Heaven and Hell

One day while walking downtown, a historian was hit by a bus and was tragically killed. Her soul arrived up in heaven where she was met at the Pearly Gates by St. Peter himself.

"Welcome to Heaven," said St. Peter. "Before you get settled in though, it seems we have a problem. You see, strangely enough, we've never once had a historian make it this far and we're not really sure what to do with you."

"No problem, just let me in" said the woman.

"Well, I'd like to, but I have higher orders. What we're going to do is let you have a day in Hell and a day in Heaven and then you can choose where you want to spend eternity" the Saint replied.

"Actually, I think I've made up my mind.....I prefer to stay in Heaven".

"Sorry, we have rules....." And with that St. Peter put the scholar in an elevator and it went down-down-down to Hell. The doors opened and the historian found herself stepping out into a beautiful seminar room. Down the hall was a lavishly appointed lounge, complete with a small but useful reference library. Standing in front of her were all her former colleagues, a veritable Who's Who of the historian world, all cheering for her. They ran up and kissed her on both cheeks and they talked about old times. They had marvelous historical discussions trashing post-modernism, and then retired to the faculty club for an excellent steak and lobster dinner. She met the Devil, who was actually a really nice guy. And although he was a theorist, he showed a real interest in her work. They talked and joked into the wee hours of the morning.

The historian was having such a good time that before she knew it, it was time to leave. Everybody shook her hand and waved good-bye as she got on the elevator. The elevator went up-up-up and opened back up at the Pearly Gates where St. Peter was waiting for her.

"Now it's time to spend a day in Heaven" he said. So the historian spent the next 24 hours lounging around on the clouds and playing the harp and singing. She had a great time and before she knew it, her 24 hours were up and St. Peter came and got her. "So, you've spent a day in Hell and you've spent a day in Heaven. Now you must choose your eternity" he said. The historian paused for a second and then replied, "well, I never thought I'd say this. I mean, Heaven has been really great and all, but I think I had a better time in Hell."

So St. Peter escorted her to the elevator and again the scholar went down-down-down back to Hell. When the doors of the elevator opened she found herself standing in a desolate wasteland covered in garbage and filth. She saw that her colleagues were dressed in rags and were picking up garbage and putting it in sacks for the evening meal. They barely paused in their work long enough to grumble and tell her that they thought her research was second rate. The Devil came up to her and put his arm around her and laughed at her. "I don't understand," stammered the historian, "yesterday I was here and there was a library and a faculty club and we ate lobster and we talked about my research and had a great time. Now all there is a wasteland of garbage and all my colleagues look miserable and hate me."

The Devil looked at her and grinned, "that's because yesterday we were interviewing you, but today you're faculty."


Rufus Browning, Director, Public Research Institute
San Francisco State University
E-mail: browning@sfsu.edu