I will leave the question of whether there is a heaven or a hell to those who are better equipped to argue such a delicate matter. Theologians, philosophers, astrophysicists and others who have a professional interest in something so weighty. But I will go out on a limb here and say that if heaven and hell do exist, then knitting will be allowed in both places. Not just allowed, but actually mandatory in one of the two.
When I was young, I devoured books on Norse and Greco-Roman mythology. These fascinating stories had a magical appeal for a boy who needed literary fuel to power up the fiery furnace that was his imagination. I’ve forgotten most of those stories so I’ve promised myself that one day I will reread as many of those tales as I can find. While there are loads of forgotten stories, it’s rather curious that I have no problem remembering those that dealt with eternal punishment. Those ancient cultures had a wacky sense of justice. Consider Loki, the Norse God of mischief. Because of one terrible sin, he was tied up to a rock. A serpent hovered over him, letting its vile venom drip from its open mouth. Loki’s faithful wife held a bowl underneath the serpent’s mouth so that the painful poison could not reach her husband’s skin. But every now and then, she had to empty the bowl. While she did this, the poison, something akin to sulfuric acid, would fall onto Loki. He would writhe in extreme agony until his devoted wife returned with the empty bowl. This cycle went on and on and on and on. Then there was the Greek Prometheus who was similarly bound to a rock. During the day, an eagle would slowly munch on his liver until it was all gone. Prometheus was immortal so the liver would regenerate itself during the night. The next day, the eagle would return and start all over again. This cycle also went on and on and on and on. As a final example, I offer Sisyphus. Granted, the guy was a jerk during his human life (This is a G rated blog so I can’t go into details.), but what a frustrating and horrible punishment he was given. When he arrived in Hades, the Greek equivalent of hell, Sisyphus was ordered to push a big boulder up an imposing hill. Just as he was on the verge of reaching the top, the boulder would slip out of his hands and roll down the hill. Again, this cycle would go on and on and on and on. We’re talking eternal punishment, after all. I’m not sure about Loki, but Prometheus was eventually rescued from his cruel fate. Meanwhile, poor Sisyphus, to this very day, is still trying to get that boulder up the hill.
I can envision a hell where knitting is one’s eternal punishment. Picture this: You must knit a blanket using cheap, synthetic, super-bulky yarn but with size 1 needles. Every stitch is a purl and every row has ten thousand stitches. You are doomed to count every stitch after finishing each row. Now and then, you will count only 9,999 stitches or sometimes you will maddeningly end up with 10,001 stitches. You will have to go back and try to find the mistake and then correct it. Occasionally, you have to rip out rows because you suddenly notice that ten rows back, you inadvertently knit a row rather than purled it. And finally, the blanket has to be long enough to extend from one end of the universe to the other. Yikes!! But as bad as this may seem, were I to end up in hell, there are worse knitting punishments that I could be tormented with. Knitting a yellow sweater for myself, for instance. And then another, and another, and another, and another, and so on, until the end of time. (I promise to one day write a blog entry on my aversion to yellow sweaters.)
And then there is heaven. That place where everything is the pinnacle of perfection. Here, all your knitting dreams come true. There is no such thing as a difficult pattern. Dropped stitches never occur. All scarves lie perfectly flat. Everyone knits at a hundred stitches per minute. I think you get the picture. I have to wonder, though. Would endless perfection not eventually lead to boredom? Here on earth there is a little bit of perverse pleasure in finding a mistake and then fixing it before it gets out of hand. And undoubtedly, there is a much higher level of satisfaction when finishing a difficult lace shawl that took you a year to knit than when quickly finishing an easy scarf in three days. Where is the pride of the hard work put into something if all projects are equally easy? Because of the interminable perfection, might heaven not turn into a different kind of hell? That’s why these mystical definitions of the afterlife are better left to the experts. Trying to rationalize the existence of either of those hypothetical places just gives me a headache. And if I want a headache, I’d rather go knit myself a pair of socks.