blasphemy and Blasphemy; Of Ignorance and Malice

31 10 2009

You were betrayed by a close friend, once, maybe even recently.  I feel your pain.  We’ve all been there.  Even the friend who betrayed you was probably betrayed.  The rude comments from some stranger in an internet forum were annoying, at worst, but the day that your friend turned on you still eats at the back of your mind like a weeping sore.

 The world is full of critics who blast the President of the United States with insults of the vilest sort.  He probably needs the skin of an alligator to hold his job.  But the rants of a thousand critics are nothing, compared to the passing remark of a close friend or a spouse.  The difference is in the closeness of the relationship.  Insults from someone who actually knows me hold more water than the snide remarks of someone I’ve never met.  The difference is in the knowing.

 Contrary to what you may have been told, no one actually knows Jesus.  No one, despite the abundance of statements to the contrary, actually has a relationship with Christ, directly.  He walked the Earth two thousand years ago, and I prefer to think that no one who knew him is still alive to make any reliable account of the man.  Judas knew the man.  Now, there was a man capable of true betrayal.  He was one from the inner, inner, circle.  Somehow, though, he found that a few gold coins were worth more to him than his friendship with the messiah.  That betrayal was a cut of the deepest kind.  He was driven by the Devil from the moment he decided to turn, to the moment that he jumped from the cliff and spilled his guts all over the ground.

 Don’t worry, friend.  You can never be a Judas.  We’re long past getting Jesus killed.  There’s so much that we never knew about Christ.  What jokes did he laugh at?  What little thing annoyed him?  Yeah, Christians say all the time that they know Jesus, but, in truth, one could know him about as well as one could know Abraham Lincoln.  Read all you want.  Research every thesis written for the last two thousand years, but you never knew the man.  You only know about him.

 However…the Holy Spirit is among us (Ah, yes, that other person of the Trinity who walks the Earth, even now).  If we know the Spirit, then we know Jesus, for he is to Jesus what Jesus was to the Father, in Heaven.  You can mock and ridicule Jesus all you want, but you never knew the man.  You speak from ignorance.  Your comments have no merit.  The Holy Spirit, though, is another matter.

 The Spirit stands available to everyone.  He’s like the person that’s always in the room; you may not have made his acquaintance, but he’s always there.  You may not have noticed him for the crowd of people you’ve spent your time with in conversation, but you have probably made eye contact on more than one occasion.  He looks like someone who has something to tell you.  We all have an open invitation to engage in dialogue with the maker of the universe.  Well, most of us do, anyway.  The fact is that some people have actually been Christians, knowing the Holy Spirit personally, but, everyone who has ever lost a friend to betrayal knows, once that relationship is rejected, there’s no great risk of going back.  I’m not talking about the kid who grew up in a Christian home but never really got it.  I’m not talking about one who got distracted by temptations and trivialities along the way.  This is not the prodigal son, here.  What I’m talking about is that breed of atheist who says, “I used to be a Christian, but…(I’m wiser now).”

 In theory, even the apostate former Christian could turn back to Christ, but the draw isn’t there.  The tug of the call of the Father in Heaven just isn’t what it used to be.  In reality, any true conversion is a miracle.  It goes against our very nature.  It simply won’t happen without an act of God.  The apostate man, though, does not walk away from the faith for want of understanding.  No amount of witnessing gets to him, because he already knows as much about God as the average believer.  He didn’t leave God because he didn’t know any better.  He left God because he was evil, and he chose evil over his friendship with God.  A genuinely apostate former Christian spends his life writing posts slamming Christianity.  When he’s not overtly trying to tear down the faith, he’s looking, like a wooly wolf, for believers, with some hope of sparking discouragement or doubt.  In short, he is as fallen as the Devil, with the same intentions and the same destiny.  Beware of such people.  In a position of real power such a person might try to kill us all.

 Apparently, you, too, can be a Judas, after all.  I take back what I said, earlier.  You can betray the Holy Spirit.  You can malign the God that you do know.  The danger is real, because, unlike Jesus, the Holy Spirit is accessible to all people.  Jesus was confined to a small area on the East coast of the Mediterranean, but his Spirit is global.

 Blaspheme Jesus, and you can be forgiven.  Blaspheme the Holy Spirit, and God will turn his back on you.


 Justin was his name.  I knew you were wondering.  One does not write about betrayal without someone in particular in mind.  I first met the kid in kindergarten.  We fought back-to-back on the playground through the first half of elementary school, back when we were too young to do any serious damage.  We played with G. I. Joes and plastic toy guns.  We dreamed of being spies or soldiers when we grew up.  We were always at each other’s birthday parties.

 Justin’s father was a chain-smoking mostly-unemployed alcoholic, who loved his pornography and hung it on the wall next to the bed, opposite his wife.  He had the temper of a pit bull with rabies, and he seemed to think that romance involved raising his voice and griping at his wife like she was an unruly cur.  With time, his son came to be a reflection of his father, an insufferable wretch.  Father and son both took turns grinding Mother into the ash-fouled carpet, verbally.  Yet, both swore they would pound anyone who dared speak ill of her.

 By junior high school, my childhood friend was my worst enemy.  He was still, technically, my friend, but his methods had changed.  He took to bossing me around and insulting and threatening  me, .  If he didn’t like what I was wearing, then he kicked mud on it.  With his severe under-bite and his thick black hair, coupled with his less-than-charming disposition, he earned for himself the nickname of “Fred Flintstone” among those who were lucky enough not to be his friend.  I never called him that, but that didn’t stop him from pointing his finger in my face and accusing me of thinking it.  When we were sitting at lunch outside at school, and he spit in my face, I chased him out of the lunch area.

 The next day, I wondered if he would dare come back to join us at the lunch table, having dared to do the unthinkable to a friend.  He did.  He told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was a nerd (I was…am), and that I was blemishing his reputation among the other students.  The last thing he ever said to me was that if it weren’t for him, I would have no friends.

 “Really?”  I said, “You think so?”  Then I got up and joined a student who was sitting by himself.  Our mutual friend, Jeremy, went with me.  The new friend’s name was Gus, which reminds me; I should be writing to him instead of writing this post, but I digress.  The endeavor was so successful, that I made it my mission to seek out students that had no friends.  There were more than I had, at first, realized.  The last one to join our group was Doug, who thought I was mocking him for the first few weeks that I said hello to him.  The last day of school, we sat on the lawn and congratulated each other for overcoming the enormous crushing pressure of trying to belong.  It goes down as one of the brightest, happiest days of my life.

 Justin sat alone at lunch, all the way into high school.  He never looked at me for the remaining years that we went to the same school.  He never said a word.  I was there when he made his next friend.  I was standing right behind him when that friend cast him off as a crazy control freak.  His own father even found God, and turned his life around.  His father, now a meek and inspired fellow, looks nothing like he used to be.  He finally quit his vices, and he treats his wife like a doting newlywed.  Perhaps, eventually, this will wear-off on Justin; perhaps not.

 I won’t know if it does, because I won’t be there to see it.  I turned my back on him years ago.  He went his own way, and I’ve never tried to get his friendship back.


Losing Face

26 10 2009

facesIt was the springtime of hope, when the curtain of despair was promising to lift.  A near decade of depression was on its last leg.  I found myself sitting on a short wall, enjoying the warmth of the morning sun on my back as the sparrows chattered wildly in a nearby hedge.  It was a great day to be alive, and I thought nothing could spoil it.  As fate would have it, along came one of those people I call by the title of Hostage Taker (but never to the person’s face), for whom conversation is a performance art, requiring nothing more than herself and an inanimate telephone pole.  Such people never seem to notice or care whether the person with whom they are speaking is actually engaging in the conversation.  If one wanted to be left alone, such people would continue prattling heedlessly.

On this day, my self-appointed hostage taker was otherwise known as Anna.  She was a rather energetic individual with an overzealous enthusiasm for all things positive.  On her first day at college, she was probably the most noticeable person in the chapel service, bouncing and singing with more force than anyone else.  Being the cynical, negative person that I was, I looked upon this as odd, at best, or downright silly, at worst.  See, for the previous nine years, I had developed this theory that, deep down inside, all people in the world were really just miserable unhappy wretches.  I wondered if more people might be apt to kill themselves if the process weren’t so horrible.  Now, of course there were people who seemed happy.  To the people who were only occasionally happy, I attributed a temporary case of serendipity.  The others, I figured, were complete frauds.  Deep inside the heart of every person I imagined a gnawing hungry angst.  It didn’t help that a friend had scolded me for being unhappy and insisted that I act happy to make other people feel good.  She was the daughter of a rather important political figure, so I chalk it up to her warped upbringing.

This Anna, though, was a different case, altogether.  Her perspective was that God wanted all Christians to be ecstatically happy, mostly to the point of apoplexy.  Non-Christians were supposed to look at us and see our joy and want to be just like us.  I didn’t say a word for the entire conversation, hoping that she would leave me to my sun and sparrows.  Okay, so I have a stoic disposition, even when I’m happy.  I’ve been in a state of bliss, only to have someone ask me what’s wrong.  So, I don’t wear my emotions on my sleeve.  Even so, I felt rather insulted that she would imply that I looked downcast, or that I should fake it and act happy.

“…so even when I’m sad, I put on a happy face, because God rewards a cheerful person, and pretty soon he’ll make me happy inside, too.”

And in the meantime, you tell a lie to the world with your face.  See, there are more ways to lie than with direct verbal contradictions of truth.  In fact, there are more ways to lie than with words.  I don’t know anyplace in the Bible that says that God will make us insanely happy all of the time, or that we should trick the world into thinking we’re happy.  The Bible does, however, tell us not to lie.  Jesus didn’t dance for joy on the mount of olives as he waited for his execution.  He wept and wailed, and he probably gave himself a degree of  heart failure while he was at it.  He was a man of sorrows, visiting a fallen world.

The world does not need to see another smiling face.  It needs to see the truth.  The truth is that, while I haven’t met an unbeliever who could adequately differentiate between joy and happiness, I haven’t met a Christian who couldn’t.  I have been sad, yet felt the abiding joy of the Lord.  There’s a distinct difference.  The joy goes deeper.  Yet, we are all occasionally sad.  To be otherwise is to be insensitive and uncaring.  It is to be a pretentious fraud.  Once people get wind of the idea that the smile is just a façade, then there is nothing stopping the imaginations of the despairing from believing, as I did, that all people are really miserable, if the truth be told.  Prove yourself a liar, and everything you do will be suspect.

But, why lie?  Do we have this notion that God instills an overflowing happiness in everyone who puts their faith in Christ?  If this is true, then we don’t need to lie with our faces.  If this is false, then we need to change our doctrine.  But the individual doubts himself.  An individual woman looks at her mundane state of existence and thinks that she has fallen short, having failed to achieve that bliss.  The smile is the bandage that covers the gaping wound of which she is so ashamed.  In that respect, Anna was trying to help me, like telling a man that the zipper on his fly is down, or that he has toothpaste stuck in the corner of his mouth.  My unenthusiastic demeanor was showing.  I was letting slip my failure as a Christian.

Now, the most ironic thing happened just a few days later.  Anna awoke one morning with a palsy in her face.  The entire left side of her face went limp as a wet rag.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I would be in a state of uncontrolled panic if that ever happened to me.  Without a doubt, this would be a test of her resolve to put on a happy face, even in times of trouble.  She declared with half a smile that God would heal her.  She was determined to stay happy and trust God.  While half of her face lied, the other half, the one that no longer worked, told the truth.  One side had a foolish grin, and the other side was the picture of despair.  We were sitting at a table in the college cafeteria, and everyone at that table froze in the middle of eating to stare at the half-happy half-sad face.  It was very disturbing.  Anna let loose with a sigh, like the truth was bottled up inside her and the pressure had to be released.

In the days that followed, she slowly lost her resolve.  As time marched on, the two sides of her face began to match each other.  She had lost face.  I can only imagine what it must have been like, waking up each morning to that discouraging image in the mirror.  She couldn’t even fool herself with a forced smile.  The one trying event had come that she could not smile her way through.  Slowly, she was learning to express an honest emotion.  God had not decreed that all Christians be happy all of the time, but he had stated that we must be honest.

I was told at an early age that God uses adversity to teach us his ways.  Consequently, I tried, or thought I tried, to learn and understand these things so as to avoid the impending trouble.  I know that he has used hardship to teach me, and I can see clearly how he used it to teach Anna.  We science students, especially those of the pre-med disposition, looked upon her as a case study.  Though I was not around to see her recover from her ailment, I do believe that she probably recovered fully in a month or two.

From then on, I decided that I would never, unless posing for a picture, and maybe not even then, fake a smile.  I want the world to see me happy, but, more importantly, I want to be honest, and I want to actually be happy.  Incidentally, I consider my life to be a very pleasant experience, over-all.

At the moment, I am happy.  I could use an apple fritter and a cup of coffee, but otherwise, I’m doing just fine.


The Illusion of Inevitability

24 10 2009

Your dog died.  I’m sorry.  It was minding its own business, sniffing a hydrant, distinguishing between the various flavors of urine, when along came a car and smacked into your poor doggy’s rear end.  Granted, it had stopped sniffing to chase a squirrel past a car, but we can hardly blame the dog.  The impact caused a loss of blood, which starved the brain cells of oxygen.  The lack of oxygen caused the electron transport chain to come to a screeching halt.  This resulted in diminished ATP, the fuel of the cell.  Without ATP, the enzymes in the brain cells stopped working.  Cell membranes leaked, unhindered, resulting in a battery drain, which meant no more electric signals and no brainwaves.  Without ATP, the means for importing new energy sources was lost, anyway, so the situation was rather hopeless.

All of that technical jargon means nothing to you, though.  All you know is that your dog is dead.  You dug your hole, and you buried Fido a foot or two under the dirt.  I would have you know that a dead dog is not so very different from a live one.  What is the difference?  A little higher ATP-to-ADP ratio…a mended artery and little blood, and you’re good to go.  All of the machinery is still there.  The enzymes are out of gas, and the lines need to be primed, but the decay has not even touched the animal.  Not even oxidation has reached the workings.  If only they could find a way to prime a brain cell…but, alas, there is no such technology.  A dead dog is 99.9999% of what a live dog is, minus a few minor repairs and stitches, but that doesn’t help you, any.

How complex is an animal, anyway?  The human cell contains about six billion base pairs of DNA.  Base pairs are like letters.  Genes are like words.  The entire work of human design is described in six billion letters, then.  This amounts to about 35,000 genes, but only 1.5% of DNA encodes for protein.  The rest of it is called “junk DNA” by people too proud to admit that they have no idea what it does.  Originally, all DNA was regarded as unimportant trash, so this is not surprising.  Scientists know everything that matters, and everything else is random junk, until some brainiac figures out what it really does, and then that part is extremely important while the rest of it is still just “junk.” 

But I digress.  One and a half percent of that DNA amounts to forty-five million base pairs, times two.  We’ll exclude the redundant second chromosome.  Now, considering that each base pair has four options to choose from, our total level of complexity is four to the power of 45,000,000.  That’s four times four, forty-five million times.  The calculator on my computer is capable of working with some pretty large numbers, but this one is too much for it.  After a short search, I found one that claimed to be able to work massive numbers, and it gave me a result that can best be described as the digit four, followed by 27,092,699 zeros.  In the interest of sanity, I’m going to refrain from typing it out.  That number represents the complexity of a single DNA strand, relative to its basic building blocks.  The DNA is 4,000,000,0…(27 million zeros) times higher in design than its components.   Now, the real interest here, is in the enzymes.  The enzymes are a chain of amino acids (I know I’m over-simplifying), whose order is determined by the order of the DNA.  For now, we’ll ignore the fact that the enzyme complexity is increased several times by its tertiary and quaternary structure.  I don’t care.  What’s a few more orders of complexity to the behemoth number we’ve already got?  Therefore, the enzyme complexity is about equal to the DNA complexity.  Granted, each cell has multiple copies of each enzyme.  Granted, it probably couldn’t survive without multiple copies.  Granted, the sum total of the cell complexity is several times greater than the complexity of one set of each enzyme.  The best estimate is that 4, followed by 27 million zeros is a gross understatement.  A living cell is really many orders of magnitude more sophisticated than that, relative to its basic components.  We’ll make this a concession to the fact that we’re working with a human cell, which is more complex than a basic microbial one.

Miller and Urey did us all a favor by pretending that the ancient Earth had all of the right attributes to make the basic building blocks in the first place.  Zap and boil some inorganic compounds, and soon we have five of the necessary twenty-two amino acids needed to make enzymes.  Granted, we’d be in a fix if we ever wanted the remaining amino acids, but someone recently re-performed the experiment and arrived at all twenty-two amino acids.  Pardon me, while I make a simple gut reaction:

Dirty liars.

Well, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that the other amino acids were in levels too low to detect.  Now, let’s clarify by saying that the Miller-Urey primordial ooze is basically just a small cup of tar.  Supposedly, a grand total of two percent was composed of the simplest amino acids.  The remainder seventeen molecules were hiding in there somewhere.  With a two percent purity, and only five twenty-seconds of the amino acids being properly represented, we arrive at the conclusion that the basic building blocks of life, with no assembly attempted, are still 220 times further down the road toward life than the primordial ooze, itself.

Therefore, the jump from primordial ooze to living cell was an increase in design by 9,000,000,0…(27,092,701 zeros.  We gained two more zeros from the earlier number) times.  Now, here’s where it gets interesting.  They tell us that the universe is billions of years old.  However, life formed only 500 million years after Earth formed.  That means that simple chemicals increased in design complexity by 5,000,000,0…(27,092,685 zeros) times per second!

You try writing the number 5, followed by 27 million zeros.  Let’s see how far you get.  The number is too big to write, but that’s the number of times more complex per second that primordial ooze would have to increase to arrive at life by its deadline of a scant 500 million years.  That’s amazing.  Compared to that, your dead dog is only negligibly dead.  The difference between a dead dog and a live one isn’t worth mentioning, if chemicals can, by chance alone, increase in design that fast.  What’s that sound?  It sounds like a muffled wumfing, or woofing, or something like that.  whoa, dang, I think you just buried your dog alive!

It’s the principle that keeps people gambling.  Las Vegas keeps getting rich off of people who go there to get rich.  It’s the illusion of inevitability.  People think that billions of years are a long time.  With enough time, everything seems possible, or even inevitable.  Sooner or later, a freak chance is going to throw something together and call it life.  Each pull of the handle brings the slot machine closer to barfing its bowels all over the gambler.  It’s just a matter of time.  Yet, if gamblers could make a living off of gambling, then no casino could survive.  If it were simply a matter of playing long enough, then everyone could strike it rich in Vegas.  They can’t.  The longer they play, the more heavily the law of averages weighs against them, until a net loss is inescapable.  Time is on the side of the casino.  That’s why they can afford to keep their doors open.  The more you play, the more you lose.

Every year of the Earth’s existence is another pull of the slot machine handle.  Some day, people think, it would have to get lucky and barf out a wretched lucky monster.  Sooner or later, they say, life was bound to happen.  But increased time only increases the effect of the law of averages, which tends, irresistably, to tear things down.  The odds against even the simplest life form crawling out of primordial tar is so bad, that I can’t even fit the entire number on a single sheet of paper.  If all of the letters in this post were converted to the digits of a number, that number would be embarrassingly dwarfed by the number that represents the odds against life forming all by itself on earth.  Even if we jump-start the process with all of the biomass on Earth, all 1,250,000,000,000 tons of it, equal to about 280 trillion tons of primordial ooze, we still get no spontaneous generation.

Sorry Fido.  See you next life.  If the atheists were right, and you could spontaneously improve yourself at the rate of 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,0…blah, blah blah times per second, you might have a chance.  You’re so tantalizingly close, but yet so far.

Life just doesn’t work that way.


Dead Men’s Bones

22 10 2009

What is that nasty thing in your mouth?  It looks like it belongs in a morgue.  It’s the dead remains of something meant to be alive and happy.  All flesh is gone from it now.  What the teeth have missed, the rot has claimed, and now you taste and savor the rot, or what’s left of it.  Up and down its length you work, attempting to harvest some imagined bit of morsel, and the futility of the act fails to deter you.

I saw you prancing down the street with your prized possession, carrying it high for all to see.  What a status symbol it must have been.  Oh, look at me!  How rich I am!  I possess a disembodied dry steer femur!  Don’t you envy me?  Oh, sure, you dog, I could just die to get my hands on one of those.  Who needs real wealth, when I can have one of those.

I could see myself pulling up next to a man in his nice new Mercedes.  He glances over disparagingly at my 1978 Ford Pinto.  But, I have an ace up my sleeve!  I pull out a long gray bone and wave it around for him to see.  Tauntingly, I sniff it like the cork of a fine wine.  Aghast, he realizes that the table has been turned.  Indeed, I am the richer of the two!  As I speed from the light, I toss it into his seat.  Here, you can have it.  I’ve got plenty more where this one came from (even if I really don’t).

A bone?  Really?  You expect me to be jealous of your bone?  I walk near you and you growl at me as though I might, at any minute, make haste and snatch up that moldering thing.  It is of no use to me.  In fact, it isn’t even of any use to you or the poor beast that it came from.  Yet, it is the currency of the canine world.  Go bury that thing and wash your mouth out.

A man gets his promotion, makes a few more dollars per hour, and he holds his head a little higher, as though to make the world wonder what he has that they don’t have.  Then, he meets another who makes a bit more than he, and he is crestfallen.  Ah, but the other dog has a bigger bone!  He must make a little more to be happy.  Lucky is he who dies with the most pieces of green paper in his wallet.  Are they more than the battered skeletal remains of some poor dead tree?  The dog prizes his animal skeleton, and we prize the vegetarian one.

Don’t even think of getting that thing near a church.  If they get too close they’re going to snatch it from you!  Man, everyone wants your bone, your nasty green paper.  I had a friend tell me that he could never be a Christian, because he wouldn’t want to feel obligated to give so much of his bones…er, cash, to this institution.  Nonsense, my fellow!  Tithing is nowhere mentioned in the Bible!  You can keep gnawing on that thing.  Keep it.  It is all the wealth you will ever know.

That thing you value, that treasure you pursue, is nothing but a dead worthless scrap of something well past its prime, and you would never be allowed to drag it into the pristine corridors of Heaven.  You don’t know the meaning of the word, “wealth.”  You can have it.  You will not be parted from it.  In fact, you will die and leave your very own bones to the other dogs, to be divided and gnawed upon.

Drop that bone and come inside.  It’s time for dinner.


The Moment God Put the World On Hold

20 10 2009

All humanity was right in the middle of doing its everyday thing, sitting through traffic jams in Los Angeles, staring blankly through office windows in New York, resting over a cold beer in London, and playing computer games in Tel Aviv. Then, without warning, time came to an abrupt halt. The second hand of clocks halted about one millionth of a second past the one on their way to the two. A man in London froze with a swallow of beer two thirds of the way down his esophagus. A woman in New York never went home from work. A man in Los Angeles never got to work. A child in Tel Aviv stared blankly at his television, frozen like an inanimate doll. The whole world was denied its very next second, which had been assumed to be forthcoming, as naturally as all of the countless seconds before it.

The lights went on, and the desk lamp clicked off. God stood and tossed the Story Of Humanity rudely on a shelf with a frustrated sigh. He could almost have helped himself to an aspirin and gone to bed, but he retired, instead, to the drawing room, to sit and chat with the lot of us about our comings and goings over a cup of spiced wine and ginger snaps. It was not unusual for him to pause in his writings of history. Of course, the affected individuals remained unaware of their peril. An infinitely small expanse of time is not long enough to affect the perceptions of men. There was a time, even, somewhere in between the Dark Ages and the birth of Jan Hus, when he laid his work aside to pursue other interests for an entire century, before he finally pulled it back off the shelf and began to write again. We had asked him if he was using the time to plan out what to do, to which he responded with an insulted sideways glance and a remark, “You know better than that.” We’re not sure what bored him about the story. Perhaps it was not something in the story that bored him, but perhaps it was something that wasn’t in the story that drove him to take his Century Of Jubilee. It’s not so much that he had lost sight of the end. The entire work was already laid out beforehand on a pre-determined synopsis. The story would get there eventually. When a man has his entire life to write a story, he usually doesn’t mind taking some time off in the middle of writing to relax and enjoy life for a while. In the end, the story continues on as though a pause had never occurred, and no one is the wiser.

This time was different, though. Years grew into centuries. Other entire works came and went in that time. One was a story of a paradise not lost, that developed into an epic series spanning thousands of volumes. Even that story is still in the making. When you know you’re going to live forever, there’s never any reason to put a final end to any story. One book seems to draw to a very definite closure, and we think that he has brought it at once to a final conclusion, but millennia later, he starts a new story where the old one left off, and the principles are none the wiser. They know that an earth-shaking change has taken place in their history, but they are unaware that their very existence had come to a temporary end within the timeline of God.

See, there’s a certain problem to being omniscient and everlasting. Not only does a thing weigh on the divine mind without relent, but it does so until the inevitable moment when he makes the decision to, once again, take up the implement and begin to do something about it. A man burns in Hell, and there’s nothing to be done about it, so he chooses not to bother himself with it much, but it’s always there in the back of his mind. Eons pass in the time of God, while Hell is frozen in time, but, then, inevitability forces a passing mention, and the flames of Hell leap for one more moment in the vast dark abyss. As eternity begets eternity, moment adds upon moment, and Hell goes on.

We were not concerned about the continuance of humanity, for it did not affect us much, and we knew that it was only a matter of time before he began again and continued the story unto completion. Centuries grew into millennia, and millennia grew into eons, and soon we were beginning to wonder if God had actually abandoned the story. He had his whole life to finish it, which meant that he might never go back, but, then, eternity made his return seem inevitable. Sooner or later, he was bound to pick it up and try again. When eons grew into something for which there is no word, I finally asked him what he intended to do about the thing.

“Oh, I’ll finish it, I suppose,” he said, without much enthusiasm, setting down an earlier work and gazing idly at the fireplace. “The end is already decided. I just have to get around to making it happen.”

In the dimness of the drawing room, I saw the firelight reflecting in his eyes. Then I saw it reflecting in a tear. He gave a disapproving look at the work in his hand, before setting it on the end table and marching up the stairs to the study. As I waited, I heard him shuffle about, digging around for that long-neglected tome, buried somewhere under the romances and fantasies. I figured he’d get interested in one of those and take to reading it long before he ever uncovered the sought-out Story Of Humanity. I was wrong. He walked slowly into the room, gazing at the leather cover, wiping the dust from the gilt lettering (or, was that “guilt” lettering?). He glanced thoughtfully at the fireplace, and then he looked at me. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I suppose I could just burn it and be done with it, but then it would eat at me until I re-wrote it, anyway, so I might as well just save myself the trouble.”

After a time, I asked to see it, and he tossed it directly into my lap. The book had already been bound with exactly the number of necessary pages in it, for he knew its exact length from the very beginning. Every word had been considered and carefully measured. Effectively, the story had already been composed. It just hadn’t been written. I opened to the last completed page, expecting to see something dramatic and terrible, that might drive its own author to cease writing. On it was nothing of significance. People were just living out their daily lives. Nothing was unusually wrong. No abortion had been committed for at least five minutes. No rape or theft had happened for almost two hours. There were a few threatening despots seeking to take control of the world, but this was not anything out of the ordinary. Then, I figured, it was not what was happening, but what was about to happen, that drove the author to lay aside his pen.

“What? I don’t get it. There’s nothing here to get upset about, is there?” I asked, stupidly.

He gave a tired sigh and replied, “No, there’s not much there right now. There will be, later, but we’re not there yet.”

I figured, and said, “So, basically, you got bored out of writing?”

He looked up at me, sharply, and told me, “Bored? Have I ever been bored? No, I am not bored, but I am unmotivated. In the next second, there is not one tragedy, not one achievement, no salvation, no apostasy and no awe and wonder. No library could contain the number describing the quantity of subatomic particles traveling in all of their destined paths. No mind but mine knows the many conversations taking place all over the world, nor what lies in the hearts of men and women everywhere. Yet, all of this complexity is for naught in the next second. In the second after that, there is a thought that passes through the mind of a man just south of Los Angeles, who wonders if, perhaps, he has slipped into the lukewarm cesspool of mediocrity. In that second, a life will spark the beginnings of a personal revolution. In that second, someone will decide to make an effort that will make this whole thing worthwhile.”

“This whole book will be made worthwhile by the thought of one man?” I asked, confused.

“No,” he replied, patiently, “This whole second will be made worthwhile by the thought of one man, but that doesn’t happen until the next second. Right now, the world follows the path of least resistance. All of humanity runs like water down the hill, into the gutter, and from there into the sewer. They might as well be animals, concerned only with what’s for dinner and finding someone to mate with. Day follows day, and no one ventures a change, because no one cares. I mean, if there were, at least, a particularly antagonistic villain, I might have something to work with, but right now I have neither hero nor villain, hot nor cold, up nor down. To you, a second is but a fleeting thing. For me it’s a very long time. Yet, here I can hold thousands of years in my hand, and I can recall everything in my mind in a second.” He thought about it for a moment, then continued, sedately, “The greatest of all tragedies, the damnation of the world, had gripped all humanity. There was an answer. The Christ died a horrible death to redeem the world. He suffered so that they might survive. A mere two thousand years later, no one cares. They’re more interested in trivialities and simple pleasures, things of no worth. For one whole tedious second the whole world is up to absolutely nothing. Not one person in all that mess is looking for anything beyond the tangible.”

“Still,” I said, trying to be encouraging, “the next second looks promising.” I handed him the work, and he sat staring thoughtfully at it for a while.

“Yes…yes, I suppose it does. Yes, and getting to the next second requires first getting through this one. I suppose I’d better just roll up my sleeves and slog through it, or we’ll never get anywhere with this thing.” Then, he reached over and took up his pen, applying it to the work and restarting a project that had lain forlorn in the attic of his mind for longer than anyone could conceive.

Somewhere in Los Angeles, someone honked a horn and grumbled about being late for work. Somewhere in New York, a woman chatted on an internet forum to kill time at work. In London, a man finished a swallow and continued to gripe to a pal about his lazy wife. In Tel Aviv, a child congratulated himself for reaching a new level in his game.

And somehow, somewhere, a man uttered a violent expletive and cursed himself loudly for his own shallowness.