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by Donald B. Ardell, Ph. D.
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Wellness in the Headlines
(Don's Report to the World)

Always Look On The Bright Side of Life, But Not To the Point of Being Ridiculous! The Vatican Declares That Torture and Burning At The Stake During the Inquisition Weren't Really So Bad, After All

Monday June 21, 2004

Newspaper headline, June 15, 2004: Vatican says torture, burning at stake during Inquisition less widespread than thought.

Nooo-body expects the Spanish Inquisition! Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and nice red uniforms -- oh damn! Monty Python's Flying Circus

Last week, the good folks with the nice red uniforms at the Vatican in Rome issued a "look on the bright side report" about the infamous Spanish Inquisition. The 783 page book concluded that the tortures, burnings at the stake and other punishments inflicted upon witches and heretics by church tribunals during the centuries-long Inquisition was not such a big deal, after all. The current Pope, who unlike his predecessors during the glory days of medieval inquisitions does not enjoy powers to torture, burn at the stake or otherwise smite heretics like John Kerry, issued "a strong appreciation for" the report. While I like to think of myself as an enthusiast for looking on the bright side, I suspect few Catholics other than Mel Gibson will have the requisite levels of "fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency and fanatical devotion to the Pope" needed to swallow this bit of revisionist history. The report might, in fact, be a case study of how it is technically possible to overdo the old wellness adage to "always look on the bright side of life." Maybe this report teaches us that, on occasion, the more adaptive response to some ghastly situations, like perpetrating an inquisition on tens of thousands of innocents, is to acknowledge the dark side of life, and to resolve to do better in the future.

In case you missed it, here is a summary of the Vatican's new, revised history of the Inquisition, which stretched from the 13th to the 19th centuries, primarily in Spain, Portugal, and Italy. I can't prove it, but I'd be willing to bet it also flourished in Alabama. 
For starters, the Church claims the mayhem was not quite as widespread as some sniveling critics have suggested. While there were at least 125,000 trials of suspected witches and heretics in Spain alone, the Vatican scholars and the Pope have now decided that only one percent of the accused were, in fact, actually burned alive or otherwise executed. This means 1000 people were murdered by the Church. Further, the Mother Church has copped to a plea, namely, that it did subject over 100 thousand people to trials in which they surely underwent serious indignities, including fear for their lives and imprisonment in dungeons. Have you ever tried to defend yourself against the charge that you are a witch? Here are a few questions the folks who ran the Abu Ghraibs of the Inquisition put to the accused. (These questions are taken from the record of witch trials of Lorraine, and are the work of two Dominican Inquisitors, Henry Kramer and Jacob Sprenger. They were first published in 1486 in the Malleus Maleficarum, as the 'Hammer of Witches'):

If I'm ever put in the docket on such charges, I'll deny being a witch, at first, but before the torture begins, I'll confess. I'm NOT into pain.  Here's how I foresee things will go at my trial:

THEM (Inquisitors with nice red uniforms): How long have you been a witch?
ME: A what? A witch? Hahaha. I'm not a witch, you idiot! What's more, I don't believe in witches! This is 2004. Does anybody besides Pat Robertson still believe in witches?

THEM: Why did you become a witch?
ME: Look, I told you, I'm not a witch. Define a witch. What evidence do you have to support such a nonsensical notion?

THEM: How did you become a witch, and what happened on that occasion?
ME: I told you--I'm not a witch!  I don't know any witches and I'm not a card-carrying member of any witch organizations. I'm innocent.  Why won't you believe me? Have you no respect for critical thinking?

THEM: Who is the one you chose to be your Incubus? What is his name?
ME: What's an Incubus? Whose name again?

THEM: What was the name of your master among the evil demons?
ME (breaking before they apply the electrical prods to treasured body parts): OK, OK, I'll tell you everything. My master among the evil demons is George W. Bush.

THEM: What was the oath you were forced to render him?
ME: I pledge allegiance to George W. Bush and God, both of whom love me and share my hatred of homosexuals and Hillary Clinton. I believe, like a good Republican, that government should limit itself to the powers named in the Constitution, which include banning gay marriages and censoring the Internet. I believe condoms must be kept out of schools so that adolescents won't have sex. I affirm that global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools. I believe that being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless the innocent victim is a conservative radio host-- then it's an illness and he deserves our prayers for recovery. I believe that government should relax regulation of Big Business and Big Money but crack down on individuals who use marijuana to relieve the pain of illness. I believe a good way to fight terrorism is to belittle our long-time allies, then demand their cooperation and money. I believe HMOs and insurance companies have the best interests of the public at heart. I swear to support states' rights, which means Attorney General John Ashcroft can tell states what local voter initiatives they have the right to adopt.

I expect this strategy will get me off the hook, and I won't be burned at the stake as a witch or otherwise executed or even tortured, too much. 

Be well, and always look on the...well, when it seems the sensible thing to do, kind of look on the bright side of life, other things being the same but don't overdo it--try not to lose all touch with reality. 

Domain: purpose
Subdomain: humor

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