It would be a mercy of God to take a man’s mind away in hell, but that surely is the agony of hell. Mercy was for another time, now so long ago. A man must live with himself, without the dignities of feigned kindness and pretended beauty. His mind is the most tortured part of him, regardless of what pains he is afflicted within the body.
At 3:30 a.m., I awoke to a black room, so dark that my eyes could not see even one inch away, much less to the other side. The simple room in a Romanian home in Brasov had one of those metal external shades that are lowered over the window, capable of completely deleting light. I was in the darkest place I had been in perhaps for years. And, since it was night and I was alone in the house, I thought.
“Outer darkness.” I’ve been troubled by those words before—not blindness in this world where others may help, but “outer,” away from all others, forever. I do not understand why hell is described as both “outer darkness” and a place of fire, for where there is fire there is light. Perhaps these are only feeble descriptors meant to approximate the reality, the best that words can do. Perhaps the darkness of “outer darkness” and the fire of “the lake of fire” cannot perfectly convey the emptiness and pain of that future place, but are only signposts to something worse. The signpost isn’t the city itself. What if the worst we can think about hell would one day seem pleasant by comparison to the one experiencing it? What if the true hell can only be experienced, and not described?
What does a man think about in outer darkness? Could he think of, say, a day at the beach with his family? Impossible. For if he were to think of a day at the beach with his family he would immediately moan in agony for he will never see his family nor a day at the beach again, ever. If a man has no hope, nor any prospect of arriving at a place where the slightest wisp of hope could blow like a gentle breeze over him, how could he ever be happy again? Every joy is an eternal pain—a reminder of what will never be.