January 18, 2009

"Blasphemy!" — a 3-part musical about the afterlife, playing now in Madison, Wisconsin.

"Act I, 'Rapture,' takes place 10 years from now in a dystopian world where Republicans never relinquished power after losing the 2008 election. Instead, we have President Palin.... There are some great moments in Act II, set in Purgatory... Yet Act III, set in Paradise, falls a little flat..."

Isn't it the truth? You make it to Heaven, and then, after a while, it's boring. You can entertain yourself with the thought of how bad the alternative would be, but how long can you keep that up? A million years? You're just getting started!

But unlike the actual afterlife, a play about it is only a couple of hours or so, and you're entirely free to walk out whenever you want.

***

Bonus music — emphatically not from the aforementioned musical:



"Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens."

82 comments:

John Althouse Cohen said...

Speaking of how boring heaven would be ... I notice that a lot of people rationalize the existence of suffering, hard times, pain, etc. by saying things like, "You need the bad in life to really appreciate the good." But if that's true, doesn't that mean heaven would actually not be very good? Or else, heaven would have to be very different from how we usually imagine it.

Palladian said...

"Isn't it the truth? You make it to Heaven, and then, after a while, it's boring."

That's why everyone remembers Paradise Lost but forgets Paradise Regain'd.

Irene said...

Perhaps this play should have been staged at the Overture, our own piece of Paradise falling flat.

Simon said...

"What if you make it to heaven and you wake up one morning and you think 'I hate my afterlife'!"

The Crack Emcee said...

Hey - watch it, lady - you're stealing my format!!!

TheCrankyProfessor said...

Just think - on Wednesday one whole excuse for calling Republicans 'fascist' will go away. There will be a peaceful transfer of power. Because if Dick Cheney is going to suddenly start acting the way many of my colleagues have pretended he always has, he must be gearing up now for the coup.

Heaven for me is going to be watching their optimism crack up as they see the Democratic Party in power.

Palladian said...

I think the problem arises when you apply human perspectives to what is a metaphysical extra-human state, i.e. paradise. This problem is made worse because paradise is so often described in human terms, as a place full of human pleasures, such as balmy weather and flowers and food and all the music being in G-major on plucked string instruments and so forth. I've always conceived of paradise as an inconceivable state of oneness and completeness rather than a place.

Actually, I sometimes think of paradise as being like the end of Asimov's The Last Question, one of my favorite short stories. If you've never read it, read it and read from beginning to end; do not skip to the end!

SMGalbraith said...

What if you make it to heaven and you wake up one morning and you think 'I hate my afterlife'!"

Yeah, imagine having the perfect day each day?

Every....friggin....day..everything goes right?

Drive you nuts, it would.

Of course, the concept of heaven for me, pace JAC above, is that you don't need anything. Things don't go well because you don't worry about "things" or about events going "well."

TheCrankyProfessor said...

Oh - by the way, Talking Heads' version of Heaven is pretty good Thomism - Heaven is going to be a place where the song starts over and over again AND YOU DON'T MIND.

Our restlessness here is a sign of our imperfection.

Or, as Augustine put it, "my heart is restless until it rests in you."

Synova said...

Or else, heaven would have to be very different from how we usually imagine it.

Scripture says very little about heaven. I have prepared many mansions... angels worshiping God... a wedding feast... and that's about it. There is so little that some people manage to claim that there is no promise of heaven there at all.

(There is even less about hell.)

I think we're supposed to put our own interpretation on heaven, and I think that whatever it is, it can't be limited by the imagination of some other person. God knows what we need.

I'm reminded of what I thought would be pure bliss during the first few weeks of having a new baby home... bed rest in a diaper. With each kid I went through a time thinking that being able to do nothing but sleep and not have to get out of bed for *anything* would be so wonderful. Maybe for a week. It would be bliss for a week. Restful for another week. But no more than two weeks and I wouldn't be *tired* anymore.

Original George said...

Here's the mass email that David Byrne sent out the day before election day....

"Pardon the bulk mailing. I Can't Vote. I am an immigrant with a Green Card and, therefore, I am not eligible to vote in a federal election. FYI - I can get drafted (luckily, Daniel Berrigan burned my draft board's records) and I pay taxes, yet I cannot vote for President. On Election Day, I see my neighbors heading to the nearby elementary school to cast their ballots. The voting booth joint is a great leveler; the whole neighborhood - rich, poor, old, young, decrepit and spunky - they all turn out in one day.

But most of you can vote. What can I say? The Republicans have made us less safe than before 9/11, bankrupted this economy, started an illegal war they can't - and don't intend to - finish, removed what sympathy (after 9/11) and respect the world had for the US, and have robbed US citizens of many of their basic rights. Global warming? What's that? Science and education? Investment in our future? No, thanks - we'll stick with a good 'ole hockey mom. Ignorant, and fucking proud of it, as is always the case.

Although it looks like a shoo-in, it ain't over 'til Florida. And there are plenty of racists in this country who will vote against their own best interests. So please, get to your local elementary school, post office, town hall, or whatever, and cast your vote and make this a country we can all be proud of. We can get out of this mess, and life can be better than it is.

David Byrne
NYC"

Synova said...

Dick Cheney's head on Rambo's body, leading National Guard tanks down Pennsylvania avenue.

The truly funny thing (if anything can be more hilarious than that image) is that people like Erica Jong can describe this scenario to an Italian publication or someone can put on a play about how that happened, or someone can write "literature" about the horror of the coming Theocracy, and apparently actually *mean* it...

And no one is going to call them on it when it doesn't. No one is going to suddenly slap their forehead and proclaim, "Oh, my dawg! Erica Jong is a moron!"

It's hilarious.

commenter said...

Heaven is one degree further than where you last were. I learned that in beginning 3-D class when working in the heavens: Assignment 3 or 4: trying to spin the earth around the sun, the moon around the earth, and an extra satellite around the moon. In our present system of geometry, you live through 359 heavens, and then you either choose to step up and spiral or eat your own tail.

Ann, you really need to see a Pixar movie. Everything becomes so clear. Well, it might help taking a maya or lightwave course. As a fine art major and photographer, for you it would be the turn around of making the three dimensional world into flatland. It's way cooler. Do it for free on the internet with blender. It's a step up from the wordy world of blogging.

Christy said...

I for one, have never ever wanted to go to heaven. All my relatives loudly sure of ending up with the Lord were not those with whom I wanted to spend eternity.

Palladian said...

"Here's the mass email that David Byrne sent out the day before election day...."

Yes, sad, but you have to separate the artist from the art in a lot of cases. Picasso was a communist (who lived in a villa, natch) but I still admire his work. Wagner was an extreme Jew-hater and a loathsome person (those things do go together, don't they?) but it's hard to listen to Tristan without tearing up. My policy is to learn as little biographical material about the artist as possible. Or admire artists who wisely allow their work to speak for them.

Ann Althouse said...

Palladian said: "This problem is made worse because paradise is so often described in human terms, as a place full of human pleasures, such as balmy weather and flowers and food and all the music being in G-major on plucked string instruments and so forth."

So, the conventional Heaven is populated by hollow angels?

Palladian said...

"So, the conventional Heaven is populated by hollow angels?"

You're confusing human conditions with metaphysical ones. The cold climate principle does not apply.

But yes.

Trooper York said...

Man they really have some great theatre down there in Madison.

When is the revival of "South Pacific?"

Ron said...

And why do they think President Palin would be boring? More boring than The One, who appears dull as dishwater? At least Palin would give us bears to cross!

Joe the Electrician said...

The Talking Heads song is about a bar, you idiot.

Trooper York said...

"My policy is to learn as little biographical material about the artist as possible. Or admire artists who wisely allow their work to speak for them."

I agree and try to do same thing because I really enjoy the collected breasts of Susan Sarandon. But they sure make it hard, so to speak.

Ron said...

Now, Trooper, at this point wouldn't those breasts be abridged, not collected?

Trooper York said...

No, they still surprisingly readable even at this late date.
Quite remarkable really, I guess communism defies both gravity and economic reality all at the same time.

Ron said...

Yes, they control the means of production of gravitons!

Palladian said...

"The Talking Heads song is about a bar, you idiot."

LOL. Apparently "Joe" A.K.A. AJD didn't get to the section on metaphors in his English class yet.

Palladian said...

Animal Farm is about a farm with a talking animal government, you idiot.

Palladian said...

Death In Venice is about a pederast dying in Venice, you idiot.

Palladian said...

I Am The Walrus is about a talking walrus who is also an egg-man, you idiot.

Trooper York said...

The Idiot is about an idiot you idiot.

Ron said...

The Idiot is about a crazy person who thinks he's Jesus, you idiot.

I like this theme; let's continue it!

Trooper York said...

AlphaLiberal, the Autobiography is about an idiot you idiot.

SMGalbraith said...

And no one is going to call them on it when it doesn't. No one is going to suddenly slap their forehead and proclaim, "Oh, my dawg! Erica Jong is a moron!"

Ahh, but the alarms sounded by Jong et al. prevented that fascist takeover.

Don't forget Naomi Wolf. Wow, a brain filled with butterscotch pudding.

Her argument in a nutshell (pardon the expression): Palin was selected by Karl Rove. McCain just went along (don't ask). Once McCain was elected, he would be replaced (don't ask again) by Palin. Who would be working on behalf of Rove (yeah, really don't ask).

Sullivan gave her book five stars.

Palladian said...

Guernica is about a mutant horse and bull dismembering people underneath the Eye of Sauron, you idiot.

Palladian said...

Audible Althouse is a podcast of the odd last few days on a blog called Althouse, you idiot.

SMGalbraith said...

a brain filled with butterscotch pudding

A brain made of butterscotch pudding.

If you're going to insult someone, don't be a dumbass doing so.

Kinda' ruins the effectiveness.

Ron said...

The Me Blog is an underrated vault of pithy wisdom, you idiot.

Palladian said...

La Nausée is a book about a French guy who feels a little sick, wanders around, looks at a tree then punches a librarian, you idiot.

Trooper York said...

Twelve Angry Men is about the same twelve shut-ins who post on this blog you idiot.

Ron said...

JAC is thought of as the progeny of Althouse, except by Andrew Sullivan, that idiot!

Such posts bring out the "mama grizzly" in Althouse.

Trooper York said...

Gore Vidal's Caligula is about a guy who tries to make his horse a Senator but he loses to Al Franken you idiot.

Ron said...

Twelve Angry Men is about the same twelve shut-ins who post on this blog you idiot.

Whomever smelt it, dealt it, you idiot!

Palladian said...

L’√Čtranger is about a French guy who shoots a Middle-Eastern man because of photophobia and then gets executed, you idiot.

Ann Althouse said...

"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" is about a chariot.

"Michael, Row the Boat Ashore" is about a rowboat.

Ron said...

Say, haven't they named Sarah Jessica Parker Senator in New York yet, those idiots!

Trooper York said...

Atlas Shrugged is about the time they told Teddy Atlas that his fighter had to take a dive or they would break his legs you idiot.

Palladian said...

The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 is a bill designed to help our ailing economy, you idiot.

Trooper York said...

Hey she can't even get past Babe the Pig in the City in the poll you idiot.

Ron said...

Turn your head and cough is wise advice medically, but not politically, you idiot!

Pogo said...

In heaven everything is fine.
You've got your good things and I've got mine.



In Madison, everything is predictable.

Trooper York said...

The Importance of Being Ernest is not Ernest Borgnines guide to masturbation techniques you idiot.

rhhardin said...

I like the bass line. Is it Talking Heads' single decent piece?

Bob and Ray discuss heaven's social scene (real audio, 1959)

Bell Labs Murray Hill NJ always looked to me like John Martin's Pandaemonium, an illustration to Paradise Lost.

Palladian said...

"I like the bass line. Is it Talking Heads' single decent piece?"

OK, now I know you're crazy!

TheCrankyProfessor said...

The bass line is great.
When I'm not being a not very good Thomist I think Tina Weymouth is God.

Pogo said...

Damnit. I broke the chain, didn't I?

Id I have to bury a potato in the back yard, I'm screwed 'cuz it's froze solid. Shit.

Ann Althouse said...

Actually, thanks for linking to that Pogo. I'd forgotten it... and it's painfully disturbing.

Ann Althouse said...

"Bell Labs Murray Hill NJ always looked to me like John Martin's Pandaemonium, an illustration to Paradise Lost."

LOL. I love the way that came out of nowhere...

Pogo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Zrimsek said...

Why Lucifer left Heaven.

Pogo said...

I thought the scene was amazing when I was in college.

Now I agree; it's painfully disturbing.

What the hell was I thinking?

traditionalguy said...

Heaven I expect knows how to live. I expect Golf Tournaments and free lessons. Also many High Feasts with entertainment and audience participation. Of course there will be tours of the most beautiful parts of creation guided by the artist Himself. Also I expect seminars taught by David on war, and by Moses on comparative religions and Law, and by Peter on Fishing [For bass and for men], and by Paul on Church founding in hostile cultures with a guest lecture by the Holy Spirit showing the Funniest Atheist Conversions Vidieos. Then there will be Memorial Day honoring all of the now alive again, United States Marines who have helped God so much in filling up Hell. Who could be bored?

ricpic said...

Speaking of how boring heaven would be...

No. There would be no boredom in heaven. Which is what would make it heaven. Which means there would be no time in heaven. But since human beings can't conceive of no time...or, is death heaven?

sean said...

I'm so glad I don't live in a university town! An endless encounter with boring contemptible people with stupid ideas who think they're so much smarter than anyone else. But Prof. Althouse seems to like it.

Dr Dre's Underpants said...

Birds of a feather mofro.

Palladian said...

"An endless encounter with boring contemptible people with stupid ideas who think they're so much smarter than anyone else."

Sounds like New York.

Trooper York said...

"An endless encounter with boring contemptible people with stupid ideas who think they're so much smarter than anyone else."

Sounds like when I look in the mirror.

Michael H said...

Ah yes. A play about heaven, written by someone who dislikes religion.

Makes as much sense has having heart surgery performed by someone who dislikes medicine.

That shit sell in Madison, though, because dern near every person there either does not believe in religion, or believes that s/he is god.

Fred4Pres said...

Allah Akbar!

Ann Althouse said...

ricpic said... "No. There would be no boredom in heaven. Which is what would make it heaven."

If here on earth, there were a drug that would make you not bored by boring things, would you take it?

sean said..."I'm so glad I don't live in a university town! An endless encounter with boring contemptible people with stupid ideas who think they're so much smarter than anyone else. But Prof. Althouse seems to like it."

I love enough about it to prefer it to all other options, but that doesn't mean I love everything. Much of the energy that powers this blog consists of what I don't love about Madison.

Stephanie said...

What does the Dalai Lama know about heaven? Could it be that there aren't 72 virgins and bad people really deserve to die and go to hell?

The Dalai Lama, a lifelong champion of non-violence on Saturday candidly stated that terrorism cannot be tackled by applying the
principle of ahimsa because the minds of terrorists are closed.

"It is difficult to deal with terrorism through non-violence," the Tibetan spiritual leader said delivering the Madhavrao Scindia Memorial Lecture here.

He also termed terrorism as the worst kind of violence which is not carried by a few mad people but by those who are very brilliant and educated.

"They (terrorists) are very brilliant and educated...but a strong ill feeling is bred in them. Their minds are closed," the Dalai Lama said.

The head of the Tibetan government-in-exile left the audience stunned when he said "I love President George W Bush." He went on to add how he and the US President instantly struck a chord in their first meeting unlike politicians who take a while to develop close ties.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Non-violence_cant_tackle_terror_Dalai_/rssarticleshow/3995810.cms

Liberal brains sploding in 5 4 3...

SMGalbraith said...

Liberal brains sploding in 5 4 3...

Dalai Lama loves Bush, Bush helps save millions of Africans from the scourge of AIDs.

Something big indeed is going to blow...

There, I just heard Rich Gere explode.

And that crash? That was Olbermann defenestrating himself at MSNBC headquarters.

ricpic said...

Boredom is a great relief, at times, from the stress of making an effort. So, no I wouldn't take a drug that would take the boredom out of boring things (or moments).

Joan said...

If here on earth, there were a drug that would make you not bored by boring things, would you take it?

I can't remember the last time I was bored. Too tired to move, yes, but it has been a very long time since the (teenage) days when I felt There is nothing that interests me, everything sucks, because it's so obvious to me (now) that it's not true.

I tell my kids that saying you're bored is admitting that you are just not a very interesting person yourself, and you can't or won't make the effort to make yourself more interesting by taking the trouble to be interested in something, anything -- you'd rather just whine that there's no one or nothing to entertain you. My kids say "I'm bored" and I give them something to do. (Cleaning baseboards is a great cure for boredom.)

Anyway, heaven is inconceivable to us as humans because we will have transcended our human existence. Palladian said: I've always conceived of paradise as an inconceivable state of oneness and completeness rather than a place. I agree, but will extend the remark a bit: oneness with God. Hell by definition is separation from God which can never be bridged.

john said...

I like the bass line. Is it Talking Heads' single decent piece?


Don't you just love Tina? I do.

Synova said...

Joan is right, I think.

I don't get bored. It doesn't happen. It didn't *often* happen when I was young, either. I got teased by other kids at school for being "easily amused" as if that was an indication of simplicity or something.

Joe M. said...

I reckon heaven is a place where time is non-existent.

Synova said...

Time is what keeps everything from happening all at once.

Palladian said...

"Don't you just love Tina? I do."

Everyone loves Tina Weymouth.

Revenant said...

That's my favorite version of my favorite Talking Heads song. What a great group.

Thanks for the video!

Revenant said...

Yeah, imagine having the perfect day each day? Every.... friggin.... day.. everything goes right? Drive you nuts, it would.

"I don't belong in heaven, see? I want to go to the other place!"

"Heaven? Whatever gave you the idea that you were in heaven, Mr. Valentine? This IS the other place!

commenter said...


Time is what keeps everything from happening all at once.


cause when love is over you're gonna learn about time. You gonna plot and scheme, you're gonna weep and moan, you're gonna wonder why why why.

Joan Osborne

so you think you can tell

heaven from hell

now back to extremes. I just got out of a 150 degree sauna (that smelled ever so wonderful like those dry, dry, dry, California conifers. (Heaven!) Next hitting the street at about 15 degrees. (heaven, too point ooooooooohhhh) Took me three cycles, but i finally opened those pores so the sweat was pouring out. That's what the winter holidays to to you. But the tension is gone. Maureen and Ann, you both ought to try it.

traditionalguy said...

The play NO EXIT gives a thoughtful sense of how a socety of "niceness" can seem an entrapment. Now I do not feel very entrapped these heady days of Changes faster than Bill Gates can encode them into our daily experences. And the niceness experience can be overrated. Give me that ole time Life-and-death struggle anyday of the week. As I recall, Academia can also be like a jungle with its many power struggles in a bubble. That must be a good antidote to boredom in College cities.

PatCA said...

Wow, my sides are aching from laughing so hard! Dopey Jesus, stupid Republican Sara Palin, lame-o Christians--stop me if you've heard this one!!