 trains on the subway.
4. Hell is crowded, so is the subway.
5. Hell has bad people in it, so does the subway.
For student Milagros Colon, hell in Newark, New Jersey.

For student Yon Batson who is an emergency room technician, hell is watching families anguish over their loved ones: "Hell to me is when there isn't anything physicians or modern medicine can do to stop the pain and suffering that these patients endure."

Student Lydia Fort says that the twentieth century has created hell on earth, particularly with the holocaust and the Bosnian war. "But hell can also exist within our own bodies and minds."

Student Kenneth Barrett who is a bus driver connected with a funeral parlor says hell occurred when 15 teenagers stormed into his bus and assaulted a passengar.

For another student, hell is selling her soul to corporate America in the form of tuition reimbursement. She says that "it is a way to taunt unsuspecting career strategists into unsavory situations. The promise of tuition reimbursement is a way to demand anything. Hell is where you toil and perform this anything."

Student Barbara Boyle agrees with Sartre that hell can be other people, but it can also be ourselves.

Hell is gambling.
Hell is overeating.
For student Dora Fong, hell is having no freedom: "I am in hell when I am forced to do anything that I dislike. I am in hell if I can't do anything I like."
For student Julia Melancon, hell is being trapped in a classroom with a teacher who wants everything learned by rote instead of encouraging exploration and creativity. Hell is a classroom in which a sumptuous piece of literature is read which no one wishes to discuss.

For student Barbara Boyle, "hell sounds like my grandmother dying, smells like hot dogs with sauerkraut when I'm hung over, and looks like a creepy crawly infested hole with no escape. But most of all hell feels like a recurrence of all my failures and insecurities.

For Scott Reccardi, "hell is a place which does not recognize or acknowledge my voice or ideas. It is a place void of order which has the ability to confuse or misdirect when I attempt to understand it. Hell is also a place that has the p°wer to change me into a different person so that I am able to recognize myself or my actions; a place that forces me to do things I wouldn't normally do."
For another student, "hell is having to reinvent yourself and search for a new career at age 34 after having owned your own business and failed at it."
For student Grisel Ludovico, hell is the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Student Paul Levy writes: "Hell is such a short word, only four letters, yet when said, draws attention. Add an 'o' and it becomes warm and inviting: hello. If heaven is up, where is hell? Hell might be way below us, further than where we bury or drill for things."
For student Karen Bollaert, hell is the present, heaven is the future and purgatory is the past. She says that we continually create our hell because we want something that is unattainable. Heaven is unattainable and hell is unavoidable. We think heaven is control and hell is out of control.
Ki Bang's play from Prof. Keefer's Heaven or Hell class: "I WANT TO JUMP OFF THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE"
Main Character: Joe Nolife
Supporting Cast: Dante, Sartre, Camus, Jesus, Plato and Sniffles, a baby boomer.

(Scene opens on the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge. Joe is hanging on to a cable, with both feet on the rail.)
JOE: I can't take it no more. Jesus Christ, life sucks.
Amidst a crowd that has gathered, one steps forward. It is Jesus Christ.)
JESUS: Tell me, child, what do you hope to gain by jumping?
JOE: I won't have to suffer anymore in this world.
JESUS: And what makes you think you won't suffer in the next? I died so that you could live free of sin and this is how you repay me?

(From the crowd another steps forward; it is Sartre.)
SARTRE: Now hold on a second. How do you know that there is another world? You need to do the best you can in this one. What about your family? Your friends? Are you going to abandon them like this?

(Someone yells from the crowd)
BOOMER: Hey Man! Sniff some of this and you'll be alright. It'll make you forget everything.

(Dante steps forward.)
DANTE: And add another sin to be punished for? Let me tell you. There is a not so nice place waiting for you if you jump. Unless you like trees and thorns.
CAMUS: Hey. Just let him do what he wants. It's his card to play. Let him decide his destiny and face it alone.
PLATO: You represent nothing more than the society you live in. I'm surprised everyone isn't jumping off this bridge.
Edgardo Ramirez' version of the plot is as follows:
DANTE: If you jump, you will be dangling from a tree forever and ever.
SARTRE: You can resolve your problems. You do not have to do it. But if you do, you'll have no one to blame but yourself.
JESUS: What is it that is troubling you so? If at one time you were happy and secure, what makes you think that you cannot have it again?
WILLIAM BLAKE: Why are you taking so long? We want to see if you can fly. Try it. Jump!
PLATO: Let me tell you about justice and reason. If after you hear me you still want to jump, I will not stop you.
BOOMER: I need you man! They tell me there might not be enough contributors to social security by the time I retire.
Josselin Pluviose' version:
SARTRE: Joseph, by killing yourself, you are doing two things. First, you show that you are free. Second, you give an extraordinary demonstration of heroism. You free yourself from hell. Our human society is hell. You are taking the right decision.
PLATO: You are absolutely right, Sartre. This is why we need to conceive of a new social project. And I am sure Joseph will be happy living in it since he will play a role according to his talent.

Julia Melancon writes:

The only possible allure of Christianity (after all, it is rather morbid and dismal, not to mention bloody), is its sparkling Afterlife. Its only source of power is the belief followers have in Heaven. The only way to get people to buy into this Heavenly Sweepstakes, to bet their lives on something for which they can have no proof, is to make this life so utterly unbearable that they will have to placate themselves with visions of Paradise just to keep from killing themselves (or those in power who keep the downtrodden so miserable.) If people were taught to value their earthly gifts (and given access to the resources needed to employ them), then they would have no need of the Hyperdrama that is Christianity.

Howard Goodman researches the hell of pollution:

In order for mankind to enjoy the benefits of progress in such forms as communications, transportation and technology, he must constantly "eat another bite out of the apple," which in this case is the earth's environment. As he becomes saturated with present innovations, he must dip again and again in to nature's "cookie jar" to develop new toys in order to remain satiated. Facilities which are now deemed mere subsistence, let alone luxuries, i.e. airplanes, telephones, televisions, barely existed fifty years ago, and are now on the verge of replacement. It is this constant state of material dissatisfaction and desire for change that creates a hell on earth for those who subscribe to it.

With mankind's preoccupation with what he can produce and how he can profit from it, he must realize one thing-- he will never be able to see a clearer blue ocean, eat a better-tasting food, enjoy a deeper sleep, invent a stronger love for his family, have longer sex, or produce a more unscented bowel movement-- than that of his neighbor. As such, humanity needs to realize a vision of a perfect, unblemished landscape of Earth and make that its new God; something akin to a wildlife sanctuary on Cape Cod, where utopia is found in the serenity of Nature. This is all that we can ultimately hope to strive for-- a temple of rolling, green hills with reeds gently swaying in the wind, leading down to a march and an ocean sparkling like diamonds.

So the antidote to hell on Earth can be solved in the acceptance of, and reverence for the Earth itself. If we could only really learned from the wisdome of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, whose gods were the sun, the moon, the ocean and the other wondrous gifts of nature. In these times of an endangered planet, by understanding the teachings of ancient theology and demonstrating his simple love for mother Earth, today's man will realize true contentment and forego his temporary obsessions and futile pursuits, which he has gotten along fine without for thousands of years.

Back to syllabus.