The Other Place — A Momo’s Ode To Rod

This guest post comes from frequent BCC reader Erich (comments under “Observer fka Eric S.”). Other submissions from him can be found here and here.

Rod Serling was one of my heroes growing up. Still is. His genius is what bromances are made of. Best known for his psychodrama series, The Twilight Zone, Serling pioneered the television drama into what it is today.*

Season 1, episode 28 of the The Twilight Zone is entitled, “A Nice Place To Visit” after the saying, “It’s a nice place to visit, but I would not want to live here.” The episode begins with law enforcement officers shooting a career thief in an alleyway. In the afterlife the thief is informed that he is dead and is given a guardian angel–who happens to be a middle-aged handsome gentleman. The guardian angel then escorts the thief to a mansion, where he is served a delicious dinner, given a hot shower, and told that the mansion is his.

Inside the mansion, the thief entertains beautiful women, indulges his insatiable appetite for gambling, and generally engages in the lavish life he has suddenly inherited. After a while, though, the thief begins to wonder whether something is wrong, and he summons his guardian angel, saying, “I don’t get it. I was a bad guy in life. I killed people. And I’m given all of this? Did God make a mistake with me?” The guardian angel then suggests that the two of them go to a hall of records to check out the thief’s file.
When they inspect the file, it contains a detailed history of the thief’s sin-filled life. “I don’t get it. But I guess if God is OK with me here, then I’m fine with that,” the thief puzzled.

Back at his mansion, the thief continues to entertain all of the women he wanted, he continues to win every time he gambled, and nothing is ever wrong. His favorite meals are abundant. Everyone around him is always happy and laughing. In essence, things are … perfect. But this begins to get old for the thief.

Once again, the thief summons the guardian angel and asks if the angel could arrange for him to see some of his friends and family who had died before him. The angel said that would be difficult, impossible perhaps, because this place was designed for the thief and no others.

Time goes on, and the thief grows angry, almost to the point of insanity. He again summons the angel. “Angel, if I have to live through this place one more day, I’m gonna go nuts. I don’t belong here. I don’t want to be in Heaven any more. I want to go to the other place!” The angel pauses and, with a wry look, asks, “What made you think this is Heaven? You are in the other place.”

I first saw this episode when I was a 15 year-old Teacher. I recall so well how my entire existence seemed to suddenly freeze when the angel said that the thief was in the “other place,” and insidiously laughed. I recall immediately asking myself: “What is your concept of a heaven? What is your concept of a hell?” At that moment, the “three degrees of glory” diagrams I had been used to viewing in seminary seemed so procedural, so antiseptic. “How can an ‘eternity’ of anything be exciting?”

As I sat around in my pajamas over the recent Thanksgiving weekend flipping channels, I came across KTLA’s annual marathon broadcast of The Twilight Zone—an event that I loved as a teenager and looked forward to each year, but which I had forgotten about it. But what was even better was that “A Nice Place to Visit” came on, and I was reminded of these ideas. And so I ask you: Is your concept of Heaven a place of no trial, no challenge, of constant family, of endless indulgences in the things you love about life? Facetiousness aside, what is your concept of heaven, of hell, and of any eternal state of existence in between?

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*Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope was released in 1948, with its angular oddities, sharp contrasts, and bizarre lighting. It was the first feature film in which the entire plot took place in a single-room. The film consists of only 10 or 11 takes, as Hitchcock let the film continuously roll while he moved from actor to actor, angle to angle! Rope was a watershed in the psychodrama, which Serling took and perfected into half-hour gems.

Comments

  1. A Momo? What the hell is that?

  2. Momo = MOrMOn. Apparently it’s the title du jour among the youth in SoCal.

  3. observer fka eric s says:

    In looking at this again just now, and having gone to the temple this morning, it strikes me as that much more interesting that Pip–the guardian angel–looks exactly like a temple worker.

  4. #3 – I had that same thought about Pip’s appearance. It gave me a good laugh.

    I really liked that episode when I first saw it, as well. There’s something deeply profound about a life without opposition of any kind, lived “alone” with everything you ever wanted, being Hell. That portrayal fits my conception of Hell pretty well, since there is no growth, progression, learning, advance, etc. It’s self-centered stagnation.

    I view Heaven as the other extreme – a condition of continued (if not strictly linear and ever-moving) growth, progession, learning, advancemnt, etc. I think it’s possible to say, accurately, “The Kingdom of God is within you,” based on the above definition. It’s also possible to say, “Life is Hell,” based on the above definitions.

    I see “the time in between” as largely non-existent, in theory, since I believe we live pretty much in Heaven or Hell at every moment of our lives – but, if I am talking about the classic Plan of Salvation time between death and the final judgment, I see “the time in between” as nothing more than more time to reach, eventually, a final outcome of constant existence in one of those two states. I think we have time and all eternity to reach wherever we end up, and I think the journey’s end won’t occur until we’ve reached it – however long that takes, varying person by person.

    Finally, I have absolutely no clue how that time will pass, so I’m open to all kinds of diferent possibilities – and even a combination of all kinds of possibilities. I think it takes whatever it takes, and I figure I might understand more when I die – or I might not until I’ve gone through a few more stages of development and, hopefully, enlightenment.

  5. My daughter keeps saying that heaven sounds boring. I tell her heaven is whatever you need to be happy. I’m kind of boring, myself, so I would probably be happy with a boring heaven.

  6. observer fka eric s says:

    Yes, Ray. These episodes, my faith, and other influences make me feel at this point like the geographic or spacial location of Heaven and Hell are mostly insignificant. Instead, the “degreess of glory” are more descriptive of a spectrum of eternal developmental capacity. For example, we read in the OT and elsewhere how the Gods interfaced with Satan at the creation of this place and at other times before and after. So it seems opposition (whether you view it as a circumstance of limited resources like earth, as an evil being like Satan, or otherwise) will continue to be a platform with which immortal beings continue to interface. The difference will be that there will be a spectrum of “glory”, or capacity, that beings will have in response to the opposition. Some will be capable of developing less or more in relation to others along the spectrum. The “hellish” part may be a state of knowing one’s ability to develop is limited compared to “what could have been.” And I say that because that’s how it feels now: it is miserable to have an inner desire to do something, but you are unable to do it because of limited capacity or access. What’s even more hellish, I imagine, is if one is privy to those who have a greater capacity state to develop. The opposite is also “heavenly”, where you exist knowing that the sky’s the limit as far as your capacity development in a circumstance of opposition.

    I think of family life, and how obsessed our culture is with family. Is “heaven” a state of existence where we develop together by working through and triumphing over disagreements and challenges. Or is it a place where we never ever disagree with children, spouse, or anyone else for that matter? Same with work life and all other relationships.

  7. If my husband and I are really going to be together forever, as we were told when we went to the temple, then there are bound to be some disagreements in heaven. :->

  8. “Is “heaven” a state of existence where we develop together by working through and triumphing over disagreements and challenges. Or is it a place where we never ever disagree with children, spouse, or anyone else for that matter? Same with work life and all other relationships.”

    I think we agree – and I really appreciate your mention of work life and other relationships. I needed to read that right now.

  9. I kind of like the idea of eternal increase – being able to raise children without worrying about the temporal things like losing our home or job or wondering if we’ll be able to get them into a school where we feel safe sending them. Actually having TIME to spend with them.

  10. Dude I totally watched the KTLA Thanksgiving Twilight Zone marathon too. Awesome.

    Great post.

  11. EmmaNadine says:

    In a lot of circles, a Momo is a gay Mormon, though it is usually written as a Mo-mo.

  12. I have the ability to see eternity. Have been able to do so since I was around eleven years old. There is *nothing* as scary and crushing as seeing it. I can only hope that seeing eternity is not scary/crushing to God and those that dwell with Him.

  13. it's a series of tubes says:

    CEF, can you expand on your comments? What exactly do you mean when you say you can “see eternity”?

  14. It is a little hard to explain, as I only see it in my mind. It is as if I see it on a straight line going out from me and never stopping, going on forever. The experience makes me sick at my stomach, I am sure my face flushes, and I wish I had never seen it.

    When I was younger, I could not control it, it could/would just come into my mind over anything that caused me to think about it. Once I killed an ant and thought about how that ant would be dead forever, and there it was.

    The last time I allowed myself to see it, I was 40 years old. I thought surely I was mature enough to see it at 40 and it not scare me sick. It scared me just as bad at 40 as it did at 11. I am 60 now, and doubt if I will ever let myself see it again.

    I added seeing eternity to my bucket list, hoping to be able to see it before I die and it not scare me sick. It will probably be one of those things that does not get crossed off.

    Anyway, I have found one other person that can do the same thing by talking about it in places like this. I was hoping to find others, but at least one makes it easier to believe that I am not just crazy. :) Hope this helps.
    Oh yeah, if you can not already do this, please do not try to so do. I have always stopped short at calling it a curse, but it has never been a blessing. I really wish I could not see/had never seen whatever it is I see.

  15. I think of heaven as a continuation of this life: growing, progressing, learning more and more and becoming more and more. I will openly admit that this is heavily influenced by Richard Bach’s “Jonathon Livingston Seagull”. I believe that when we speak of eternal progression, that is exactly what we mean.

    Hell or, more accurately, damnation, on the other hand, is a stoppage of growth, progress, and learning. I think Rod Serling’s view accurately depicts that. You are stuck where you are and you just do the same thing for eternity with no hope of moving. I am still uncertain of whether individuals can be “un-damned” though. I think it is possible, and I think that LDS doctrine is open to that interpretation, but I also think that ours is a gospel of hope that focuses us on the rewards for righteousness, rather than the punishment of sin.

  16. there is “in the presence of God”, and there is “lost in one’s own ego”.
    there is no such thing as “glory” existing separate from “the presence of God”, because God is the only source of glory.
    when the time comes that one abandons their own ego, they will begin moving spiritually toward “the presence of God”. this is often referred to as salvation.

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